USNews.com has a good read on Chevron’s digital investments, which the company says will save up to a billion dollars a year in operating costs in 2016. The linchpin is Chevron’s digital oil field, the “i-field,” which is short for “intelligent field.” USNews explains:
“Chevron's i-field harnesses advanced technology and communications to improve performance at 40 strategic assets throughout the world, including some of its biggest and most productive oil and gas fields. The company is rolling out six to eight mission-control centers focused on separate business areas, ranging from machinery to drilling to wells and reservoirs, that monitor those assets in real-time and rely on sophisticated computer algorithms for early detection of problems. From Chevron's perspective, the i-field is now essential to its global operations, which span six continents.”
Chevron isn’t the only company doing these things (USNews notes that Shell and ConocoPhillips have their own versions), but it is recognized as one of the oil and natural gas industry’s leaders. Basically, to overcome the global and labor-intensive characteristics of oil and gas development, Chevron has digitized a number of its operations. USNews:
“Chevron has deployed thousands of tiny sensors, only millimeters or centimeters in size, that monitor field operations and transmit data, both wired and wirelessly, back to central locations. The sensors instantaneously track pressure, temperature, and other readouts and aid with the mapping of underground fuel deposits, allowing the company to maximize production. Chevron also employs analytics to evaluate data streams in real-time from oil wells, drill rigs, ships, and elsewhere.”
The company has two mission-control facilities in Houston that oversee drilling and machinery support and two others in Lagos, Nigeria, and Covington, La., that monitor deepwater drilling. USNews:
“High above Houston in an office tower, a tech-savvy team at Chevron's machinery support hub monitors thousands of pieces of equipment, in real-time, across every continent except Antarctica. Using software to analyze data transmitted by sensors, it conducts ‘predictive intelligence’ to pinpoint when equipment, such as rotating devices called compressors, needs maintenance ‘so we can change out parts before they break down,’ [Chevron Energy Technology President Paul] Siegele says.”
USNews includes some examples where the technology came into play. The machinery support center sensed that a compressor in one of Chevron’s Asian business units was experiencing valve failure. On-site inspection confirmed the problem and the valve got fixed. Another time, equipment at Chevron’s Sanha oil and natural gas field off the coast of Angola was showing an irregularity, which the team in Houston detected. A repair was made, and the company saved millions of dollars in potential damage and lost production.
Again, Chevron figures it already is saving in the millions of dollars and says that will become billions when the “i-field” and a general operational overhaul are fully implemented in four years. Efficiencies and savings, of course, mean innovating companies, like Chevron, can invest more in energy exploration and development, which is a good thing.