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C O M M E N T David Paganie • Houston
Assessing the digital transformation
The oil and gas industry is seeking to leverage new developments in digital technologies to unlock value for its stakeholders. A white paper on digital transformation from
the World Economic Forum this past January estimates that value at $1.6 trillion by 2025.
The report cites a 2016 survey by Accenture that finds big data and analytics, Industrial Internet of Things (IIo T), and mobile devices as the top digital areas of focus for oil and gas
companies. One company that has been leading the way in the “digitalization” of the oil
field is BP. In the early 2000s, the company launched a strategy for the deepwater Gulf of
Mexico called “Field of the Future.” Implementation of this plan would improve document
control, asset management, reservoir performance, predictive analysis, and hurricane
preparedness, all through a one-touch portal driven from a remote, real-time onshore
technology center (BP leverages technology to optimize deepwater performance, Of fshore,
Building on this strategy, BP and GE late last year announced the launch of a new digital platform that the operator suggests will improve the efficiency, reliability, and safety of
its oil and gas production operations. The plan was to use the product to manage at least
one production facility in the Gulf of Mexico and, subsequent to the results of the pilot, to
deploy it globally this year.
BP summarized its digital transformation efforts at the Schlumberger SIS Global
Forum last month. The operator calls its strategy “The Connected Upstream.” One area
of focus is intelligent monitoring, said Bernard Looney, Chief Executive, Upstream, BP.
The company has more than 2,000 km ( 1,200 mi) of fiber optic systems linking its offshore
operations to onshore monitoring centers as well as other systems that continuously assess equipment. He pointed to the acoustic system used to mitigate sanding in the Caspian
ACG field as an example. Another area of focus is system optimization. The operator uses
a tool to simulate and optimize production 24/7 by modeling physical constraints and adjusting flows accordingly, Looney said. The third area is predictive analytics. The company
uses a cloud-hosted platform that contains data on 2,500 wells. This single source of data
has transformed the way its petroleum engineers work, Looney said.
Statoil also has outlined its digitalization roadmap. The operator plans to invest NOK
1-2 billion ($130-250 million) in new digital technologies through 2020, to help improve the
safety, security, and efficiency of its operations. One area of focus is robotics and remote
control. A tangible example is the recently installed unmanned wellhead platform for the
latest phase of the Oseberg field development in the northern Norwegian North Sea. The
Oseberg Vestflanken 2 facility is the first of its type for an incremental project on the Norwegian shelf, designed for fully remote operation from the outset from the Oseberg field
center, 8 km ( 5 mi) to the southeast (Unmanned Oseberg wellhead platform engineered
for 25-year lifespan, Of fshore, September 2017).
Meanwhile, the advent of new developments in digital technologies, such as IIo T, are
enhancing the value of existing solutions. One example is the “digital twin.” IT research
and consulting firm Gartner calls it a “disruptive trend” and includes it in its Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2017.
The digital twin – a virtual model of an asset – has been around since the 1980s and has
proven successful in other industries.
Another example is an approach developed by ABB called “intelligent projects.” It
aims to reduce costs by streamlining the engineering and infrastructural elements of new
These and other digital solutions for offshore operations are examined in a special
report, beginning on page 34.