Next Generation Oceanographic Monitoring and Forecasting Technology for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations Integrating Technology and Techniques for Safer Offshore Operations Oceanography in the Gulf of Mexico Monitoring Currents in the Deep Oceanographic Analysis: The Next Generation Gathering Reliable Oceanographic Data
Published by Global Business Media
NEXT GENERATION OCEANOGRAPHIC MONITORING AND FORECASTING TECHNOLOGY FOR OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS
Next Generation Oceanographic Monitoring and Forecasting Technology for Offshore Oil and Gas Operations Integrating Technology and Techniques for Safer Offshore Operations
Oceanography in the Gulf of Mexico Monitoring Currents in the Deep Oceanographic Analysis: The Next Generation Gathering Reliable Oceanographic Data
Foreword 2 Tom Cropper, Editor
Integrating Technology and Techniques 3 for Safer Offshore Operations Dr. Marc Lucas, CLS; Neha Sharma, Matt Cadwallader, HMI Sponsored by
Published by Global Business Media
Published by Global Business Media
Water, Water, Everywhere Still Much to Learn A New Way of Modeling Developments Beneath the Waves
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Oceanography in the Gulf of Mexico
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Providing the Data to Help Make the Right Decisions
Tom Cropper, Editor
Life in the Gulf of Mexico Reacting to an Oil Spill
Editor Tom Cropper
Monitoring Currents in the Deep
Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks
Jo Roth, Staff Writer
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The New Generation of Technologies
Oceanographic Analysis: The Next Generation
James Butler, Staff Writer
Autonomous Systems Space, Above and Beyond Using the Ocean
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Gathering Reliable Oceanographic Data
Tom Cropper, Editor
Financial Benefits Accessing Information Oil Spill Clean-Up Advances in Technology Effective Implementation
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NEXT GENERATION OCEANOGRAPHIC MONITORING AND FORECASTING TECHNOLOGY FOR OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS
OR ALL the economic uncertainty surrounding
of Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS) together with
the offshore oil and gas market, the industry
Neha Sharma and Matt Cadwallader of Horizon Marine
continues to push into deeper and more extreme
Inc. (HMI). They outline a number of developmental
environments. Brazil, the USA and West Africa
trends which are expanding the quality and quantity
are showing particularly promising growth in
of usable data available to operators. They show how
deep-water installations as long term promise
advances in satellite technology and autonomous
out-weights short term insecurities.
gliders have facilitated the production of real time
However, this creates a host of challenges including
oceanographic information and forecasts.
extreme weather conditions and ocean movements
Elsewhere in the Report, we focus on the Gulf of
– both of which can have a major influence on day to
Mexico. Accurately forecasting the direction of currents
day rig operations. In addition, fluctuations in ocean
is crucial to deep-water installations, but, until now,
currents can have a significant impact on the direction
doing so has been fraught with difficulties. We show
and speed of any spills which, in turn, shapes post-spill
how a combination of technologies has provided an
easily accessible service to operators within the Gulf
Identifying new ways of accurately measuring such
of Mexico enabling them to improve dramatically the
fluctuations has long been a serious challenge. The
quality of oceanographic information available to them.
good news is that the technology is now doing just
We will also highlight the key benefits this new
that. Sophisticated innovations are increasing the
technology can bring as well as focusing on some
amount of data received and improve the usability
of the cutting edge innovations we can expect to see
of data analysis software. The result – operators can
in the near future.
gain a much more accurate real-time view of the state of the ocean in which they are working. The first article of this Special Report comes from three leading experts in this field – Dr. Marc Lucas
Tom Cropper Editor
Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the past 15 years. He has also worked as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the World Wildlife Fund.
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NEXT GENERATION OCEANOGRAPHIC MONITORING AND FORECASTING TECHNOLOGY FOR OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS OPERATIONS
Integrating Technology and Techniques for Safer Offshore Operations Dr. Marc Lucas, CLS; Neha Sharma, Matt Cadwallader, HMI Situational awareness of local oceanography is critical to ensure safe and efficient operations and reduce non-productive time on million dollar a day projects.
OFFSHORE ENERGY OPERATIONS ARE AT HIGH RISK WHEN FACED WITH EXTREME OCEAN EVENTS. PHOTO: (LEFT) ISTOCK PHOTO- CLS; (RIGHT) HMI.
