Digitalization and Automation in Fracturing to Improve HSE Risk

Published: 06/14/2023

Schlumberger Oilfield Services

Attaining peak efficiency in zipper fracturing operationsis an important objective for oil and gas companies. More-complex operations result in greater efficiency but also demand the use of digitalization to maximize safety and performance. A digital technology using industrial Internet of things (IIoT) edge computing and cloud analytics for the automation and control of frac valves is presented. It enables operators to deliver more fracturing stages with less nonproductive time (NPT) while enhancing visibility, safety, and integrity.

The digital solution integrates supervisory applications, control systems with programmable logic controllers (PLCs), networking devices, instrumentation, digitally enabled skids, and cloud solutions. The system uses an edge application that provides the ability to monitor valve status, control valve actuation, and automate valve greasing, using customizable software workflows and safety controls and alerts following standards managing wellsite safety. It eliminates valve operational errors using enforced workflows and interlocks based on operational awareness and instrumentation. The unintentional cutting of wireline (WL) has effectively been eliminated through the use of a proprietary detection algorithm that uses input from nonintrusive and intrinsically safe sensors in real time. Pumping detection algorithms eliminate human error and prevent the overpressurization of valves using interlocks embedded in the software.

Using digitally enabled controls that streamline frac tree and manifold valve operations, operators can reduce safety risks by reducing the headcount on location and eliminating red-zone activities; operational integrity is secured by enforcing the digital handshake and providing isolation valve interlocks between the well stimulation and well control equipment to prevent overpressurizing or washing out the frac valves. By integrating complex new workflows and flow control technology with digital controls, transition times are shortened, enabling maximum pumping time per day. The operational integrity provided by the embedded safety interlocks empowers operators to operate efficiently and without worrying about safety.

The system uses a design language system-type web application, which has proven to be effective, consistent, and intuitive. Using ruggedized tablets and operating 100% remotely, the field technicians have found the system to be easy to understand and operate. The edge application has completed more than 10,872 stages in more than 258 wells, and data has been collected that verifies that the cost of ownership has been reduced by double digits. The number of completed fracturing stages in a day has increased by 50%, the transition (non pumping) time has been reduced by 41%, and valves are being greased outside of the critical path. The presence of personnel in the red zone has been eliminated, and only one service technician is required to operate the valves and perform maintenance.

Using edge computing processing and analyzing data at the source (the frac pad), workflows that traditionally have been operated manually and were prone to human error have been digitalized and streamlined. Moreover, having the data sent to a cloud portal enables insights to be extracted, providing more-detailed information regarding the performances of the equipment and personnel, which helps monitor the health of the frac valve fleet and produces predictive maintenance plans, leading to reduced repair and failure costs.

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