Data automation and integrated solutions offer early and effective interventions. They improve cost efficiency and maximize production in mature fields.
BEGIN WITH ECONOMICS: GETTING MORE FROM EXISTING FIELDS
As the oil and gas industry sustains its never-ending quest to squeeze modest, marginal improvements from production enhancements and operational efficiencies, one new area of opportunity has recently risen above the battle-torn economics of unstable energy pricing, global unrest and the ever-settling dust kicked up by two years of pandemic marketing.
Mature fields may seem like an unlikely candidate for a new business opportunity, but recent advances in digitalized machine learning and data analytics now promise newfound potential for owners of those old, diminishing assets. Tangible investment opportunities, promising fast returns with low investment potential, are today’s new trend, and it is teeming with consistent, reliable energy recovery, derived from restoring and optimizing mature field assets.
Declining production rates within existing wells are caused by a mixture of well integrity issues, mechanical failures and changing reservoir characteristics that have all resulted in missed production targets. To address these numerous challenges, energy companies are adjusting their operating philosophies toward an increased focus on production optimization in the later phases of a well’s production life. This production phase requires relatively low capital investments, yet it can yield significantly higher returns. Keeping wells and fields producing at optimal production rates is the shortest path to maximized returns on assets and profitability.
The good news is that technology capabilities now feature the ability to evaluate greater numbers of wells more frequently and optimize or restore their production with more success—becoming one of the more lucrative return on investment (ROI) activities for operating companies. Driving efforts to restore production and optimize new flows, operators have now adopted a more holistic approach, making tasks easier, thanks to advances in digitalization, automation and the efficiencies of an integrated methodology to production and intervention services. Therefore, companies are increasingly adjusting their strategies toward maximizing investment by boosting production, increasing uptime and enhancing personnel efficiencies related to operating their wells.
This means new opportunities can now be garnered through the ability to fully analyze and utilize data in more efficient and timely manners. For a while, operators have benefitted from optimization platforms featuring data analytics on the edge. However, they now have the machine learning and data analytics capable of automating entire energy systems as a holistic unit—improving cost reduction and maximizing production in mature fields. Regardless of the changes or interventions required during the production phase, the key point is an ability to change these activities from reactionary to preventative or scheduled.
ADVANCES IN DATA GATHERING AND ANALYSIS
The exciting revelation is that truly integrated digital offerings have been achieved. While these digitalized benefits have been greatly anticipated, the benefits of smart interconnectivity and automations promised by the Fourth Industrial Revolution have finally delivered a level of autonomous synergy that has eluded the energy industry—until now.
To reach the full potential of this new age, a truly digitalized, interconnected portfolio of high-frequency data-enabled technologies must be employed—including a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) platform, a production optimization platform, and Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled automation, Fig. 1. Today, these platforms and technologies are no longer disparate systems operating autonomously. They have been unified as cohesive, autonomous systems. This achievement means a fully integrated digital offering can be achieved, providing operators with revolutionary levels of efficiency, productivity and safety.
FIG. 1. Fully digitalized SCADA optimization with smart IoT automations now deliver revolutionary efficiency.
Fully understanding the power of the data collected also helps reduce field operating costs. Scheduling well interventions with data-supported accuracy reduces the number of workover rigs required under contract. Examples have seen operators of large fields able to reduce workover unit contracts by 50%, while time spent with wells offline has decreased from days to hours in land applications. It also helps to control inventory costs, as the minimum quantities required are better understood, and the orders can be placed prior to part failure. Intervention activities are also reduced, as weak points in the entire process become apparent and solutions can be enacted before they affect production performance.
The analyzed data simplify production operations by prioritizing jobs, reducing costs and mitigating the risk of workovers and intervention activities. A digital production optimization platform and field service manager module provide the answers to maximize recovery and select operational activities with higher ROI. Integrated production and intervention operations’ function is to minimize operational expenditures (OPEX), reduce safety exposure and improve operational efficiency.
Rig-less intervention technologies have improved significantly in recent years, with the ability to add injections below existing architecture, spot chemicals and even add permanent or semi-permanent downhole measurements without rig intervention. Therefore, the combination of technology and technique improvements results in far more intervention options that are commercially viable.
RESTORATION ADVANCES IN MATURE FIELDS: THE FASTEST PATH TO PRODUCTION
To boost productivity, with techniques that quickly generate cash flow and systematically accelerate the performance of aging wells, a more holistic approach is recommended to take full advantage of these advances in data harvesting and analysis, featuring an enhanced understanding of the economics of mature fields. These steps to fully rejuvenate and optimize a mature field include four processes for maximized results: restore well productivity, extend asset life, improve production performance and streamline production operations.
