‘Digital twins’ can get 8% more oil from a well, says Premier Oil specialist

Premier Oil's Catcher FPSO
Premier Oil's Catcher FPSO

Creating a “digital twin” of an asset can lead to “radical cost savings” and increased production in the upstream sector, a manager at Premier Oil said today.

David Hartell, Premier’s senior development manager, said using a “digital twin” for flexible risers that connect floating production vessels to subsea wells can achieve 8% extra production.

Presenting his findings at the Future Oil and Gas conference held in Aberdeen, he said: “What is a digital twin? A popular term in our industry is people talking about a ‘virtual dynamic simulation model of an asset’, the model is initialised based on what we do in the design phase and we update that as we procure and build and commission and start up the asset. And finally the physical asset itself is instrumented with sensors which capture the current operational states.”

Mr Hartell claims that a digital twin is able to predict faults in an asset, adding a huge cost saving benefit to operators, but also locate hard to reach oil in “black areas” of a particular well.

He said: “We have complex reservoirs which we want to extract the most hydrocarbons out of. A very complicated reservoir on a project I’m doing in the Falkland islands, we have gas lifted production wells, we have horizontal wells, we have water injection wells; all these need to be tweaked to maximise the hydrocarbon production and minimise the water. Things can affect the efficiency of the topside so all of these settings, it starts in the subsurface and goes through the subsea architecture and then up on to the FPSO, we can tune all this with a digital twin.

“Some of the super majors have estimated that with such a system properly tuned, we can get 6-8% more oil out of a given reservoir. My project – phase one 220 million barrels – an extra 8% at $60 a barrel is one billion dollars of revenue. So that’s quite a large prize to search from and go after, especially if we’re making use of the data we have.”

Mr Hartell also spoke about the issue of asset degradation and how a ‘digital twin’ allows you to see where “pre-preemptive maintenance” needs to be carried out.

He also spoke directly to operators, telling them that they had to be honest with themselves about what they were looking for and where they wanted to add value to the process of lifting oil.

Mr Hartell said: “You need to be an intelligent consumer, an informed buyer. You need to know: what is the value that you want, what is the value that you are looking for? Is it more oil recovery? Is it reduced operational cost? You kind of have to work backwards from that value.