“With digital technologies accelerating and enabling the development of other technologies at a pace never seen before, the oil and gas industry needs to seize technology opportunities to boost its efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint to retain its relevance in the energy transition,” said Liv A. Hovem, CEO, DNV GL – Oil & Gas. “And of course, we need to make sure that these digital technologies work as expected.”
Technology Outlook 2030 sees digitalization offering significant benefits to the capital-intensive oil and gas industry by enabling:
- more efficient projects and operations
- greater collaboration by sharing data and models through cloud platforms
- new business models for value-chain efficiencies
- greater supply-chain transparency to meet increased regulatory and public scrutiny.
The Outlook predicts a merging of project management and operations by 2030 into a digital value chain powered by machines and algorithms.
Digitalization will improve the capital value process
Exploiting digitalization can improve the efficiency and success of exploring for oil and gas, appraising discoveries, and developing infrastructure to produce and transport the hydrocarbons. Relevant tools include cloud computing, advanced simulations, virtual system testing, virtual/augmented reality and applications of machine learning, a subset of AI.
“We expect tools like these to merge progressively in full digital twins combining data analytics and real-time data on installations, subsurface geology, and reservoirs,” said Pedersen. “Creating a digital twin early in field development allows simulation and visualization of its lifecycle. This can help to choose development concepts and make major development decisions, such as the number of wells.”
This in turn allows better and early optimization of technical designs, production strategy, and commercial models, he added: “Standard designs can be reused from a best-practice library of geometries with automatic configurations, equipment catalogues, and weight and capacity estimates calculated automatically. Technical requirements guiding construction can be checked automatically to ensure designs comply with requirements.” Finally, Pedersen said, the (unconstrained) reservoir production profiles for oil, gas, and water can be simulated through the different potential development concepts to forecast actual production throughout field life.
“All of this enables a virtual step-through of the asset lifecycle at the desktop before development starts. We call this the digital value chain, with the digital twin at its core. Operators and contractors have parts of it in place already, and we expect it to be a full reality before 2030 as a necessity for reducing development times and costs in the energy transition.”
Electrification will go offshore, subsea, and down into the well
Gas turbines fuelled by gas from the wells are the usual power source for oil and gas platforms, and account for some 80% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions offshore. Using clean electricity for all or some of a platform’s power could reduce the carbon footprint of operations therefore.
Some platforms receive power currently by subsea cable from shore, but full electrification offshore will require new power infrastructure. Technology Outlook 2030 notes that high-voltage direct current power transmission systems may be needed for long distances, requiring transformers onshore and offshore, which is costly. Alternative ways of providing renewable power locally to platforms are being considered, including offshore windpower projects.
The Outlook expects electrification offshore to have the most impact underwater. It notes that electric and electronic applications for subsea control systems, choke valves, and production valves have proved highly reliable, and have focused so far on production parts of subsea systems. Safety-critical parts, including Xmas trees and downhole safety valves (DHSVs) still operate by hydraulic power from the topside. Hydraulics are costly to install and maintain, which the Outlook sees as good reasons to replace them with all-electric systems in which the main elements will be Xmas trees, DHSVs, and subsea modules.
While cost-efficiency is seen as the main driver for all-electric subsea solutions, other advantages include removing topside high-pressure equipment (a safety risk to personnel), and eliminating the risk of hydraulic fluids polluting environments.
Hydrogen value chains will grow
Combusting hydrogen, or using it in a fuel cell, emits no greenhouse gases (GHGs). Consequently, national initiatives worldwide are assessing the technical and economic viability of scaling up hydrogen production for safe industrial and societal use. It could even heat entire cities which, the Outlook reports, will account for some 80% of global energy-related GHG emissions by 2030. A chapter focusing on cities notes that they are placing decarbonization of heating high on their agendas.