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bp’s ACE in Azerbaijan

Release date:
16 April 2024
Our latest and most technologically advanced platform in the Caspian is applying new technology and the power of digital to manage safety risks, reduce operational emissions and raise efficiency 
 
🕒 4 min read | 📖 Feature| 💡 Why it matters

bp’s new Azeri Central East (ACE) platform in the Caspian Sea is “important, both for bp and beyond,” says Ruhali Imanov, the commissioning superintendent on bp’s latest platform in the Caspian Sea.

 

Off the coast of Baku, Azerbaijan, the platform is part of bp’s effort to help secure vital energy supplies for the region and Europe – and grow value for bp, too. 

The platform is designed to produce up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day, and is expected to deliver up to 300 million barrels over its lifetime. It’s the latest piece in bp’s operations in the giant Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) field, and in Azerbaijan, where bp’s portfolio also includes the giant Shah Deniz gas field, pipelines and the Sangachal oil and gas terminal.

“ACE is increasing Azerbaijan’s oil production and helping to make the most of a maturing field. It’s giving both bp and Azerbaijan the opportunity to get more value from existing fields and assets,” says Ruhali, who grew up in Azerbaijan, and has watched bp grow its operations there over the past 30-plus years.

bp’s Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli platforms in the Caspian Sea

Click on the dots in this interactive graphic for more information on our platforms and onshore infrastructure

Controlling offshore onshore

ACE is one of bp’s most technologically and digitally advanced platforms to date, and a model for future platforms, according to project operations engineering manager Phillippa Cook. One of its more exciting features, according to engineers, was the location of the control room onshore rather than on the platform – a first for both the region and for bp. 

 

The control room sits at the massive Sangachal oil and gas terminal, about an hour’s drive south of Baku, and technicians there can control what’s happening 140 kilometres (87 miles) out at sea on the ACE platform.

“Having fewer personnel offshore is inherently safer as it reduces the risks associated with people travelling to and from the platform, being exposed to harsh weather conditions and potentially hazardous equipment and materials,” Phillippa explains. 

 

To help the bp operations teams familiarize themselves with the new concept – both physically and mentally – Phillippa’s team set up the control room ahead of start-up to test it and get colleagues accustomed to a different way of working.

“There was a three- or four-month period of rotating technicians through Sangachal terminal, verifying whether  everything worked as it should. This is the future, and it was so important that everyone was on board with the changes,” says Phillippa. Digital tools, such as shared online white boards and integrated control safety systems, are also bridging the physical gap by helping teams to collaborate more effectively, without needing to be in a room together.

Digital technology

Digital technology is helping ACE to stand out in other ways, too. A digital twin, or virtual replica of the platform and its systems, means that teams can look at its inner workings without leaving dry land. 

“We call it a one-stop shop, where you can get all the information about ACE and its insides that anyone could need,” says Yekaterina Novruzlu, senior instrument and controls engineer for the ACE project. “Let’s say there was a maintenance issue with a part that is not readily accessible. In the past, it might have meant sending someone offshore, setting up scaffolding and taking photos as a first step. The digital twin allows us to understand what is involved and then decide on a course of action in just a few minutes or hours.”

As the digital twin was developed, bp teams relied on the experience of colleagues who had worked on similar projects in the US and UK. The ACE team has also shared their newly acquired digital twin expertise with other colleagues around the business, opening up the potential to introduce similar tools and designs across other assets.

Throughout ACE’s development, engineers looked at ways they could increase safety and efficiency – and reduce the need for maintenance. “A lot of work was done to engineer out single points of failure,” says Ruhali. 

 

“We also looked at how, while maintaining and prioritizing safety, we could build in more time between maintenance shutdowns, known as turnarounds, when production has to be reduced or stopped,” he adds.

 

“The intention with ACE was that it would act as a pilot design for the platform of the future. When we started talking about this kind of automatization back in 2018, it seemed like we had a near-impossible task ahead of us. This start-up is a real milestone after years of conceptualizing, engineering, planning and execution.”

The journey to start-up

“The intention with ACE was that it would act as a pilot design for the platform of the future. This start-up is a real milestone after years of conceptualizing, engineering, planning and execution.”

 

Ruhali Imanov, ACE commissioning superintendent 

Reducing emissions 

During the design, construction and commissioning of the ACE platform, reducing  emissions was top of mind. New techniques to do so included: 

  • Installing a single, gas-fired generator. Instead of relying on a second or even third generator, back-up power is supplied through a connection to the offshore grid via the nearby East Azeri platform.
  • Using thermal imaging cameras throughout the platform to help to quickly detect leaks and seeps should they occur. 
  • Blowdown testing, which is usually completed offshore with hydrocarbons, was done onshore ahead of start-up with nitrogen, a first for bp and could be rolled out to other projects in the future.

💡 Why it matters

The Azeri-Chirag-Deepwater Gunashli (ACG) field is an important contributor to global oil supplies and to the Azerbaijan economy, having produced over 4.3 billion barrels from first oil in 1997 to the end of 2023.  


The ACE platform and facilities are designed to process up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day. It will help to extend the lifetime of the field as it provides access to parts of the reservoir that previously weren’t accessible. 

 

bp has partnered with Azerbaijan since opening its first office in Baku in 1992, helping to support thousands of jobs and multiple community programmes over that time, including education and skills building, improving access to social infrastructure, supporting local enterprises, and support for cultural legacy and sport. 


The ‘Build your future’ social project, which bp supported together with its co-venturers for seven years, helped more than 460 young people from low-income families to access higher education and is just one example of how these investments are helping to improve people’s lives in the region.  

About bp 

bp’s wider transformation is under way. While we’re mostly in oil & gas today, we’ve increased global investment into our lower carbon businesses, convenience stores and power trading from around 3% in 2019 to around 23% in 2023.

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