Restore well productivity. Through a cost-effective combination of interventions, well services, stimulation and artificial lift, an integrated-solutions approach is essential to rejuvenating wells and enhancing production. Weatherford deploys an Interpretation and Evaluation Services (IES) team to identify underperforming wells, evaluate current conditions in shut-in wells and select intervention solutions to achieve production targets with minimal cost.
These production optimization experts provide analysis of an asset using the power of existing data, while identifying critical surveillance gaps and rectifying them with comprehensive diagnostic technologies, to identify areas of higher returns and savings. This requires rejuvenation technologies and services to determine the optimal technical solutions to address the productivity challenges, Fig. 2. The provision of these services and solutions in an integrated format results in the capability to structure compensation on predicted outcomes, shared risk and a higher provided level of economic decision making and control—ultimately extending the productive life of a well.
FIG. 2. Rejuvenation technologies help determine optimal solutions to address productivity challenges.
The Weatherford Integrated Intervention team successfully increased production 11% for a Middle Eastern operator by transitioning its artificial lift methods, using the ForeSite® production optimization platform across 3,000 heavy oil wells in UAE. This asset was producing 1.6 MMbopd, primarily by natural drive mechanisms, but declining. Its operating regime featured some artificial lift, as well as measures to maintain reservoir pressure, including 220 electric submersible pumps (ESPs), 250 gas-lift systems and 500 gas and water-injection wells.
The operator’s engineering team and Weatherford worked together to create a permanent collaboration center. This established consistent, asset-wide workflows and production models. The teams instituted new workflows, as part of the production optimization platform, to be controlled from the new collaboration center.
Upon launch, the production optimization platform unified optimization and efficiency efforts. The operation and engineering teams now had a single collaboration environment, which enabled quicker and more accurate decision-making on well performance. This not only ensured the optimal solution to each action, but it also confirmed that targets for technical and allowable rates were met without violating facility constraints.
By leveraging enhanced, on-the-go access to real-time and historical data, the operator created a new operating culture that improved well optimization and monitoring. The optimization platform became the operator’s first smart oilfield ecosystem, and it enabled a cultural shift around production optimization and efficient workflows. This delivered more accurate production allocation, instituted well performance tracking and enhanced the decision-making process. Within one year of installing the system, the operator increased production 11%, which amounts to an annual $500 million increase in incremental revenue.
Extend asset life. At this stage, it is vital that the asset is enhanced for greater recovery of the reservoir, extending the run life of the wells and lift equipment and optimizing the asset’s production value. Weatherford production engineering employs a wide range of production solution tools to address challenges ranging from formation treatment and stimulation, to high-pressure/high-temperature (HPHT) applications and artificial lift migration. Then, production can be maximized for superior ROI when transitioning to enhanced oil or gas recovery and beyond.
An excellent example of well rejuvenation occurred for a North Sea operator facing a failing well that previously had no gas-lift capability. Weatherford introduced the Renaissance® inverse gas-lift system (IGLS) for a return to continuous production, and there was an increase of 3,500 bopd during the first three months. The system was easily deployed on coiled tubing from a third party and eliminated the need for a workover—all of which reduced operational costs.
The challenge was to alleviate liquid-loading problems to increase production in the failing cyclic production well, while avoiding a full well workover to reduce the operational costs. Weatherford well completion experts designed a gas-lift solution to increase production for the failing well. Their plan called for deploying a 5.5 × 4.562-in. Renaissance IGLS into the existing production tubing. The Renaissance system enables IGLS installation in wells that have not been configured for conventional gas lift, and it can be used when annular integrity problems would normally preclude gas injection.
The Weatherford team ran the gas-lift equipment with third-party-supplied coiled tubing. They deployed on coiled tubing to set a combined dual-flow hanger and dual-flow safety valve into the existing tubing-retrievable, surface-controlled subsurface safety valve profile. The team then spaced out the intermediate IGLS gas-injection tubing, with anchor latch and polished bore receptacle modules that were installed just below the wellhead. Next, they deployed the sealbore stinger, with an OEM wellhead concentric hanger to connect the IGLS tubing to the platform gas-injection system, culminating in full well integrity tests. The Weatherford team installed the IGLS with no quality, health, safety or environmental problems.
By installing the Renaissance IGLS into a failing intermittent production well with just 9% uptime, the operator was able to return the well to continuous production and realize a production increase of approximately 3,500 boed during the first three months. Following the IGLS installation, the well no longer presents difficulties in unloading liquids after shutdowns, and the Weatherford team was able to avoid a full well workover and maintain full operational and well control using the customer’s existing systems, Fig. 3.
FIG. 3. A real example of results achieved by a holistic approach to field rejuvenation.
