You are on page 1of 5


Fangda Qiu, Schlumberger, USA,

Zaki Ali, Schlumberger, Kuwait,
and A.Al-Jasmi, KOC, Kuwait,
examine the concept of the
digital oilfield and look at the
Kuwait Intelligent Digital Field
(KwIDF) project as an example.

digital oilfield

he digital oilfield is not a new concept, and has

been known by many names over the last 20 years.
Originally the term was often used in a fairly narrow
context; referring to software and/or hardware employed
to perform or automate a particular exploration and
production task. It is only more recently that the genuine
possibility of a much broader and comprehensive concept
has emerged.
The digital oilfield concept has evolved, alongside key
enabling technology, over the last 40 years from simplistic
data gathering activities to online analysis, real time
optimisation and automated workflow efficienciesall

significantly impacting an operators bottom line. The

modern digital oilfield, however, is an expression of the
link between people, processes and technology.
With operators working in increasingly remote,
unconventional, and challenging environments,
collaboration between the office and the field must
be properly integrated to enable optimal decisions
to be made on live data. Powerful 3D modelling and
visualisation systems are updated with new information
as it becomes available to keep plans current. Data
volumes have also increased greatly, bringing technical
management and administration challenges.

The digital landscape

Figure 1. Digital oilfield decision support model.

Figure 2. The modern digital oilfield is an expression of the link

between people, processes, and technology. With operators working in
increasingly challenging environments, collaboration between the office
and the field must be properly integrated to enable optimal decisions.

Digital history

The modern digital oilfield concept evolved alongside the technology

that makes it possible. A number of key developments can be observed
in this respect, starting with the first logging data transmission via
satellite, in 1968. Five years later the first permanent pressure and
temperature (P/T) gauge was installed, and the 1980s saw quartz
crystal permanent downhole P/T gauge fitted to a subsea well. In 1989
the first transmission of onshore downhole gauge data was made
to the surface, and in 1994 online gas optimisation was introduced.
Continuing the online theme, on demand data delivery was made
possible in 1999, and twoyears later it was possible to monitor electric
submersible pumps over the web. The new millennium saw further
developments, including remote cementing first undertaken in Norway
in 2003, and real time fracturing control introduced in 2006.
Many of these historical developments have been related to
surveillance technology advancements. More recently, measurement
technologies such as multiphase flow meters and high pressure,
high temperature (HPHT) gauges and sensors have been introduced,
making the modern digital oilfield truly possible. As a result, the
industry has converged in the last decade on a common digital oilfield
definition: enhanced asset management supported by a modern
decision-making system designed to increase reserves, optimise
reservoir drainage, improve production and operations and lower
costs and capital expenditure. This is made possible through an
open working environment: real time, targeted data and information
transmission, modern modelling and visualisation technology and
reliable remote control systems.

| Oilfield Technology Reprinted from March 2014

Most of the companies currently providing enabling technologies

can be divided into hardware providers and software providers. The
hardware companies offer items such as pressure gauges, temperature
and gas leak sensors, automated choke equipment, data management
hardware and field wireless connectivity systems. Software
providers supply engineering applications covering petroleum data
management, asset modelling, analysis and optimisation, real time
surveillance and workflow integration and collaboration.
Other service companies provide indirect support, such as IT
or business integration and change management consulting. It is
worth mentioning that often, as well as significant new technology
implementation in a digital oilfield project, attention must be paid to
the related changes to asset team processes and working practices.
Top management must be committed and all business units should be
involved and aligned. Successfully handling this change from an asset
team perspective is key to success in such a project. These changes are
often tied to the significant productivity gains and workflow efficiency
increases that are regularly realised through digital oilfield technology
Intelligent workflows and processes elevate the digital oilfield
concept from the realm of straightforward supervisory control and
data acquisition (SCADA), and allow the most experienced engineering
resources to be focused on analysis and planning rather than
monitoring dials and screens displaying huge volumes of field data.
In addition, production and operation engineers benefit from new
collaborative work processes, as do geologists and geophysicists:
crucial in exploration activities. Reservoir engineers can work
within a fully integrated digital environment taking advantage of
enterpriselevel information architecture.

