Digital Twin Technology and Analytics - Paving the Way to Flow Assurance

Jan 21, 2019   Written by Alessandro Speranza, Product Champion

Whilst big data presents many opportunities, it can also paralyze an organization and hinder speed of decision making. The key is to have your best people focus on the value hotspots—for the upstream oil and gas industry this is flow assurance. Ensuring the successful and economical flow of hydrocarbon stream from reservoir to the point of sale is critical in order to guarantee profitability. However, the threat to flow assurance is particularly high in offshore or deepwater operations where fluids can cool to particularly low temperatures. In these conditions, rapid formation of hydrates can occur, resulting in decreased production levels, equipment damage, safety issues, and even plant shutdown.

To prevent or mitigate these risks, operators often inject chemical inhibitors into the hydrocarbon flow. In order for the right inhibitors to be dosed, in the right location, volumes and time, a precise, real-time understanding of the whole production system and its constraints is needed. With the help of field data and digital twin technology, inhibitor dosing can easily become a dynamic process that allows for more sustainable production optimization.

The key is a digital twin that mirrors the present in terms of the pipelines and networks and which performs its calculations in compositional mode with a rigorous thermodynamic engine. With this capability, it is able to solve for the composition of all the phases and their flowrates, allowing for full reconstruction of the flow and production conditions across the whole network. Through the application of advanced thermodynamic modeling for the prediction of hydrates formation and partitioning of inhibitors across the phases, highly selective and dynamic inhibitor dosing can then be achieved.

As new data becomes available, as a result of changes in flow, ambient conditions or fluid conditions, the hydrates inhibition strategy can be reassessed, optimized and tested before being implemented. Any modification of production conditions can be tested and evaluated holistically through the simulation of the new operating scenario in the digital twin before being implemented. Well-informed decision-making and operations optimization therefore becomes a simple routine evaluation of KPIs and operating parameters, against which current operations and new operating strategies can be monitored and tested.

This solution approach has proven in many cases to reduce chemical injection in the range of 5-20% and increase profits of operating assets from 12% and above. The cost, of course, of a hydrate formation issue is measured in the hundreds of millions in many assets and that alone justifies a key focus on the management of these KPIs.

Read more in our whitepaper 'Driving flow assurance through effective KPI setting, analytics and digital twin technology'