Improve production performance. The next steps are to improve the production efficiency of an asset, by digitalizing its current processes and providing actionable analysis from reservoir to pipeline. A production ecosystem simplifies all daily operations and integrates all asset models, data history, IoT devices and data from other systems into a single source of truth. A team of production-optimization, data-science and business-analytics experts can integrate all data through workflows, wells, surface networks and predictive models, to identify daily uplift potential, lift equipment efficiency opportunities and production bottlenecks.
Evidence of this success comes from a West Texas operator, who successfully implemented the ForeSite platform to drive an enterprise-wide production optimization program across all forms of artificial lift. The platform helped increase operational efficiency, boost artificial lift uptime and increase production—resulting in $17.7 million more in incremental revenue through improved efficiency, uptime and production. These savings included $5.8 million from personnel efficiency, $6.5 million from increased equipment run life, and an additional $5.4 million in revenue garnered from wells that transitioned more quickly from natural flow to artificial lift.
The production optimization platform delivered the ability to monitor performance and recognize improvement opportunities across all reservoirs, wells, surface equipment and pipelines by integrating existing data systems with real-time data, physics-based modeling engines, and command-and-control capabilities into a single production optimization platform. The success of the pilot has motivated the operator to institute an enterprise-wide rollout of the platform.
Streamline production operations. Finally, it is important to simplify production operations by prioritizing jobs, reducing costs, and mitigating the risk of workovers and rig-less intervention activities. The production-optimization platform, in conjunction with a field service manager module, is ideal for maximizing recovery and selecting operational activities with higher ROI. By leveraging a cross-trained team of experts in integrated production and intervention operations, Weatherford minimizes operational expenditures to reduce safety exposure and improve operational efficiency.
For an asset using ESPs across 1,700 wells, an operator tasked Weatherford with automating production monitoring, analyses and optimization, using a solution that accommodates other forms of lift. The chosen production optimization platform provided a capital expenditure (CAPEX)-free solution that identified opportunities for 5,734 more bopd, which represents a $52 million average annual increase or total of $156 million over three years.
These capabilities help reduce costs by operating fields from a central location. Instead of sending personnel, trucks or well testing equipment away for every issue, operators can use fewer personnel and resources to perform remote monitoring and adjustments when needed. It is now possible to get wells back to optimal production fast, despite issues with interzonal crossflow, liquid loading, scale buildup and more. Using a single point of contact that simplifies the process and a broad portfolio of solutions that work together, operators can supersede one-size-fits-all answers with multiple contingencies for well designs and production profiles.
ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY FACTORS
In addition to producing more for longer with existing assets, in a global energy market that will remain dependent on fossil fuels for decades, many efficiency factors do not only have economic benefits, but they can also impact emissions and their environmental effects. Revitalizing existing wells that are already drilled reduces the number of wells needed to sustain production needs. Automation technology will reduce field trips needed to monitor and maintain wells or make adjustments. More efficient lifting systems increase lift productivity, with lower power requirements. Rig-less activities remove workover rigs and their support requirements. Open architecture in digital systems allows input from emissions monitoring sensors for leaks.
Weatherford has set a course to adopt Industry 4.0 concepts—proven in many industries, such as manufacturing, logistics, and entertainment. By bringing these concepts to the oil field, operators are enabled to predict equipment failures, manage wells without human intervention and manage assets by exception, meaning that personnel can focus on what matters most on any given day—alleviating their traveling costs and emissions footprint.
Attention on carbon emissions is going the same way for the oil and gas industry as it did for the adoption of safety measures. Safety is now embedded in its culture. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) priorities are just now up-and-coming, but they are here to stay. The energy companies who incorporate ESG measures into their culture will be better-positioned to move forward and even profit from these changes in the near future. However, to meet this challenge, technology alone is not enough. Employees must be trained to care about ESG initiatives and their evolution into industry practices.
Right now, the emissions trend is still new. Everyone is at least aware of it and showing some interest, realizing that efforts to improve carbon emissions is good for the environment. However, few are training their people on ESG measures. Employers would benefit from getting in early on the adoption of ESG in terms of understanding its value. A key hurdle in this endeavor includes ensuring operators are forming a process that mandates clean data and quality analytics. In each of these cases, training on ESG and carbon emissions must be enhanced in terms of understanding that the reduction of methane emissions is key.
One thing remains sure: enhanced efficiency will always be on top of mind for operators and investors. Revitalizing and reoptimizing mature fields will become more attractive, as unpredictable economics and unstable energy pricing continues. Operators will be wise to take advantage of these recent advances in digitalized machine learning and data analytics, combined with integrated service provisions, to manage fields in a more risk-controlled environment and generate newfound earning potential within their diminishing oilfield assets. These tangible investment opportunities promise fast returns with low investment potential—yielding reliable, consistent energy recovery by optimizing mature field assets.
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