Stepchange Global are delighted to have been working with Santos on their new operations centre.

Control rooms are adding a few new tasks to their job descriptions. While they’ll always be responsible for process control and process safety, they’re now evolving into integrated operations centres, which are also responsible for making the right business decisions, too. However, to run efficient and profitable applications, these centres need data from equally intelligent fields of sensors, instruments, remote terminal units (RTUs) and networking devices.

Both integrated control operations and the intelligent fields are transforming the jobs and the very nature of field devices and what it means to be a control room.

For instance, Santos Ltd. has been supplying natural gas in eastern Australia for 50 years, and one of its primary applications includes about 10 compressor stations, more than 1,000 wells, and regional control hubs producing coal-seam natural gas in a area covering several hundred square kilometers (km), which is located up to 1,000 km west of Brisbane. Obviously, managing and coordinating the operations of all these far-flung wells and facilities is a complex and usually time-consuming job.

“We have many residential communities in our area, and so we must engage and negotiate with them. Then, our coal seam gas is low pressure, and so we need to bring more equipment into the field to secure it,” said Patrick Gorey, controls advisor for engineering and reliability at Santos. “We needed a more efficient way to run our plants, monitor and control the fields, and integrate operations. Supporting numerous staff in the field was becoming cost prohibitive, and so we also needed to provide real-time data to our maintenance and operations personnel to allow them to optimize performance of the wells, well-pads and fields.”

To achieve its vision, Santos began developing and designing its Brisbane Primary Control Center (PCC) in 2010, and just finished building it about one year ago. The PCC is part of Santos’ overall Brisbane Operations Center (BOC), and its upgrade will help supply the Gladstone Liquid Natural Gas (GLNG) project, which is a joint venture between Santos and three of the world’s largest energy companies, including Petronas, Total and Kogas. GLNG is expected to increase the number of Santos’ wells in the region west of Brisbane to about 6,000 over the life of the project.

“We’re implementing our new hubs this year, and will begin increasing LNG production next year,” said Gorey.

Gorey and Mike Ilgen, business development and industry marketing director for Emerson Process Management, Asia Pacific, presented “Santos Brisbane Primary Control Center—A Collaborative Environment for the Intelligent Field” on the second day of Emerson Global Users Exchange 2013 on Oct. 1 at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center in Grapevine, Texas, near Dallas. Also, a YouTube video of Santos’ project can be seen here.

Ilgen added that integrated operations centers and intelligent field applications are transforming the oil and gas and other process industries. “Most international oil companies (IOCs) and national oil companies (NOCs) have some form of these new centers, and research indicates that intelligent operations and smart fields can improve overall gas recovery by 5% and overall oil recovery by 10%, which can mean billions of dollars in added revenue,” said Ilgen. “However, all these integrated operations (iOps) centers are based on more and better data from their intelligent fields and the pervasive sensors located downhole and at the wellheads, compressor stations and other facilities. This data can then go anywhere in the world, and is then treated and analyzed by intelligent applications to improve decision making and operations. And, the faster this whole data-to-decision loop can go, the better companies can run their businesses.”

Ilgen added that intelligent field and integrated operations eventually ties together entire production and business operations as they’ve never been melded before, and serves to meld operations, maintenance, collaborative areas, multi-disciplinary teams, production planning and scheduling, and enterprise functions.

For Santos’ natural gas extraction and processing operations, the “gas field of the future” means no longer driving or flying by helicopter to remote wells, which is costly and can pose added safety risks. Now, Santos’ operators and engineers are implementing predictive diagnostics, including using wireless RTUs to conduct remote well tests from their PCC and DeltaV system in Brisbane. Likewise, some maintenance tasks used to require three or four days worth of travel and permitting to perform a three-hour job, but now they only need one hour of remote travel, plus the three hours to the job.

Gorey explained that its new PCC design was based on a predicted organization model for 2013, which consists of:
• Three stations and spare capacity;
• Four asset-based collaborative environment (CE) joint workspaces with support for one field location;
• Two discipline-based CEs for wells, maintenance and projects;
• Two “war rooms” with video conferencing to support event-based issues; and
• Hub-based CEs for field team use; and
• One field office in the town of Roma.

To design and build their new PCC, Gorey added that Santos team held meetings with relevant teams, including engineering and technical support, and field-based team representatives. Next, they met with their design teams, including local architects, services consultants and construction team. Together, they all generated and optimized a floor-plan layout, and created detailed scope and costs for it. Emerson serves as the main automation contractor (MAC) for the GLNG, and helps collect and deliver its real-time information. Lastly, the new PCC was built, and it’s been up and running for about 12 months.

“We also hired a change-management company, Stepchange Global, to help us look at what were doing now, and how we wanted to do it in the future,” explained Gorey. “We all assessed our opportunities and challenges, and obtained a good understanding of the operation and what we were trying to achieve. We couldn’t just set up new screens and fancy tools. We had to evaluate our specific business goals, and use them to help define our control center goals. This meant asking basic questions like, ‘If we need an important KPI, are the operators able to see it?’ Equipment makes gas, but people are essential to make sure its runs properly and efficiently. So, what we’re really doing is driving behaviors to achieve our goals.”

Gorey added that the new PCC has:

  • Fundamentally changed the way that Santos operates its gas fields in the Bowen and Surat basins;
  • Integrated its planning, scheduling, operations and maintenance;
  • Improved its ability to monitor and control all its upstream facilities and collaborate with teams in the field to improve operations;
  • Improved compliance with its planning and production;
  • Reduced personnel in the field and trips to the field by more than 50%; and
  • Already achieved payback in less than one year.

“We have developed a world-class remote operation centre,” Gorey stated. “The centre has changed the way our gas fields in the Bowen and Surat Basins are operated. Emerson’s team brought the process automation expertise we needed to meet global standards, and their solutions have equipped us with the ability to centrally monitor the production and progress of our intelligent assets up to 1,000 kilometres apart.”

this article was originally published by Emerson Exchange.