Automation trends to improve efficiency of shale operations


Past years in Oil & Gas markets have been marked by severe oil price downturns, affecting all business segments relying on, or at least expecting, continuation of high oil prices, including many shale operators as well. Continued low oil prices have already caused a drop in overall industry spending, as well as some non-selective cost cuttings, often neglecting the potential of automation for increasing production and reducing expenses. Nowadays, more than ever, increasing operations efficiency is a must, acting as a force pushing inefficient oil and gas companies towards accepting new technologies, and pushing even the efficient ones to find ways to preserve their top and bottom lines. Even though the Oil & Gas industry faces rather blurry forecasts on a market recovery, a new suite of automation technologies promises to help companies tackle these challenges.

Oilfield automation traditionally plays a significant role in oil and gas upstream, especially in artificial lift applications, contributing production by giving the operators the possibility to supervise and control wells based on comprehensive production data obtained from the automation system. Oilfield automation involves having well controllers on each well to which all active well equipment is connected. Well controllers are in charge of the starting and stopping of the wells, identifying issues, generating alarms and exchanging data with a supervisory system. Depending on many various factors, communication structures between the wells and control room(s), including the SCADA software system itself, are quite usually of very high complexity. Interoperability of the equipment in the field, communication system reliability, real-time data availability, historical accuracy and suitable interpretation of logged data, as well as data security are some of the technical challenges put in front of the oilfield automation system. When considering an automation system to be used, besides these technical challenges, additional considerations for levels of initial investments for implementation must be made, as well as consideration of the cost of fully maintaining the automation system.

Shifting to OPEX

When optimally designed and properly maintained, automation systems without a doubt provide benefits to operators, but when it comes to shale applications, shale operators seem to be demanding an entirely new approach to automation.

Magazine Issue 2 Cover
The full article, by Milan Plavsic – Indas Automation, is available in Issue 3 of Shale Gas International Magazine and can be found on page 22.