Digital decisions

The modern digital oilfield uses real time operations data from
the field in a continuous cycle of production analysis,
optimisation and detailed reservoir management. SCADA or distributed
control systems (DCS) acquire diverse operational data from
permanent subsurface well instrumentation, flowline network sensors
and surface facilities; as well as manage field actuator equipment such
as control valves. This capability supports real time operation control
and shutdown in an immediate (minutes to once-per-day) timescale.
Beyond that, field data can be integrated into production management
software over the medium term to allow accurate and ongoing
evaluation, analysis and optimisation to take place. Over longer
timescales of months to years, assets integrate field data to construct,
calibrate and run numerical subsurface simulators and economics to
plan the best field development scenarios.
This digital configuration allows operators to make key decisions
centrally, across a number of assets. In the shorter term this can
include topside process equipment control, rotating equipment
monitoring and safety considerations. Medium term production
decisions include well pressure drawdown to balance sand control
and unwanted fluid breakthrough, production testing and well-rate
estimation, and production optimisation through the ideal distribution
of lifting gas. Longer term considerations include in-fill well planning,
and defining the reservoir depletion strategy. Figure1 shows a
conceptual model of how such a digital oilfield decision system can be
In Figure 1, level zero represents data gathering and transmission
resources, including field measurement instrumentation and smart
control equipment.
Level one is the surveillance level. Here potential production and
reservoir drainage problems are detected using real time feeds and

production optimisation. The ability

to use a common platform for data
management, modelling, simulation
and production management activities
greatly improves multidisciplinary

Case study: Kuwait Intelligent

Digital Field

Figure 3. KOC digital oilfield production management workflows.

other data to compute key performance indicators (KPIs) and comparing

them to expected levels from business plans, historical trends, company
business rules or model predictions. Proactive alerts of impending or
incipient problems are sent to users, allowing them to focusing effort
only where it is needed, improving asset management efficiency.
Level two is the analysis level. The focus here is on analysing
issues predicted or detected during level one. Software modelling
and analysis is carried out to understand and define the situation
and any possible solutions. The third level is optimisation. It is here
that alternatives are assessed, based on all possible data, technical
constraints, risks and economics to inform strategic optimisation
decisions and improve the reservoir and production system.

Integrated operations

Integrated operations, in a modern digital oilfield context, refer to

processes and methods of exploration and production, facilitated
and connected by information and communication technology.
Characterised by cross-disciplinary collaboration for the producing
asset, it is an approach that leverages technology to streamline the
interaction of people and processes. Typically, the fundamental
objective is to improve operational effectiveness and maximise or
optimise production for the life of the asset. This is achieved by taking
the right decisions at the right time, using a holistic, assetwide,
perspective and recognising that the different process cycles or loops
range from seconds to months, or even years.
Typical integrated operations applications include:
Reducing downtime via early detection of underperforming wells.
Increasing well production by matching well potential.
Reducing operational costs by decreasing failure rate.
Automating processes to predict or troubleshoot production
Increasing asset team productivity using standardised workflows
and tools.
Delivering actionable information in the form of key performance
indicators (KPIs).
Implementing visualisation environments to promote
crossdiscipline collaboration.