O FULFILL the daily energy needs of a growing global population, the offshore energy industry continues to venture into deeper waters and drill deeper wells in farflung areas of the world in some of the most extreme environments. North Sea winter storms, hurricanes and the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico, cyclones offshore Australia, and typhoons, tsunamis, and solitons (internal waves) throughout South East Asia cause delays to operations, place personnel in harm’s way, and damage vital infrastructure. All offshore operations related to the energy industry have safe working limits to protect people, equipment, and the environment. Ocean currents greater than 1.5 knots limit and often suspend many vesselbased operations: splashing the blowout preventer (BOP), running riser, drilling, seismic surveys, operating remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and installation projects. Advances in analytical tools and deployable technology give oceanographers the opportunity to
provide reliable and timely analysis of metocean data to ensure projects are placed in context with their local conditions, and suitable work windows are identified to safely execute projects within budget and without causing harm to the environment.
Water, Water, Everywhere Oceans cover 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and account for 97 percent of the planet’s water, with the remaining 3 percent of our water found in lakes and frozen water locked up in glaciers and the polar ice caps. We learn these numbers in elementary school; we watch documentaries on our ocean’s natural beauty; we are in awe of its inhabitants. Many of us dream of exploring the ocean depths, but we can’t all be on the Discovery Channel. So it is not surprising that greater than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles (~80 kilometers) of the coast, one of every six jobs in the U.S. is marine-related, and over one-third of the U.S. Gross National Product originates in coastal areas. Maritime WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 3
Despite its importance to both trade and climate, and partly because of its vastness and often extreme conditions, our oceans are acutely undersampled
CLS OPERATIONS CENTER IN TOULOUSE, FRANCE, WHERE STATE OF THE ART TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES ARE DEVELOPED TO COLLECT AND PROCESS SATELLITE DATA. GRAPHIC: CNES; PHOTO: CLS.
transport, still the most cost-effective means to move finished goods and raw materials around the world, is essential to the world’s economy. Over 90% of the world’s trade is made possible by sea. Just as the ocean is linked to international trade, the world’s climate is intrinsically linked to the state of the ocean. While scientists may disagree on the cause, it is clear that subtle changes in ocean circulation and regional heating and cooling of our oceans have great impact on our weather. The difference between El Niño and La Niña can be dramatic as the natural phenomena related to these events such as severe droughts, devastating floods, and increased tropical storm frequency and intensity impact industries and communities around the world.
Still Much to Learn We may consider outer space to be the next frontier, but the Earth’s oceans are just as mysterious to us even to this day. Despite its importance to both trade and climate, and partly because of its vastness and often extreme conditions, our oceans are acutely undersampled. The pioneering scientific work of the early 20th century was followed by more regular vessel campaigns from the sixties onwards, but it was not until the nineties that a systematic ocean sampling program was established (World Ocean Circulation Experiment). Although WOCE provided an enormous amount of information regarding the general circulation of the world’s oceans, it still fell short in terms of spatial and temporal resolution of what is necessary to properly understand the ocean and extreme events such as hurricanes or North Sea storms. Offshore energy operations are at high risk when faced with these natural phenomena. As a result, there has been a systematic push over 4 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM
the past 10 years to develop new technologies that will allow an accurate and long term forecast of oceanic conditions. The field of oceanography relies on satellites carrying sensors designed for observing our oceans. Collecte Localisation Satellites (CLS), headquartered in Toulouse, France, has a network of 16+ offices and subsidiaries around the world and operates over 80 instruments carried by 40 satellites. CLS scientists provide their expertise both directly and indirectly to a broad range of stakeholders such as government agencies and scientific organizations. Technological advancements over the past 10 years have led to heightened resolution of space-borne sensors for more accurate and detailed data gathering around the world. By continuously monitoring our planet and taking measurements of ocean color, sea surface height, sea surface temperature, and sea surface salinity, scientists can use these data to understand complex processes in the ocean. Satellites also allow the detection and monitoring of natural oil seeps, accidental or intentional oil spills, and sea-ice and icebergs as well as identifying and tracking intense dynamic oceanographic features such as eddies and coastal currents. Under certain conditions and with the appropriate algorithms, satellite data can also provide actual measurements of ocean currents and wind velocities. At CLS and Horizon Marine, Inc. (HMI), state-of-the-art processing tools and data storage and delivery techniques are continuously updated and improved to provide offshore users with the highest quality data anywhere in the world.
