In addition to the built-in sensors, permanent downhole pressure and temperature gauges can be distributed at strategic positions to provide reservoir and choking pressure, allowing commingling production from heterogeneous reservoir layers without crossflow while containing water production. On the downhole pressure measurement side, pressure gauges are not new—they have been deployed for almost 50 years now—but we are now truly moving from an era of installing downhole gauges to satisfy regulations to an era of true utilization of pressure measurement for reservoir monitoring, well performance, or productivity index calculations. In other words, we are seeing a shift from passive monitoring to converting data into action in real time with downhole interval control valves. This also now gives a reality to the long-sought-after deployment of distributed sensors like flow-measurement, water-cut, gas-detection, and vibration sensors on a single electric line or fiber-optic line, which is the sister cable going along with electrification.
With real-time reservoir data and precise flow control valve positioning, operators can make better and continuous strategic production control decisions. It also opens the door to not permanently attended platforms, reduced downtime, reduced maintenance and refill costs, and improved safety due to no hydraulic pressure.
Is electrification laying the foundation for digitalization of production systems today? What can we expect to see in the future?
Digitalization is increasingly important for future production operations management, both offshore and onshore. With electric production systems, we collect large numbers of datasets in real time related to the reservoir behavior, production processes, well integrity and safety, and the health and performance of the equipment. Each group of information is consumed by appropriate digital applications delivering a production optimization scenario or preservation of equipment integrity for long-term reliability and availability. The “brain” of the safety functions will be redistributed among topside, seabed, and downhole equipment, likely with more decentralized control.
New real-time sensing capabilities with control will enable automating the production processes. As we put more controls in a single well, automation will become even more of a necessity. Due to the dynamics of these multizone sections producing together into the same wellbore, smart control algorithms will clearly outpace an operator with a joystick. This will require some change of mindset as to who will ultimately have control. Long term, you could well imagine production being run with a certain level of autonomy from strategic set points. We are at the beginning of this journey, but our industry is transforming rapidly, pushed by sustainability objectives, so what may look like a long-term vision today may happen sooner than imagined.
We are truly living through exciting times, with the all-electrification perspective contributing to the transformation of our industry.