The process of extracting crude oil from the underground and separate and process it has been refined and optimised through 40 years. Rising oil prices have made the incentive to exploit the oil in an as optimum way as possible even stronger, and work is done all the time to optimise processes.
A range of consulting engineers and suppliers within instrumentation and telecom are assisting operators on a continual basis in finding new methods and hardware that can improve processes.
Director Peter Blach from Offshore Center Danmark observes:
"An offshore installation is so complex that there’ll always be ways of optimising and improving the efficiency of the processes that take place there. And control, monitoring and optimisations of processes constitute some of the areas where the Danish offshore industry can make its presence felt. Compared to other markets, Danish fields are difficult to exploit, and several fields are relatively small and requires a lot in terms of efficiency if they’re to be exploited commercially. This has resulted in an innovative sector that’s capable of delivering the right solutions at competitive prices."
Peter Blach adds:
"The fact that a lot of money is still invested in process optimisation of Danish offshore installations reflects a belief in the future, and companies can make use of their experiences from the North Sea to promote themselves on international markets; Offshore Center Danmark has pointed to 5 markets (Norway, Brazil, Greenland, Angola and Nigeria) that are especially interesting."
A few years ago there was a strong focus on efficiency improvement in order to extract more oil while using less energy, and work is still done to find a model for using CO2 to stimulate wells.
Departmental head Preben Sørensen from Ramboll Oil and Gas believes that, in the coming years, ‘Integrated Operations’ will become yet another method for process optimisation. It is possible to step in by the help of intelligent monitoring of installations literally before problems arise and production has to stop or be reduced.
Preben Sørensen observes:
"As still more Danish fields have become marginal with complex conditions in the underground, it’s been necessary for Danish suppliers to be more efficient than if you could extract the oil easily. However, conditions in Denmark require that you are inventive. Integrated Operations will contribune to optimising of offshore and can save a lot of man-hours. Even though it has become a well known term already, we’ll se more of that kind of process optimisation in the coming years."
Assessment of value
Monitoring takes place by the help of special cameras and instruments that can react when there is a fall in pressure, when the temperature rises, etc. and, by regulating processes or notifying personnel on installations at an early stage, a smoother process can be achieved.
Preben Sørensen says:
"The cameras constitute the visual monitoring, and we’re also working on a term that we call ‘condition monitoring,’ which means that measurements of processes on installations are made ongoing in relation to a number of parameters."
Condition monitoring is well suited for monitoring of manned installations. However, advanced telecommunications systems are required for distant monitoring. This is why Ramboll’s work is to assess in which cases it will pay off to install this advanced type of monitoring in relation to how much profits are expected to be improved.
Preben Sørensen explains:
"Obviously, we’re going to assess what the value will be of installing this kind of monitoring. It’s important to know how much money operators will save; the cameras and the software cost money and must also be maintained. So our work isn’t least about calculating when it’ll pay off. But there’s no doubt that condition monitoring can help increase uptime on installations.
Ramboll Oil and Gas is part of the consulting engineering company Ramboll. Apart from acting as consultants, Ramboll Oil and Gas has designed a number of constructions for installations in the Danish and Norwegian parts of the North Sea. Ramboll also provided technical advice and environmental studies prior to the establishment of the oil pipeline Nordstream in the Baltic from Russia to Germany.