A New Way of Modeling Another modern technology that is routinely used to understand the behavior of the ocean is the numerical model. Numerical modeling involves the simplification of complex real-
AUVS PROVIDE VALUABLE INFORMATION ON WATER COLUMN PARAMETERS THAT ARE USED TO INITIALIZE NUMERICAL FORECAST MODELS. PHOTOS: PROOCEANO.
world fluid dynamics into a set of mathematical equations that resolve (to varying degrees) the motion and evolution of oceanic variables such as temperature, salinity, altimetry, and currents. Although the spatial and temporal resolution of these models was often too coarse to be of any practical use in the past, increased sampling of actual conditions in addition to improvements in memory management and processing power now make it possible to run models at resolutions of 1/12° and above with some measure of accuracy. Latest developments in this arena include stochastic modeling (also known as ensemble modeling) which provides users with a variety of forecasts based on varying weightage of input parameters and corresponding error margins and uncertainty metrics. However, models are and will remain highly dependent on actual measurements and observations for tuning, constraining, and validation purposes. CLS/HMI are not only users of these sophisticated numerical tools, but they have also developed high-end validation and monitoring tools to ensure that the forecasts produced by these models are of the highest quality all year round.
Developments Beneath the Waves Autonomous systems are becoming more prevalent in the energy industry, and for the oceanographic services sector, advances in autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to measure water column parameters well below the sea surface, have become extremely useful. AUVs, also called ‘gliders’, use little energy, have long endurance, and collect massive amounts of data at a much reduced day rate when compared to traditional sampling methods. Through satellite communications systems, these data are sent in near real time to shore-based facilities, and are operationally useful when incorporated with other in-situ data such as those from drifting and moored metocean buoys and vessel – (fixed or underway) mounted acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs). CLS Group’s Offshore Energy Unit, which includes Horizon Marine in the U.S. and Prooceano in Brazil, deploys all of the aforementioned technologies and utilizes their resulting data in support of offshore operations to provide accurate nowcasts. Using proprietary techniques, these data are also assimilated into
VESSEL-MOUNTED ADCPS MEASURE CURRENT VELOCITIES AT DEPTH AND DATA ARE REPORTED TO ANALYSTS AND CLIENTS IN REAL-TIME. PHOTO: (LEFT) HMI; (RIGHT) FEDERICO ALVAREZ.
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There has been a systematic push over the past 10 years to develop new technologies that will allow an accurate and long term forecast of oceanic conditions
HORIZON MARINE’S METOCEAN MAPPER IS A WEB-BASED GIS THAT IS USED BY CLIENTS AS A COP. SCREEN CAPTURE: HMI
hydrodynamic models to provide clients with actionable forecasts. In addition to improved techniques and technologies for capturing environmental data, advances in geographic information systems (GIS) have vastly improved our ability to visualize and contextualize 4D data (latitude, longitude, depth, time). Not only does this provide oceanographers the ability to analyze all available data more efficiently, but also the ability to use these digital cartographic tools as a common operating picture (COP) to communicate complex oceanic processes to project members located in offices and aboard vessels around the world.
Providing the Data to Help Make the Right Decisions The needs of the offshore energy industry are such that multi-million dollar decisions are made hourly, and the success of any given operation is dependent on the timely delivery of actionable information by skilled analysts utilizing intelligently deployed technology. Over the past 30 years, the Offshore Energy Unit has worked tirelessly with the offshore energy industry to become leaders in the field of operational oceanography. Through integration of the most recent technologies and working with dedicated teams on all continents, CLS Group’s Offshore Energy Unit is well positioned to ensure that relevant ocean data, interpretation, and service are provided in a format to place client’s operations in context with local metocean conditions to ensure safe and efficient completion of sensitive offshore operations.
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Contact Horizon Marine, Inc. 15 Creek Road Marion, MA 02738 USA TEL: +1-508-748-1860 FAX: +1-508-748-1525 EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org WEB: www.horizonmarine.com
Oceanography in the Gulf of Mexico Tom Cropper, Editor How operations to monitor ocean currents in the Gulf of Mexico are offering real benefits to the deep-water industry.
