Steadily improving commodity pricing continues to drive increased rig counts across each of the prolific U.S. shale basins and, as a result, completion and production trends in each of the basins are experiencing common challenges. After years of downsizing, many operators are being pressured to deliver on ever-increasing production targets with fewer in-house resources. Coupled with the challenge of retention and recruitment of talented engineers, a “do more with less” mantra drives today’s production and field facility teams. This hiatus of manpower influences field production facility development in a way that some might not be aware of.
The approach to building field production facilities has followed a rather traditional model for decades. Many operators segment field development tasks, utilize a procurement process engaging a multitude of vendors and drive their facilities to look more like a Frankenstein production monster rather than a welldesigned machine made to work as one.
Operators typically engineer their facilities leveraging either in-house resources or third-party engineering firms. Varied application conditions can exacerbate a lack of standardization on each of an operator’s facility designs from site to site.
Once piping, instrumentation and flow diagrams are complete, the operator must turn to the fabricators to build the production and processing equipment. Typically, the equipment is left to be sized and designed individually by each vendor. This often requires re-engineering and coordination between multiple suppliers before each component is built and ready to be delivered to the field.
Upon delivery, a third-party installation crew is brought on site to piece together the various components, run the electrical and instrumentation, complete system integration testing and commissioning and then start up.
This approach is no longer a viable solution for the industry. It might be considered an efficient process in delivering perceived low-cost, optimized facilities to the field, but an effective system is needed to package production equipment that gets operators to first oil faster.
Service providers like Tri-Point Oil & Gas Production Systems LLC are working to partner with operators to provide a new approach to the field development process. Modularized production systems (MPS) streamline facility implementation by simplifying the overall design, reducing project shareholders, expediting installation schedules and, ultimately, providing cost savings in the final installed product.
An integrated approach
The MPS is an integrated field facility designed to accommodate the production, separation, measurement, transfer and storage for single- to multiple-well arrangements installed between the wells and the sales line. The MPS approach works as a turnkey execution process and can be engineered to order, allowing operators to optimize a wider variety of applications in their field with standardized tiered offerings. With the frontend engineering of a facility settled, the MPS aims to provide a compact, scalable alternative to the inconsistency of traditional field facility layouts.
Although the production equipment used in MPS is not new technology, the system packages its various components in a more accessible manner, allowing reduced installation time by an original equipment manufacturing service team. The system also provides flexibility through plug-and-play capabilities and generates capex savings.
Reduced installation time
Traditional field development consents for major equipment to be fabricated in a shop, then over a 45- to 60-day period each component is interconnected on site in a “stick-build” style installation. In contrast, a typical modular production system is installed on site and commissioned in a period of 10 to 15 days. At today’s oil price, a 40-day average schedule improvement to first oil can be recognized at about $4 million in a four-well facility scenario producing on overage 1,500 bbl/d.
The MPS approach to field development improves installation times by reducing the amount of work required to be performed on site. During an MPS installation, completed modules are delivered to the site using standard trailers. Each standard MPS skid is no larger than 2 m by 12 m (8 ft by 40 ft), allowing the entire system to be delivered without a permitted load.
This approach to field development is designed to improve facility scheduling and implementation on a macro level. Operators can take their attention away from managing the individual tasks of engineering, fabrication, installation and startup and focus on ensuring wells and facilities come online together and without any production delay. By fabricating a standardized design in a controlled manufacturing setting, MPS facilities can be built in parallel to well completion operations and delivered when the operator is ready to begin production. Ultimately, the integrated MPS reduces the development workload and allows an operator’s facility engineering team to accomplish more with less.
The design of the MPS provides operators a plug-andplay capability with their equipment that is not possible through traditional field facilities. MPS modules with standardized process connection locations allow the exchange of production equipment as the application evolves.
For example, costly high-pressure separators required to accommodate initial high volume and high pressure can be replaced later in the system’s life with lower-pressure separators that can manage the conditions. These high-pressure separators can then be utilized elsewhere, either within the same facility or where new wells are coming online.
Reduced installation time generates savings on installation costs, eliminating the need for prolonged onsite field labor. Assuming an average labor force of 30 people for 45 days at 10 hours a day and a $50/hour rate, the total installation for a tradition facility would be about $675,000. By comparison, an MPS installation with an average crew size of 10 for 15 days at the same rate would cost an operator an estimated $75,000 to begin production. In this scenario, the operator saves about $600,000 in field installation and startup services alone.
Quality and safety improvements
Facilities fabricated in the field are prone to exposure to unfavorable conditions, which can lead to inconsistent quality. In a controlled shop environment, welders are more easily able to ensure a quality product.
Traditional facility construction requires more manpower in the field for longer periods of time. Extended time in the field creates a strain on resources and increases the risk of injury. If an injury in the field does occur, these locations are often fairly remote and far from medical care. All of these potential hazards are minimized by moving to a modularized system approach.
Operators recognize that creating efficiency at any stage of oil and gas production and processing is essential but never at the expense of safety or quality. The integrated modular approach eliminates inefficiencies, safety risks and other concerns that disrupt productivity, all while reducing cycle time from well completion to facility production and saving operators money.
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