It is important that the software used in these processes is

seamlessly integrated to drive maximum asset team efficiency during

An example of how the digital oilfield

concept has been applied to a modern
unconventional production project
can be witnessed in the Kuwait
Intelligent Digital Field (KwIDF). The
integrated crossdomain project
was launched to bring together field
instrumentation, automated workflows
and multidisciplinary collaboration.
KuwaitOilCompany(KOC), the
operator, was facing a challenging asset
environment in one of its greenfield
development projects in the form of a
heterogenous carbonate reservoir. Parts
of the reservoir exhibited tight, densely connected fractures, but
others were more sparsely connected. The HPHT environment, the
near critical nature of the fields and the presence of hydrogensulfide
and carbon dioxide provided further development hurdles.
KOC wanted a digital solution to increase production and recovery
rates, while helping to keep costs down and maintaining safety
and reliability. The company was also keen to reduce shutdowns,
better utilise data to accelerate decision making and improve
multidisciplinary collaboration. After meeting with Schlumberger,
it was agreed that the Avocet production operations software
platform would provide an ideal basis for the solution. KOC was
keen to introduce a server-based, workflow-orientated approach
to production management, with data consolidated in one
environment rather than in multiple applications. It also sought to
create comprehensive workflows to automate data acquisition and
conditioning, event detection, alarms and production performance
The Avocet platform is able to import and store data from a
number of conventional analysis applications to build production
workflows which deliver intelligent notifications that enable
optimisation of daily constraints. Steady-state multiphase flow
simulation software can be seamlessly embedded to provide
modelbased pressure volume temperature (PVT) analysis, as well
as estimations on production rate and network pressures. The team
worked together to implement the proposed solution.
KOCs new integrated solution gave the project team the ability to
design real time production surveillance and optimisation workflows,
automating and standardising many existing engineering processes.

Digital KPIs

The results of these new workflows, including key performance

indicator (KPI) information, are accessible to KOC users via a web
portal surveillance solution for monitoring production at a glance.
KPIs were introduced as part of the system implementation to
provide specific, reliable and accurate information, tied directly to
strategic production and business goals.
KPIs are central to the project, since they indicate production
progress and performance. Before each KPI was defined, the
methodology of its measurement was carefully documented

Reprinted from March 2014 Oilfield Technology |

andagreed. An important part of this process was managing the

required changes to everyday working practises for KOCmanagement
and field operators. The Schlumberger team worked alongside KOC
senior management to change the corporate culture from the top
down, introducing new collaboration methods. Software training was
also provided to introduce the new system to users and demonstrate
the improvements to everyday operations. This proved particularly
helpful in ensuring employees were more comfortable and able to
adapt to the new digital solution.
The new digital solution allows KOC to better manage its
knowledge base of technical data and collaborative insights. The
project team benefits from improved decision making as a result,
with faster access to production data, which is now more accurate
and customisable through the visual integration of datasets in
management display screens.
KOCs new integrated framework provides production data and
operational workflows spanning the field to the main office. It has
enabled validation of high- and low-frequency data for all production
optimisation workflows and models, transforming field measurements
into defined performance metrics. Intelligent digital field technology,
combined with industry best practices means KOC is better positioned
to minimise costs, utilise scarce resources and more effectively gather,
manage and analyse essential field data. In addition, multidisciplinary
collaboration has improved through the introduction of a common
workflow platform and interface, streamlining operating processes.
Widespread standardisation of common asset team procedures has
delivered further efficiencies.
Productivity also increased due to the automation of routine tasks.
Potential production issues can be proactively identified and visualised
through the analysis of relevant data in context. Realtime data feeds

| Oilfield Technology Reprinted from March 2014

are combined with other sources for a consolidated view of any asset
performance. Extensive new capabilities include early event detection,
daily reporting, trending, data diagnostics, predictive modelling and a
calculation engine.
The project also delivered a number of safety benefits. Potential
equipment hazards can now be immediately identified, chokes
are remotely operated and controlled, and a remote monitoring
and shutdown capability enables well closure and isolation to be
undertaken from a safe location.

Digital resistance and the future

The future of the digital oilfield is clearly linked to developments in

related software and hardwarepart of a wider theme to be discussed
at the 2014 SIS Global Forum, held in Barcelona on April15-17.
This biennial industry conference will focus on the future of digitally
mitigating E&P risk, using simulation and software technology.
As well as managing the technological aspect of the move towards
a universally digital approach, an equal challenge is present in a
conservative attitude to such change which, according to a 2012 BP
poll, is widespread in the industry60% of respondents believed that
resistance to change represented the biggest obstacle to realising the
digital oilfields full potential.
It seems this resistance is gradually being overcome, howeverthe
digital oilfield technology market has steadily grown over the years,
taking an estimated US$ 18.7 billion in revenues in 2011. This trend is set
to continue with a compound annual growth rate of 4.8% expected until
2022, when theindustry should be worth US$ 33.3 billion. This could be
attributed to the increasing complexity and expense in exploration
activity, forcing operators to consider upfront investments in technology
to mitigate risk and realise longer-term efficiency and cost savings.