HE GULF of Mexico is deeply linked with the oil and gas industry, for reasons both good and bad. In the publicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mind it will forever be associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill which had a devastating impact on the US coastline. However, it remains one of the most important frontiers in modern exploration. In a world in which the offshore market is contracting, exploration is growing as operators find new ways to tap rich sources locked at increasing depths. This brings with it a range of associated challenges, not least of which is dealing with variations in ocean currents. These can have a huge impact on deep-water operations, which is why so many resources are being invested into monitoring oceanographic changes.
Life in the Gulf of Mexico For all the risks of drilling at deep water, the Gulf of Mexico holds immense opportunities for the deep-water industry. The long timelines associated with these projects means the recent slowdown in prices is having minimal impact on production growth. Production is predicted to reach 1.52 million barrels per day (bbl/d) in 2015, rising to 1.61 bbl/d in 20161. After a brief moratorium on deep-water drilling in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, production has picked up with renewed vigor in recent years. Even so, the risks associated with drilling in this region are well documented. In a tight commercial environment, rigs operate on a thin profit margin while having to comply with a range of new safety regulations. The risks of accident and the consequences should something go wrong grow exponentially, while turbulent weather systems mean operators are always looking out for bad weather. The currents within the Gulf of Mexico represent a very particular challenge. They are highly volatile and variable throughout a four dimensional scope. That is to say, the circulation
varies across the interconnected shelf, slope and water domains (i.e. three dimensions) and additionally a fourth in terms of time. Accurately forecasting these variations is crucial for offshore oil operators in the region, but until now it has been costly. Now, though, new technologies are providing more accurate measurement and real-time continuous monitoring. The result is a system which is superior, provides better current and historical information and costs less in terms of maintenance and man-power. The result is a highly valuable service for rig operators in the region. One of the leaders in this region is Horizon Marine Inc., which has pioneered a number of initiatives aimed at improving the data quality of oceanographic surveys. Their EdddyWatch system is a unique way of providing high quality forecasts for operators in the Gulf of Mexico. These services, located throughout the Gulf and from Trinidad to Brazil, provide unprecedented levels of accuracy and real-time information on the velocities and extent of the currents impacting offshore operations. This information proves crucial to the planning, safety, facility design and efficiency of operations. The primary method for data collection is an array of satellite-tracked drifting buoys deployed in strategic locations around the Gulf to comply with the best needs of their subscribers. Drogued to drift with the upper ocean current, they can provide analysis of the current speed and direction assisting in mapping major ocean phenomena such as the Loop Current, the North Brazil Current and warm and cold core eddies or rings. The information gathered is compiled into reports which are comprised of charts showing the present location of oceanographic features, drift buoy tracks, drilling sites and lease tracks, an executive summary, a narrative of conditions, activities and weekly tables summarizing buoy activity. These reports are WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 7
Using archived data from historical Eddywatch surveys, it is possible to draw up an extensive report assessing the past history of the area
ENSCO 5803 HOLDING STATION IN 4.0 KNOT CURRENTS OFFSHORE FRENCH GUIANA. PHOTO: HMI.
then emailed to subscriber distribution lists and posted to the online MetOcean Mapper which is accessed through a simple sign-in. This information can also be used to offer a comprehensive historical profile of regions. Using archived data from historical EddyWatch surveys, it is possible to draw up an extensive report assessing the past history of the area. Data can be tabulated by the week, month and by current speed enabling operators to create a comprehensive list of hindcast statistics and helping them improve the operational effectiveness of their deep-water projects.
Reacting to an Oil Spill While a great deal of attention is correctly being focused on current analysis, one of the most important lessons of the BP disaster was in spill clean-up operations. A plume of that size can be extremely difficult to clean up, while identifying its likely trajectory is no easy task. It relies on an accurate and real-time analysis of currents. In an area in which the situation is in a constant state of flux, having days-old data is not good enough. One option to improve data is to use Far Horizon Drifters (FHDs) which can be deployed
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from an aircraft or a vessel and provide accurate evaluation of in-situ data. When a spill occurs, the output from the models can determine the best place for deployment of the buoys. This data can prove crucial in providing the most up to date information on the future direction of the spills. The FHDs send positional data every five minutes which are processed and sent to a secure FTP site and incorporated into a spill trajectory model, all of which can be accessed through a password-protected online mapper. It is fast and effective and the entire process can take as little as between ten and 15 minutes. The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most dangerous and complicated environments in which to drill for oil. With extreme weather conditions common â&#x20AC;&#x201C; especially during hurricane season â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and the unpredictability of the current, compiling accurate current models and forecasts has been notoriously challenging. This technology has succeeded in that it is able to increase significantly the amount of information available to the operators. In doing so it represents a clear indication of where this technology is heading in the future.
