Understanding how much water is present in a specific place of the production and process system at any time is fundamental for increasing efficiency, reducing risks of accidents, reducing risks of unplanned shutdowns and consequent loss of production, as well as reducing emissions.
In this blog, we will discuss on how monitoring water in the hydrocarbon fluid mix (from the production well to the processing facility, passing through the gathering system), could generate different benefits, in particular regarding reduction of emission and risk of accidents.
The energy market has been dominated by the activities of the oil companies for more than a century. Initially, they were focusing on exclusively producing oil and then later on gas, to a level that changed their market, business model and even their description; from being called oil companies to oil & gas companies.
Today, these traditional companies are facing strong competition from new energy companies producing green energy (being more aggressive/competitive in price every day).
In addition, energy companies producing hydrocarbon-based products with a lower level of production emissions are also competitors.
Consequently, to remain competitive and relevant, these traditional oil & gas companies are forced to improve their production and processing systems, to increase productivity (increase the level of production with the same cost base), and at the same time reduce emissions.
The most effective way to achieve both goals at the same time is implementing new technologies, in particular within the area of automation and control.
Today, there are software able to predict and anticipate the behavior of the field production, and with the application of industrial automation they are able to maintain a high productivity of the whole upstream production and processing system and in any operating conditions. However, any software needs reliable data as an input. If the data is wrong, no matter the capability and the characteristics of the software, the prediction and consequently the correcting actions will be incorrect.
Using advanced instrumentation to generate real-time high-quality data will give you correct and up to date information for your software and automation system.
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There are several benefits created by real time monitoring of the production and processing systems. Let’s have a look at some of them before we dig into two of the most important ones:
These benefits are all important. However, in the following sections we will have a look at the two latest ones; reduce risk of accidents and reduce emissions.
An accident to the production and processing facility could have catastrophic consequences, both from an environmental, financial, and reputational point of view. For this reason, each plant is designed and monitored to avoid this type of extreme events. As a consequence, the oil & gas industry, despite the risky nature of handling hydrocarbons, has such a low number of accidents that it's the worlds safest industry to work in (together with the pharmaceutical industry).
However, there are still several smaller events that affect the safety of the people working in the oil & gas business, that can be drastically reduced applying advanced instrumentation.
In fact, no matter where you work; in the oil sands developments in Alberta, Canada, in the LNG plants in the North West of Australia, in the oil fields in the desertic areas of Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE, etc., the actual statistics show that a common “car accident” is the main cause of hazards to the people working in the oil & gas industry.
This is understandable; with millions of people working in remote areas, the commuting from the nearest city to the plant or from the office area to the oil well, represents an important hazard factor.
Thus, reducing the need of people travelling to the plant or to the well, will also directly reduce the number of accidents!
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Traditionally, in any oil and gas production plant, reducing emissions was a “nice to have” type of goal. Today, it’s a cost driven objective important both from an economic/financial point of view, as well as from a market accessibility point of view.
In fact, more and more oil & gas consumers have started buying products exclusively from producers with a low level of emissions (and for some products like LNG, “carbon neutral” is already a reality).
Starting with the offshore applications (FPSOs, semi-submersible platforms, fixed platforms, etc), utilizing advanced instrumentation and automation helps to reduce the emissions and the carbon footprint of the whole operation activities, for different reasons. Let’s have a look at these:
Advanced instrumentation generates higher quality data that allows automation to reduce need of labor / people offshore.
Consequences: less people mean smaller living quarters, topsides and platforms, less power needed, less fuel consumed per power generation, less food and water transported to the platform, less need of helicopters trips transporting offshore crews back and forth, less fuel for the helicopters, etc.
Real time monitoring of the process conditions (both in pipes and vessels) allows reducing chemicals used.
Consequence: cost saving to procure the chemicals, but also reduced emissions to produce, transport and storage the chemicals offshore.
Advanced water detection technologies and level control of the vessels / separators allow reducing emissions to the environment.
Consequence: less oil discharged to the water outlet line, meaning less volume of oil discharged directly into the sea and less power needed to polish/treat the water (from the oil) before being discharged into the sea. In addition, you experience less foam carried over through the gas outlet line, meaning less shutdowns and maintenance activities on the compressor and less need of flaring.
Advanced instrumentation reduces the need of maintenance, and the risk of accidents.
Consequence: maintenance require people, accidents could generate leakages (to the air and to the sea), so reduction of these will have a positive effect on the environment.
In reference to the onshore applications, applying advanced instrumentation and automation systems, leads to the same conclusions on emissions reductions applicable to the offshore facilities.
It is clear that real time monitoring provides several benefits to the operators – and nowadays emission reduction and reduction of accidents are considered the main ones.
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