Levels of Automation in Oil and Gas

One of the aspects of the 4th Industrial Revolution [LINK] is automation.

I am often asked if automation could ever add value to oil and gas? I contend that there is a good reason to think it will because benefits could come from:

  • accurate control and adjustment leading to higher throughput;
  • self-repairing (or self-scheduled repair) leading to higher uptime;
  • more accurate execution of plans by reducing manual error; and
  • less distracted management leading to higher-value decisions;

Many people are sceptical that we can ever “automate” an upstream oil and gas production facility.  I agree that “full” automation is unlikely, but I would argue that partial automation is already present. What we need then is a way to describe “levels of automation” so we can define what we are talking about and reach agreement about what to do.

Autonomous cars are in the news for good reason right now, and are making great progress. Perhaps we can create a common language for “level of automation”. The SAE introduces itself as:

SAE International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial-vehicle industries

It has defined 5 levels of automation that has now been adopted by the US Department of Transport. Here’s an explanation from wired magazine [LINK].

What dimensions could be used to classify degrees of oil and gas production automation? My definition of the process of automating is: “Reducing the friction between sensing what is going on and taking the right action”. This can be used to underpin a maturity matrix.

If we can sense what’s happening, reduce the friction before acting to zero and be exactly right in the actions we take – then this achieves perfect automation. Of course this then leads to the need to define in more detail: sense, friction and right.

Some of the steps that can lead to more automation are:

  • Improved sensing of the environment;
  • Distribution of sensing data;
  • Transformation of data into information (e.g. production vs. target);
  • Exploring related information, history and context (e.g. maintenance records)
  • Understanding the consequences of the information presented (prediction);
  • Checking possible actions and their impact (simulation);
  • Delegating decisions to reduce management delay; and
  • Feeding back observed results to scientifically tune future predictions (learn)

Contact me for more information about how it is possible to incorporate the above into an assessment of your organisation’s automation maturity and readiness for change.

 

 

 

 

 

Published by

upstreamgareth

Entrepreneur, Management Consultant, Technologist - Interested in all things Upstream Oil and Gas, New Ventures and Projects.

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