Digital Oilfield boosts reliabilty and lowers risks
Marathon Oil’s South Texas Eagle Ford asset has approximately 1,400 producing wells and could have up to 3,000 wells in the future.
As part of an effort to reduce deferred production and minimize staffing requirements in Eagle Ford, we opened an asset operations control center in 2016. This facility and associated automation tools boost production and reliability, and help lower emissions, spills and safety risk as the asset grows.
The digital oilfield is a closed environment encrypted to prevent cyber threats. Operators at the control center monitor and analyze a continuous stream of well data, adjust valves and pumps remotely to limit downtime and upsets, and optimize well productivity. Our personnel also observe trends that help them predict and prevent issues.
Machine learning enables devices to operate autonomously to manage performance. For example, valves can be set to open when they become plugged with hydrates, lowering the risk of a weather-related shutdown. The team is developing a dashboard that will further improve performance, such as alerting operators to take action when there is a potential to exceed regulatory flaring limits.
The digital oilfield increases reliability while eliminating the need to visit wells daily, thereby reducing risk from driving and wellsite hazards. Operators can focus their time and attention on visiting locations based on value and need. In addition, all central facilities are outfitted with a fixed security camera for real-time monitoring, investigating alarms or reviewing events.
Managing the digital oilfield requires fewer, but more skilled employees. We promoted many of our best field employees into higher-skilled jobs at the control center and provide them extensive on-the-job training.
Based on the experience in Eagle Ford, our North Dakota Bakken asset is setting up a control center and our Oklahoma Resource Basins team is beginning to implement the digital oilfield. While some of these projects involve retrofitting existing or mature assets, we believe newer assets such as those in the Oklahoma Resource and Northern Delaware basins will be fully automated from the start of operations.