Norway is a world leader in subsea technology, but an escalating cost-level poses a severe threat to the sector. A new research-centre initiative endeavours to drive down the costs in the oil industry.
– The rising cost trend in the oil industry cannot continue. In order to remain competitive, we have to be at the leading edge in terms of operation and maintenance costs – without compromising on safety. Continuous efforts have to be made to create new, cost-effective systems and solutions, says the Technology Director at Christian Michelsen Research, Sveinung Botnen.
Integrated Well and Subsea Instrumentation
To tackle this situation, a number of key research and educational institutions have launched an initiative to establish the research centre ‘Integrated Well and Subsea Instrumentation’ (IWSI). Focus will be on real-time risk management through measurement technology. Behind the application are the University of Stavanger (UiS) and the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS), Bergen University College, the University of Bergen, Christian Michelsen Research and Sintef Materialer og Kjemi. Thus far, leading subsea players such as Statoil, Petrobas, OneSubsea and Aker Solutions have confirmed their interest in and support of this research work.
– A research centre of this nature requires close proximity to the operators. The country’s operator community is largely based in Western Norway, and the oil and gas industry in the Bergen region alone employs some 30 000 people. Many of these jobs are linked to operations and maintenance, says Botnen. He emphasises that this research-centre initiative is an idea supported by local authorities and trade associations, and has matured over several years. Both the Uptime Centre of Competence (www.uptimecentre.no) and the Underwater Technology Foundation (www.utc.no/utf/ ) support the application. This also applies to NCE-Subsea (www.ncesubsea.no) with its over 130 partners. The concept on which the IWSI is based has been developed for years, and has been a topic of discussion at the UTC as well as at NCE-Subsea events. Operating companies have also signalled their support.
– Future subsea development aiming at challenging environments is dependent on successful technological innovation and breakthroughs. The implementation of “subsea factories”, e-field, IOR and “Integrated Operations” all rely on the availability and quality of the information given by sensors installed on subsea well and equipment units. Considering that no single research initiative is focusing on subsea sensor availability and quality of data, Petrobras intends to support the R&D initiative ‘Integrated Well and Subsea Instrumentation’ – IWSI, says Orland Ribeiro, General Manager, Production Engineering R&D, Petrobras
Real Time Risk Management
One of the arguments for establishing a research centre of this type is the industry’s demand for new methods and technology, which will allow decisions to be made based on an overall understanding of risk factors in real-time. Information from across all specialist fields must be included to ensure that decisions are made on the best evidence available.
– Decisions will thus be based on the current and correct condition, not on a historical or presumed condition. This is not a new idea, and examples of good condition monitoring do exist. However, the solutions available are sporadic, equipment specific and rarely integrated in systems for operations and maintenance. Consequently, full potential is not achieved in the manner of which operations and maintenance are planned and executed, says Botnen. He stresses that technology and expertise in the oil and gas sector are typically split into different specialist fields. This has been absolutely necessary in order to build and operate large and complex installations.
– The disadvantage is, however, that growth in this industry has created greater partition between specialist fields, and communication of real-time data across the disciplines is limited. This restricts overall operations and maintenance, says Botnen.
An example of the impact transfer of knowledge and information may have, is the development of sensor networks and real-time analysis of technical integrity. – A typical scenario is corrosion monitoring. With accurate information on the real condition, major savings can be made. The need for inspections is reduced, and fully functioning components no longer have to be replaced, says Botnen.
The ambition of the research centre is to develop solutions through which decision makers are provided with real-time data on the condition of an installation. As an end result, the centre hopes to realise safer operations with an increased level of regularity and reduced maintenance costs. This will be achieved through development of new sensor technology, development of analysis tools monitoring the reliability of measurements in real-time, development of tools and models for real-time process optimising and technical integrity and development of new work processes for operations and maintenance utilising information in real-time. – We will, as part of this work, look at how real-time risk management are handled in other sectors, such as finance and research. At present, the overall focus on risk management in the oil industry is very strong. Next step is real-time risk management, i.e. maintenance based on the actual requirements of an installation – not its perceived requirements, says Botnen. So far, the initiative has been concretised through an application submitted to the Research Council of Norway for a Centre for Research-based Innovation (SFI). The Research Council has signalled funding in the second half of 2014, and Botnen is confident the centre will be up and running by the second quarter of 2015- In addition to researchers and industry representatives, an integral part of the work is to educate some 15 PhD candidates and up to 40 Master’s Degree students. This will provide the industry with access to a new type of personnel with specialist expertise in cost-effective operations and maintenance, says Botnen.