Futuristic technology powering world’s largest intelligent oil field
The intelligent field infrastructure setup of Aramco’s Khurais Plant was recognized this week when the World Economic Forum (WEF) named the site a world leading manufacturing facility.
Khurais was unveiled as a Lighthouse facility for its successful implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR 4.0) technologies, joining a group of world leading companies that have succeeded in the adaptation of advanced manufacturing at scale.
As part of Aramco’s dedication to increase the resiliency of its operations, the Khurais oil field was built as a fully connected and intelligent field.
—World Economic Forum
“This enabled autonomous process control, remote operation, and monitoring of equipment and pipelines, resulting in maximizing the oil well production — with at least 15% attributed to smart well completion technology alone,” WEF added in the statement.
Using bytes to produce lighter barrels
Aramco is on a journey to become the world’s leading digitalized energy company, leveraging technology to connect to a greener, more efficient, and safer way of operating.
“Embracing digital transformation is no longer an option but a necessity to sustain longevity, growth and establishing the building blocks of the plants of the future,” said Khaled A. Al Buraik, vice president of Southern Area Oil Operations (SAOO).
“SAOO has embarked into the adoption of the IR 4.0 domain strategically, with emphasis on high quality research and in-house use case development as part of our journey to digital transformation. SAOO continues to maintain its competitive edge, retaining its place to lead in the oil and gas business by leveraging technology trends and capitalizing on our valuable human capital,” Al Buraik said.
To meet this vision, the Khurais team formulated a long-term strategy that focuses on supporting our core business by transforming into a Smart Digital Plant, emphasizing digitalizing operations and maintenance to drive efficiency, environmental, and safety objectives.
The award is a reflection of Aramco’s success in adopting IR 4.0 technologies at scale, and also developing technologies that are fundamentally resetting industrial benchmarks.
The award was a recognition to all Khurais teams, along with the SAOO Technical Support, Southern Area Production Engineering, the Process and Control Systems departments, as well as Aramco’s Digital Transformation Office.
Story of a hydrocarbon journey
At a daylong WEF virtual judging session in June, a Khurais Producing Department team presented the story of a hydrocarbon’s digital journey from the subsurface of the Khurais oil field to the site’s processing facilities and beyond.
Khurais Producing Department manager Mohammed I. Al-Sowayigh explained how the team used a narrative approach to explain the business of oil and gas production and stabilization to the WEF judging panel, showcasing several case studies. The judges heard about the facilities’ development and deployment of:
• The world’s first advanced process control for a conventional oil field, which optimizes power consumption of well driven pumps by automatic adjustment of the well parameters
• The deployment of robotics to enhance job safety by eliminating major scaffolding erection work and optimizing maintenance resources, all while reducing costs and improving efficiency
• The development of an in-house artificial intelligence solution for optimizing fuel gas consumption in boilers
• The deployment of a pipeline management system to detect possible pipe leaks along the pipeline network using fiber optics as a sensor.
The WEF commenced its “Manufacturing Lighthouse Program” in 2018 to help industries overcome the practical challenges of adopting future technologies.
All members of the network agreed to share knowledge with other manufacturers.
To date, a total of 54 facilities around the world have been recognized as IR 4.0 Lighthouses, with the goal to help other manufacturers deploy technology, adopt sustainable solutions, and transform their workforces.
In January 2019, Aramco’s ‘Uthmaniyah Gas Plant became the first oil and gas plant in the world to be designated a Lighthouse by the WEF.
‘Uthmaniyah, part of a group of 16 manufacturing sites selected from an initial list of 1,000 manufacturers, was recognized as a leader in using advanced analytics and artificial intelligence to slash inspection time, optimize costs, and increase safety.
Khurais futuristic intelligent field technology
maximizing the oil well production with at least 15% attributed to smart well completion technology alone
Two fields — one real and one virtual
Khurais is not just one oil field. In addition to the real-life field, there is a parallel real-time technology twin.
The twin’s digital heart beats in a central control room in Khurais’ central processing facility.
Inside the nerve center, bytes of data speed across screens, keeping an electronic eye on end-to-end operations to monitor, predict, and diagnose.
With just the touch of a button, advanced algorithms can be released to stop, start, reduce, or increase the intelligent field’s operations.
Smart thinking wells
Each well in the Khurais oil field is equipped with smart downhole sensors, inflow control valves, and electric submersible pumps.
Through big data analytics and machine learning, producing oil and gas from the wells is less energy intensive, possible failures are better identified, and reservoir management is enhanced.
The numbers speak for themselves, including a 15% increase in oil production and 100% improvement in troubleshooting response time.
Machine learning optimizing fuel gas
Using machine learning predictive and prescriptive analytics, Khurais developed its own system to optimize fuel gas in boilers — currently a filed U.S. patent.
The application contributed to significant annual fuel gas savings and an 8% reduction in CO2 emissions.
nergy efficiency from flow control
Oil field fluids change dramatically when they are tapped into.
Being able to smartly adjust the intricate flow of hydrocarbons through a well carries huge energy efficiency savings, as well as product quality benefits.
Khurais has deployed the world’s first advanced process control (APC), reducing power consumption by efficiently managing electric submersible pumps inside the well.
APC deployment resulted in 7-megawatts of power savings annually.
Hazards and costs reduced
Technology adds to job safety in Khurais.
Rather than standing on scaffolding to carry out inspections on tall infrastructures, people use robotics and drones to take a close look at what needs maintaining.
Using technology has contributed to a significant improvement in safety, reduction in scaffolding costs, and improvement in workforce productivity.
Smart pipeline leak detection
Every hour of every day, the sensors tirelessly check for leaks, detecting failures at precise locations in real time.
Long-range and thermal cameras provide a field view to confirm decisions.
Mitigating leaks means mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and this technology contributed to improvement in safety, real-time detection of hydrocarbon spills, and improvement in environmental performance following immediate response.