Monitoring Currents in the Deep Jo Roth, Staff Writer
As deep water exploration continues to grow, accurate oceanographic data is becoming more important than ever before.
PRIL 20TH 2010, and a major explosion on board the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico kills 11 workers and pumps tens of millions of barrels of oil into the ocean. Days later, and as workers frantically strive to cap the well, clean-up crews have the equally intimidating task of cleaning up the oil spill. Their efforts are made even more difficult by the changeable currents and weather conditions found in the Gulf. If ever an event has summed up the multiple dangers faced by deep-water oil exploration, this is it. It highlights not only the difficulty of capping a well at depth but also the importance of reliable forecasts on tides and currents.
Extreme Environments Everywhere you look at the moment, across the offshore oil industry, belts are being tightened. A turbulent 2014, which saw the global oil price shed more than half its value and drop to less than $50 a barrel, has forced companies to rethink the way in which they explore offshore. Major deep water projects are being mothballed as oil giants postpone investments in offshore exploration. Following cuts to its North Sea oil budgets, Shell had further bad news when it abandoned its renewed Arctic exploration just a few weeks after being given a controversial go-ahead to explore the region. Despite having invested $7bn into this high risk/high return venture, the company announced plans to suspend drilling for the ‘foreseeable future” after initial drilling results failed to match its expectation2. The news, coupled with reports of drilling rigs being stacked and major giants such as BP postponing investments, has prompted many to herald the end of the surge in deep water oil exploration. However, for all the market turbulence, predictions for the ultra-deepwater environment remain robust. According to a recent report
from Douglas-Westwood, combined oil and gas production from fields classed as ultradeep water will grow year on year between 2015 and 2021 from 6.5mboe/d to 10.2mboe/d. This will come from drilling 1,470 ultra-deepwater wells – an increase of 68% over the previous seven year period. Part of the reason is that extreme deep water projects such as these typically have funding secured years in advance. They are long term projects aiming to produce oil over periods of several decades. As such, the impact of recent price drops is unlikely to be felt in the short and medium term and will only truly play forward if the drop continues to be a long term trend. The strongest growth is expected to be found in Nigeria, Brazil and the USA, with the latter seeing particularly strong growth with output climbing from 1.5mboe/d in 2015 to 2.1mboe/d in 2021.3 Even so, restrictions placed on budgets mean the offshore industry is having to look at the way it works. From a situation in which the industry was able to operate sustainably with oil prices above $100 per barrel, it is somehow having to find ways of working sustainably with prices around $60 per barrel. By doing so, operators have trimmed waste and driven productivity improvements – all with the aim of securing a leaner and more efficient system. Monitoring oceanographic trends plays an important role in operating more efficiently. In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, even relatively moderate changes in ocean conditions can lead to crew being evacuated to ensure their safety. The task for monitoring and measuring systems is to produce more reliable, up-to-the minute information to better forecast and model ocean current conditions at a lower cost with fewer man-hours and minimal manual intervention. In addition, as the industry moves into deeper waters, it is being forced to contend with a range WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 9
In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, even relatively moderate changes in ocean conditions can lead to crew being evacuated to ensure their safety
VESSEL-MOUNTED ADCP SURVEY IN SUPPORT OF GULF OF MEXICO OPERATIONS. PHOTO: FEDERICO ALVAREZ.
of increasingly severe weather conditions. In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, operators routinely deal with a hurricane season lasting from late summer to November. In South East Asia, they must deal with typhoons and tsunamis, while cyclones inhibit production off the coast of Australia. All of these present a danger to life and limb, risk the creation of oil spills, and prompt costly delays and downtime. By improving forecasting capabilities, operators will be able to schedule work windows more effectively, maximizing productivity and efficiency.
