Digital technology

The recent fall in the oil price means companies are turning the spotlight on technologies that can help lower costs, reduce capital expenditure and improve operational efficiency

Sorry, you need Javascript enabled to view this video.

Loading video

please wait...

The digital oil field - from remote sensors to big data

The BP Technology Outlook suggests that digital technologies have greater potential than any other technology area to reduce risk, optimise production and contribute to more efficient operations.

‘Digital’ is a broad term and includes sensors, telecommunications networks, simulation and optimization, and robotics, coupled with advanced condition monitoring and computational power, enabling major changes to the way we work.  The integration of all those components allows us to predictively support operation decisions in real time, based on early warnings signs of performance issues.

The digital oil field

Over the past five years, the digital oil field has become a reality. Sensors are installed across topsides, subsea and downhole, providing huge volumes of data, which support and inform operational decision-making
BP set the pace in developing the 'digital oil field' through our Field of the Future® technology programme, which began almost 15 years ago. The early challenges centred on connectivity and collaboration between on and offshore operations. BP invested heavily in fibre communications and established Advanced Collaborative Environments, monitoring centres based onshore, which enable our experts to work directly with offshore operators using real-time information. As all costs are increasingly under scrutiny, our investment in the infrastructure required to bring together specialists from our global centres of expertise with operational teams in the field, is proving invaluable.

Over the past five years, the digital oil field has become a reality. Sensors are installed across topsides, subsea and downhole, providing huge volumes of data, which support and inform operational decision-making. New sensors are accelerating our big data challenges: one of the key data types that we use for understanding sand contamination in wells in Azerbaijan is already occupying 2 Petabytes of storage and requires a high performance data centre for its analysis.

These data, once interpreted and visualised, enable us to prevent costly problems before they occur. One example where data, analytics and visualisation is really paying off is the Casing Running Console, part of our BP Well Advisor digital solution. It uses sensors on the drill string to detect friction, as the well is completed, and alerts the drilling team before it becomes a problem.  It has been globally 100% successful in avoiding stuck pipe in more than 300 runs of well casing, saving an estimated $200 million capital expenditure in reduced non-productive time.

In 2014, BP established a global Digital Center of Expertise to bring together BP's digital subject matter experts, data scientists and IT professionals to develop, deploy and integrate a broad range of digital solutions across our global operations.

Key facts:

  • BP has 1,750 kms of submarine fiber optic cable linking our worldwide operations.
  • BP has set up a dedicated Big Data and Analytics Innovation Lab within our Center for High Performance Computing (CHPC).
  • BP listens to the sound of sand moving into wells using Distributed Acoustic Sensor (DAS) technology, acquiring more than 2 Petabyte of DAS data.
  • The typical time taken to process and interpret the huge volumes of data in 2013 was 4 months per well. BP’s new intelligent data extraction schemes will cut the DAS data volumes by 100,000 times.

Technology for optimising production

Applying digital technologies to model the flow of oil and gas at our facilities helps us to add and protect production at low costs per barrel.

Our Model Based Operational Support programme (MBOS), installed at many of our major upstream operations, uses real-time surveillance to identify ways of enhancing operating performance.

As part of our Field of the Future technology suite, we have successfully applied MBOS at our giant Thunder Horse field in the Gulf of Mexico to monitor the build-up of harmful asphaltenes, significantly reducing blockages in wells and risers.

Sophisticated digital optimisation technology has also been used to overcome a common industry problem: unstable flow in pipelines and risers, known as slugging, which can cause platforms to be temporarily shut down.

BP’s Slug Controller technology uses real-time measurements and complex algorithms to identify slugs as they form and automatically adjusts the choke to stabilize flow without stopping production.  In this way costly manual interventions can be avoided, and production stabilised.
  • Our real time production surveillance systems already monitor 1 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
  • We estimate that real time monitoring of well construction has already saved $200M from stuck casing events.
  • There have been no preventable stuck casing incidents since our Well Advisor system has been deployed.

Drones for cost-effective inspections

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, enable us to inspect oil and gas installations cost-effectively, and more safely.

UAVs are ideal for scanning pipeline networks, for example at BP’s Prudhoe Bay site in Alaska, where the extent of pipeline infrastructure, coupled with extreme weather conditions make manual inspection difficult, costly and time-consuming. We are also deploying drones to monitor our operations in Iraq 24/7, reducing risk to our employees.

In addition to fixed-wing machines like the Puma AE, BP uses smaller, multi-rotor UAVs to inspect vertical structures, such as flare stacks, cooling towers, roofs, tanks and electrical lines.

BP has also run proof of concepts using robots to perform oilfield road network culvert inspection, eliminating the need for staff to enter confined spaces.
  • A PUMA AE UAV takes 30 minutes to check a 3km section of pipeline. This takes a human up to seven days.
  • UAVs enable BP to conduct monthly surveys of 2,090km (1,300 miles) of pipeline at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska.
  • BP is also testing multi-rotor UAVs at its offshore installations, such as Skarv in the Norwegian North Sea.
  • UAVs are helping BP’s exploration team to produce cost-effective 3D models of onshore outcrops in Azerbaijan.

Related content