In the previous article in this series, we discussed the price of oil and the fortunes of automation, describing what we see happening to projects and how customers achieve a quick ROI.
Several key trends are driving change throughout the production process. Here’s how we see it:
- Low dollar high impact projects. Just two years ago many producers were focused on bringing on new production through high dollar projects. Now with the current low oil price the trend is toward projects that are smaller in scope and have a strong payback. In automation, variable speed drives can provide a quick payback through reduced energy costs, lower maintenance costs and improved production.
- Great shift change. A large percentage of the oilfield workforce will be replaced in the next few years. Automation will be critically important in the successful transition. With routine controls in place, workers can concentrate on efficiencies and exceptions. They can also reference prior experience recorded in digital notes. The new generation expects automation and will challenge producers to leverage new technologies. They will push producers by their willingness to use technology.
- Energy savings. As producers focus more on incremental savings, the costs of basic utilities will come under greater scrutiny. It will become imperative to minimize energy consumption at every step. Large energy consuming equipment like pump drives will be evaluated both on pump efficiency and energy efficiency. Drive manufacturers will have to become more efficient in overall energy use. Wasting or burning off energy will no longer be an acceptable byproduct of pump speed control. Oilfield utilities costs are substantial enough to make a real difference to the bottom line, and better drive management can reduce those costs appreciably.
- Integration and collaboration. 50% of producers will double down on oilfield operations automation according to a recent prediction by International Data Corporation (IDC), a global IT research and consulting firm. IDC further predicts a doubling of productivity as a result. Connecting technology in a collaborative way with partners will become an imperative. IDC helps business and IT leaders make more effective technology decisions through fact-based research.
- Safety. Human and environmental safety will only become more important over time. Automation reduces safety risks by monitoring and alerting when abnormal conditions are encountered. Tank overfill, down hole overpressure, and pump rod overload are all examples of conditions that can be avoided through careful parameter setting and condition monitoring.
- IT Governance. We see an increased role for the CIO and IT management in the areas of analytics, cybersecurity and cloud initiatives.
- Data analytics. SCADA has been in use for some time for transactional processing and monitoring. While this provides better control over field operations it stops short of the full potential of the data it gathers. Producers are beginning to capture SCADA data for analysis, allowing them to see trends, make predictions, schedule preventive maintenance and improve production. Data analytics at the field level can help measure the effect of in-fill drilling and identify the best and worst performing wells. With that information, technicians can make adjustments t improve overall field performance.
SPOC Automation is well positioned with respect to these trends and continues to invest heavily in research and development, even in these challenging times. Watch for our innovations throughout 2016.
In the next article, we turn to a look at the changing workforce and the impact of Gen Z.