The New Generation of Technologies Todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s technologies need to be cheaper, faster and better. With this in mind, we are observing a move away from labor intensive mechanical devices requiring substantial intervention from personnel to more flexible, computer driven technology capable of delivering real time data flow and analysis. For example, autonomous systems, such as gliders, can be used to collect huge amounts of data over a long period of time. Using satellite communications they can send data on ocean currents and much more for real time analysis. Compared with traditional sampling techniques, these instruments deliver data without the need of a dedicated support vessel â&#x20AC;&#x201C; typically the most important component
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of any offshore endeavor. As such, the end cost is greatly reduced and data collection and interpretation can continue with the support vessel and staff safely in port. Further advancements include improved data analysis software which allows operators to see a much wider range of statistics all in one place. Satellite monitoring, meanwhile, is pushing the boundaries forward in terms of current measurement, water color, eddies, sea levels, iceberg movements, weather tracking and much more. The end result is a much more sophisticated array of tools than operators have ever enjoyed before. Deep-water, therefore, will continue to be a prevalent trend in the offshore environment for the foreseeable future. That means it will also continue to present challenges and opportunities to the offshore industry. Addressing these will spur innovation and increase the range of technologically advanced systems available to operators. In a notoriously cautious environment, though, that new technology will have to prove its worth. Operators will need solid information on the precise benefits they hope to realize, how they can get the best out of the technology and what solid improvements it can offer to their business. This is the next great challenge for suppliers of next generation of products.
Oceanographic Analysis: The Next Generation James Butler, Staff Writer Space age systems, automated robots and the latest in computing power – meet the future of oceanography.
N OCEAN faring robot cashes in on offshore oil and gas 4.” As headlines go, this recent one from the MIT Technology Review certainly has a lot going for it. Anything that incorporates robots instantly conjures up fascinating visions of the future. This one draws on the arrival of new autonomous systems for delivering oceanographic data to offshore oil and gas installations. It is just one of a number of radical new technological advances which are driving this market forward, including intuitive software, satellite systems and, yes, as mentioned before – robots. It all points to an exciting future in oceanography.
Autonomous Systems One of the most hotly contested areas of the market is in autonomous underwater vehicles. This is estimated to be worth $300 million and growing, as oil and gas producers seek new ways to maximize their data collection while minimizing cost and liabilities5. The performance of such systems has already delivered impressive results. In the Gulf of Mexico, for example, long range autonomous underwater gliding vehicles (AUGVs) are delivering accurate and continuous high spatial resolution sections throughout the ocean at a much lower cost than traditional methods. Previously, data would have been gathered using specifically tailored vessels, AUGVs, which use a fraction of the amount of manpower while delivering constant real time information. A paper on their deployment was presented at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston in 2012 which highlighted their success in accurately measuring currents generated by the Loop Current and eddies in the Gulf of Mexico. Achieving precise and up to the minute analysis of current trends has been a major challenge due to the highly variable and notoriously volatile nature of these currents. Now, using autonomous ‘gliders’, their
respective manufacturers, have been able to achieve the data gathering advantages, together with cost savings their clients need to make projects viable. AUGVs are small and slow, avoiding the high frictional drag inflicted on larger vessels; they are driven very simply by a buoyancy engine and can gather data continuously over a prolonged period of time in all weather conditions. In other words, they are perfect for the volatile conditions common in the Gulf of Mexico. All these data can be collected and assessed using highly advanced software which enables the accurate analysis of real time data over four dimensions (latitude, longitude, depth and time). Instead of weekly reports, which can quickly become outdated, operators are able to see the latest version of the truth. This in turn enables them to make better and more informed decisions which maximizes production, ensures safety and minimizes downturn. In a highly pressurized commercial environment, this feeds through into significant incremental savings that allow projects to operate sustainably in the more fiscally constrained environment.
