GE Oil & Gas International Annual Meeting, Florence (March 2013)

More on the ‘Industrial Internet’ and ‘smart’ machines. Data—when is enough enough? Going through the CIO’s cyber security hoops. BP, ‘Who owns the digital oilfield?’

The 2013 GE Oil and gas international annual meeting held earlier this year in Florence, heard Brian Palmer put flesh on GE’s ‘industrial Ethernet’ concept (OITJ 01/2013). IE is not a specific protocol, ‘you’ll never be able to write a spec for it.’ But just as the 19th century Industrial revolution and the 20th century Internet revolution have changed economic paradigms, ‘so will smart machines feeding collections of data and analytics.’ A modern aircraft collects around a terabyte of information per day. How do we store, let alone make sense of such data volumes? In oil and gas, instrumented subsea systems are streaming data from acoustic monitoring systems and multiphase flow meters into the cloud where it is available for the same type of analysis as in avionics.

BP’s Steve Beamer asked ‘Who thinks they’re getting the most out of monitoring?’ Maybe one hand went up in an audience of a couple of hundred! Data gathering has to lead to actions. Early equipment anomaly detection lets BP plan outages and order parts. On the venerable Magnus field in the North Sea (30 years old and to about to produce its billionth barrel), BP has a Bently Nevada 3500 system, Smart Signal, System One and a remote monitoring contract with GE. Smart Signal’s statistical modeling identified a worn out thrust bearing even though the instability was below the alarm detection threshold. A debate ensued as to the use of several different GE products covering related domains. GE’s Brian Palmer observed that while a common platform and GUI was desirable, GE did not want to lose the individual tool’s functionality. Developers have been instructed to offer a common look and feel while keeping tools’ specifics. Users can customize the interface and integrate information at the console. There was also a lot of discussion as to when enough data was enough. More and more data leads to practical problems of storage and analysis. It can also pose a security risk. Palmer acknowledged that security is a concern for the whole industry. Client IT departments have various philosophies and operating system preferences. GE has to ‘go through the CIO’s cyber security hoops.’

The alarm issue struck a chord with many as the status quo of alarm systems was deemed sub optimal. Palmer agreed and asked that clients ‘push for more information.’ Beamer saw a time when BP would bring the equipment monitoring function in-house. Asked ‘who owns the digital oilfield?’ Beamer replied that BP’s business is really about the big picture—from producing oil from the reservoir to refining. But ‘terminology, people, and tags don’t match between the reservoir and the facility.’ This was seen as both a problem and an opportunity, although here, GE’s role is hampered by its focus on rotating equipment. Palmer summed up, ‘We would like to do more but today we do not have the domain knowledge of the reservoir and the well. Ultimately we believe the same approach will be applicable.’

BP’s Fawaz Bitar traced the company’s journey along the road to operational excellence. BP has backtracked from its prior decentralized asset-based organization to a more functional structure with standardized, safe, reliable and compliant operations. BP’s operating management system covers corrosion risk, emergency shutdown and flaring systems. Production is now owned by multiple functions facilitating investment in turnarounds and defect elimination. This has brought a 50% reduction in unplanned outages.

Melody Meyer, now president of Chevron Asia Pacific, described the Gorgon LNG Australian megaproject. This ‘fantastic jigsaw puzzle’ represents the summit of the blend of art and science that is supplier relationship management. Gorgon is located on Barrow Island, described as Australia’s ‘Ark,’ a hugely sensitive environment. Process safety is at a premium with great attention to leaks, spills and corrosion prevention—all targeting the elimination of the low probably, high consequence event.

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