There is no doubt digital technology and Big Data are reshaping the industrial landscape. The oil and gas industry is focused on production, and that still must come first, but energy plays an important role in production, and an optimized and stable production process will reduce energy requirements in the future.

The industry can look holistically at all of the factors in a collaborative environment to fine-tune energy requirements for reduced opex and capex. With testing, customers are experiencing reductions in capex of 20% to 25% and opex reductions of 10% with the availability and predictability of energy supply and demand. Effective energy management, optimizing and managing energy use and reuse within the production cycle and creating resource efficiencies can offer financial savings to operators and help them achieve critical environmental targets.

Digitalization also is key in this period of energy transition. How the industry reimagines people, processes and technology, specifically utilizing data insights to improve business models, deliver reliability and de-risk operations, truly matters. The future will be data-driven. So, how can operators best leverage digital technologies to take control of their energy capabilities and improve operational efficiencies, reduce costs and drive sustainability?

Improving productivity
When it comes to energy optimization, the design and investment phase is critically important. When an organization is looking to see how many barrels it can get out of a hole in the ground, it needs to first understand the infrastructure or pipeline requirements and process priorities to see how best to optimize power.

Data are crucial to this. Operators require total visibility of operations to question and make better, more informed decisions aimed at delivering efficiencies and improvements. Basing these decisions on certainties, not probabilities, is far less costly to ensure ideal operational performance.

To have a clear picture of production versus consumption in real time, and in relation to live energy prices, operators must automate control of manual engineering processes.

In doing so, they can optimally use their assets, forecasting loads, tracking carbon emissions, managing peak production and ultimately increasing the ratio of self-generated energy. They also can increase revenues by 2% to 5%, reduce operating costs by 5% to 10% and save manpower time of about 5 hours to 20 hours per employee.

(Source: ABB)

Another way operators can change how they plan power consumption is via a process power simulator.

The ABB Process Power Simulator can validate or refute operators’ existing operations, both on a day-today basis but also in more extreme situations, by testing them in a realistic yet disconnected environment using a replica of the plant’s electrical control system. This helps in asking those “what if” questions, without needing them to occur. It is like a playground in a safe environment, where products and processes can be played around with to identify and optimize energy requirements with real-time dynamics.

Simulation enables planning to be done in a different way. It removes the need to trial new or alternative products, processes and systems on site in an existing operational environment, which brings with it operational risks of shutdowns, safety and security risks, and time delays as well as escalating costs. This unscheduled downtime can result in costs exceeding millions of dollars, loss of production and/or damage to vital equipment.

Critical insights can be gained when seeking to reduce energy consumption and drive efficiencies, enabling operators to test out new control strategies, assess equipment, procedures and sequences as well as decrease the chance of human error, which in doing so, minimizes risk and reduces commissioning time and manpower hours. Ultimately, this reduces capex and opex.

Driving sustainability
Digital transformation is not just about technological change. It is and must be seen as a business-led evolution transforming all aspects of an operating model by effectively using digital technology.

Environmental benefits rank of equal importance to cost savings in optimizing energy efficiency. Working alongside Equinor, ABB has developed a process to drive energy efficiencies and reduce emissions from oil and gas platforms by using electrical real-time dynamic simulators to establish, validate and test new control strategies and logic for conventional offshore wind solutions in deep waters.

As part of an extensive study, ABB has explored the possibility of replacing traditional gas turbines with floating offshore wind power systems in the Gullfaks and Snorre fields as an alternative to power from shore. Not only could this offer financial benefits, but floating offshore wind power presents a tremendous opportunity to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, projecting a reduction of CO2 emissions by more than 200,000 tons per year. This is equivalent to the emissions from 100,000 cars.

In electrifying offshore oil and gas installations in the North Sea to manage and improve energy use with floating wind turbines, the oil and gas industry could simultaneously act as a springboard for this new renewable technology across the globe.

Taking the next step
Reducing costs, minimizing risks and driving sustained profitability are three key drivers for energy operators. As technology develops, Big Data centers and computer capacity will only enhance the impact of testing. Globally, customers are empowered to take control of energy resources by leveraging technologies that help reduce costs, improve operational efficiencies and drive sustainability. An ability to understand the ebbs and flows to optimize performance, as well as rethink and streamline operations, is key. A focus on the current digital era is about turning the data made possible through the information era into action, increasing both the speed and quality of decision-making.

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