Space, Above and Beyond Increasingly, monitoring is moving from Earthbased systems and into orbit. Sophisticated monitoring technologies enable higher resolution space-borne sensors to provide continuous monitoring of measurements such as ocean color, sea surface levels, temperature, salinity and much more. They can also prove useful in monitoring the direction and progress of any oil spills. Satellite technology came to the fore during the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. As 10 million liters of oil were spilling into the Gulf every day from the uncapped well, the impact on the environment and maritime species was colossal. One of the most serious issues was the effect on the spawning Atlantic Bluefin Tuna whose peak spawning time coincided with WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 11
Development is being driven as much by need as by available technology. The industry requires highly accurate real time data on ocean currents to ensure the viability of offshore projects OFFSHORE DRILLING CONTINUES AROUND THE CLOCK WITH AN EYE ON WEATHER AND CURRENTS. PHOTO: FEDERICO ALVAREZ
the explosion. Considering spawning stock has declined by 82% over the past few years, ensuring uninterrupted spawning was crucial to a fish which is important both from an ecological and commercial point of view. The Ocean Foundation, a non profit organization involved in the protection of sea life, used data from ESA’s Envisat and other international satellites to create weekly maps illustrating the progress of the spill and location of the spawning ground. This enabled them to see the where the spill area and spawning grounds overlapped6. More generally, monitoring oil spills from space gives clean-up crews an enhanced view of the direction and speed of the oil. This enables them to take more efficient preventative measures to minimize environmental impact and improve the efficacy of any clean-up operations. Accurate and real time knowledge of currents and tides enables operators to model the future behavior of the spill with a greater degree of confidence than might otherwise be the case.
Using the Ocean While new technologies focus on monitoring the ocean, Stanford scientists are pioneering a novel approach to use the ocean as a source of monitoring itself. By using weak seismic waves generated by the ocean, they monitor the subsurface in a more effective and environmentally sustainable way. Current
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technologies rely on time-lapse reflection seismology to monitor offshore oil and gas deposits, check for air pockets and maximize production. This is done using air guns which explode every 10 to 15 seconds producing loud sound pulses which bounce off the seafloor and the geological formations beneath. Each survey costs millions of dollars and has prompted concern from environmental groups about their impact on marine life. The new approach uses much weaker, naturally occurring waves to produce a real time view of the seabed. The result is not only significantly cheaper, but produces more valuable data sets as Biondo Biondi, professor of geophysics at Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences, explained. “We’ve shown that we can generate images of the subsurface nearly every day instead of taking snapshots just two or three times a year,” he explains.7 Development is being driven as much by need as by available technology. The industry requires highly accurate real time data on ocean currents to ensure the viability of offshore projects. Increased pressure in terms of meeting safety requirements and reducing costs indicates the need for technologies which can deliver superior performance in a more cost efficient way. These apparently conflicting demands are contributing to a genuine improvement in the quality of the information being produced.
Gathering Reliable Oceanographic Data Tom Cropper, Editor
Advances in technology are leading to an increase in the range and accuracy of oceanographic data acquired by platforms.
HEEREMAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S DCV BALDER OPERATING IN THE GULF OF MEXICO. PHOTO: FEDERICO ALVAREZ
S THIS Report has so far demonstrated, oceanography has made considerable strides in recent years. Technology has improved in terms of sophistication, producing real time accurate data allowing operators to make faster, more well-informed decisions. Creating the technology though is only half the battle. What is every bit as important is selling it to the market. Doing so is not always the most straightforward proposition as the oil and gas industry is traditionally highly cautious regarding new technologies. In an environment where budgets are tight, any expense needs to be justified. Operators need to understand what these new technologies can offer and how they can be best incorporated into their systems.
Financial Benefits The key issue for many will often boil down to the bottom line. Offshore exploration is an expensive business and with the global oil price undergoing considerable volatility, every penny spent has to be carefully monitored and justified. A simple illustration of the commercial benefits of measuring ocean currents is presented in
this case study from 2005. The website for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA produced an article on Captain Karl Greig, skipper of a large anchor handling towing supply boat in the Gulf of Mexico for Edison Chouest Offshore. His job was to move rigs from one location to another. His tug achieved towing speeds between two and four knots which were roughly the same speeds as ocean currents. By receiving real-time ocean altimetry, Greig was able to adjust course according to the state of the currents. By doing so, he estimated he shortened one trip by more than 50 hours, delivering time and cost savings to his employers8.
Accessing Information In the ten years since the case study, technology has improved significantly, and armed with additional information, operators are able to achieve significant savings. Hours and days lost due to evacuation or downtime have a serious impact on bottom line performance. The more information that can be gathered about such phenomena, the better placed operators will be to manage emergency situations in a more timely and cost effective WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 13
The good news is that data gathering technology is improving. Satellite tracking systems enable operators to have a much more reliable and up to date overview of tidal and current information SEADRILL’S WEST CAPRICORN DRILLING IN THE GULF OF MEXICO AS 3.0 KNOT LOOP CURRENTS THREATEN THE LOCATION. PHOTO: FEDERICO ALVAREZ.
manner, minimizing risk to crew and substantially reducing the amount of time a platform is forced to be idle. Every operator has a range of publically available information through weather forecasts, measurements from platforms and of water temperature, but these provide only a limited amount of information. For more specific data related to sensitive areas where they are located, they will require specialist oceanographic monitoring devices. These can come in many different forms, be they flotation buoys, satellite systems, gliders drifting through the waves or specially tailored ships. Each of these is being used to deliver comprehensive real-time data on ocean currents and to deliver forecasts on future movements. Operators have much to gain from making these as reliable and comprehensive as possible. In an environment of slim margins and high risks, every incremental gain is crucial. Operators have traditionally been restricted by available technology. The scope of equipment required to provide accurate measurement and account for the huge variables is so large that technology struggles to keep up. In volatile regions such as the Gulf of Mexico whose currents can be changeable and unpredictable, gaining a reliable view of what is happening can be immensely challenging. Advances are now being made to move away from mechanical process to electrical and computerized data measurement methods. The way in which they are utilized will play an important role in shaping the success, or otherwise, of an oil project. 14 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM
Oil Spill Clean-Up Ocean currents and weather conditions can increase the chances of an oil spill occurring and shape its movements once it gets into the water. The 2005 hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, caused approximately 600,000 tons of oil to spill into the Gulf of Mexico. The wind speed and direction of the hurricanes will then impact the way the oil migrates. Some effects will be beneficial such as the potential to disperse oil in the water. Others will be less so – for example, a hurricane can spread oil over a larger area and complicate the task of predicting flow direction. More generally, ocean currents will determine the direction of a spill. Unfortunately, these are not necessarily predictable and can change by the day. Having last week’s data available will not necessarily do any good. Instead, up to the minute real time information is needed to allow accurate prediction of where the oil will move.
Advances in Technology The good news is that data gathering technology is improving. Satellite tracking systems enable operators to have a much more reliable and up to date overview of tidal and current information. This helps forecast any looming problems and – should the worst happen – to co-ordinate a response more effectively. Such innovations, though, have a knockon effect. As the technology used to harvest such data improves, the amount of information being delivered is growing exponentially. The challenge is to find a way to translate all those numbers into information readily accessible
and viewable in real-time. The more intuitive these systems are the better. In other words, the data will need to be quickly analyzed and assessed by personnel of varying skill levels. This opens up the information to all parties and reduces reliance on specially trained individuals. State-of-the-art numerical modelling can be used to simulate the effects of environmental hazards an oil rig might encounter. For example, in an area such as the Gulf of Mexico which is highly vulnerable to severe storms and hurricanes, data acquisition can be used to assess the threat to rig infrastructure and pipelines. This helps operators plan for all eventualities and install preventative measures at an early stage.
Hours and days lost due to evacuation or downtime have a serious impact on bottom line performance
Effective Implementation The range of available information, therefore, is considerable. However, understanding how it should be implemented is very difficult. All situations are unique and come with their own challenges and requirements. Operators will need to understand what end result they are looking for, what the risks are and what the specific variations relevant to their own environment might be. Only by doing this will they be in a good position to plan the best strategy. As in so many things, an effective two-way conversation between the buyer and supplier is crucial. In this, the buyer relies considerably on the accumulated expertise and skills of the supplier. It is the end user who will be in the best position to help identify issues which are most relevant to the specific situation in order to implement the necessary solutions. WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 15
Oil production in Federal Gulf of Mexico: http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=20192
Shell Abandons Arctic Drilling: http://fortune.com/2015/09/28/shell-abandons-arctic-drilling-after-poor-test-results/
Ultra Growth in Ultra Deep Water: http://www.naturalgaseurope.com/growth-in-ultra-deepwater-oil-gas-fields-24052
Ocean faring Robot: http://www.technologyreview.com/view/512701/ocean-faring-robot-cashes-in-on-offshore-oil-and-gas/
The Newest Tool for Offshore Exploration: http://fortune.com/2014/07/11/the-newest-tool-for-offshore-exploration-ocean-going-drones/
Monitoring oil spills from space:
Stanford Scientists use waves to monitor offshore oil and gas fields: http://news.stanford.edu/pr/2015/pr-oceans-seismic-monitor-012715.html
Keeping Current with Ocean Currents: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=609
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