On the North Sea Yggdrasil
development, service providers are collaborating to develop three platforms that
will operate remotely from an integrated onshore operations center. The project
draws on experience gained from the Ivar Aasen venture, marking a significant step forward in the pursuit to increase offshore
efficiency and sustainability.
HOOPER, Siemens Energy
With its diversity of energy sources and
opportunities for sector coupling, the North Sea will play a crucial role in
meeting the world’s growing need for reliable, affordable and sustainable
electricity. The region has been
integral in supplying energy to Europe through its oil and gas fields for
decades. Now, it is poised to accelerate the quest for net zero
becoming a global center for offshore wind and a test bed for new technologies
and concepts aimed at decarbonizing offshore hydrocarbon production.
Energy is supporting these decarbonization efforts by collaborating closely
with major North Sea operators in the areas of electrification, automation and
digitalization. Over the years, we have been part of several groundbreaking
projects, including Aker BP’s Ivar Aasen production platform, which, in 2019,
became the first manned facility on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) to be
operated remotely from an onshore control room in Trondheim. We are now
applying the experience and lessons learned from Ivar Aasen to the Yggdrasil
(formerly NOAKA) field development project.
Collaborative venture. Aker
BP, and partners Equinor and PGNiG Upstream Norway, are developing the area
comprising three fields. As part of
the project, the Fixed Facilities Alliance, which includes Aker BP and Aker
Solutions, and Siemens Energy, will provide the
complete electrical, instrumentation, control and telecommunication (EICT)
systems for the Hugin A, Hugin B and Munin platforms.
All three platforms will feature a high degree of digitalization and
automation. Like Ivar Aasen, they will be operated remotely from an onshore operations center. The
concepts and technologies employed will enable Aker BP to significantly reduce
manning levels in the field and contribute to strategic goals that the company
has established for production costs (<7$/boe), CO2 intensity
(<4kg CO2/boe), and the highest possible production efficiency.
foundation for low-manned operations. Offshore producers are under pressure to
improve efficiency, reduce break-even prices, and lower the carbon footprint of
their operations. De-manning has long been viewed as a means of achieving these
goals. However, technology barriers have historically limited offshore
de-manning efforts to simple wellhead platforms without processing
This has changed in recent years,
as increased connectivity and digitalization advancements have opened the door
to safe and cost-effective remote control of larger, more complex production
installations. Original equipment manufacturers have also made progress in
improving the reliability of their products while at the same time minimizing
maintenance requirements. Together, these developments have allowed operators
to rethink facility operating models and opened the door to manpower reductions
that have previously not been possible.
To reduce manning to the greatest
possible extent in the offshore production environment, the concept of de-manning must extend beyond
facility operation to include shutdown, maintenance, and start-up. While
the precise strategy and number of persons on board (POB) will look different
for every company and facility, certain core aspects form the basis of any
de-manning initiative, Table 1.
shown in Table 1 loosely define an infrastructure, from which operators
can build a unique de-manning strategy and realize the following benefits:
Applying low-manned principles on Ivar Aasen. The Ivar Aasen field is 180 km (112 mi) east of Norway’s
coast. The ocean’s depth beneath the Ivar Aasen platform is approximately 110 m
(355 ft). Field reserves are estimated at over 200 MMboe. First oil was
achieved in December 2016.
A low-manning concept was considered from the earliest
stages of the Ivar Aasen field development project. Siemens Energy was selected
as the sole provider of the EICT packages for the platform. This afforded
several advantages, one being that it simplified the process of developing a
digital twin of the facility. To enable the low-manning concept on Ivar Aasen,
a CBM model has been adopted through remote condition monitoring of platform
equipment, Table 2.
Time stamping—a distinctive, event-driven, “on-change”
data-sampling method—is employed to help control room technicians better
ascertain event sequences in operational data, considerably enhancing
diagnostics. The condition monitoring application is connected to the
platform’s EICT systems.
After a trial period in 2017 and 2018 of operating the
platform using two control rooms—one on the platform and an identical one
onshore in Trondheim 1,046km (650 mi) away—Aker BP gained confidence in the land-based
control room’s ability to operate the platform competently and safely. In
January 2019, the decision was made to begin monitoring the platform solely
from the Trondheim onshore control room, Fig. 1.
Technicians in the remote-control center use typical
office facilities, including desktop PCs that present visual dashboards with
detailed information. Depending on their roles and access privileges,
stakeholders can view customized data to provide CBM oversight and engineering
support. The onboard control room has been left intact and operationally ready,
should it be required.
The high connectivity level provides equipment vendors
access to their respective operational data to better support their relevant
responsibilities for the platform’s maintenance work. Data from the platform
are analyzed, using Siemens Energy’s analytic software. KPIs from individual
signals and combinations of signals are compared to baseline equipment
operating signatures to identify anomalous behavior patterns, such as unusual
vibrations or pressure flows.
In addition, CBM helps optimize the platform’s spare
parts inventories, freeing up capital that a traditional maintenance approach
might otherwise tie up. A high-fidelity “as is” digital twin of the Ivar Aasen
platform was developed and is continuously updated. It includes all the
platform’s equipment and processes.
Today, Aker BP has a digital program comprising digital
twins, aiming to harmonize technology, partnerships, processes, and execution
capacity across projects and all producing assets. Strategic partner Cognite
constitutes an Industrial DataOps platform powered by a flexible data model,
while Aize provides a visualization and collaboration application that delivers
the twin to the end-users. Data from the EICT provider is essential to this
digital twin ecosystem in Aker BP.
next step. Building
off the experience of Ivar Aasen, Siemens Energy is now continuing to work
closely with Aker BP on the Yggdrasil development project. The area includes
several fields and is estimated to contain around 700 MMboe. Yggdrasil will include 55 wells tied back to three
offshore platforms (Hugin A, Hugin B, and Munin). Siemens Energy has been
selected as the sole provider of EICT packages for all three facilities.
Munin unmanned production platform will be installed at a
water depth of 105 m (344 ft) in the northern part of the Yggdrasil area. It
will be connected to 23 wells and is designed without
a helideck or living quarters. Manned maintenance campaigns will take place
annually. The Hugin A production, drilling, and quarters platform
will be installed in the southern part of the area and receive the oil
production from the Munin and Hugin B platforms. Frøy field will be developed
with the Hugin B unmanned wellhead platform, which will be tied back to the
Hugin A platform. A total of nine subsea templates will be tied back to Hugin A
digital twin, combined with work processes, is a central part of the operations
strategy for Yggdrasil. Since last autumn, the digital team for Yggdrasil has
worked to build a digital platform in collaboration with Cognite and Aize. The
data platform is built on Cognite’s flexible data model solution and the Microsoft
Azure Data Factory. It is the foundation for the Yggdrasil digital twin
ecosystem. Data from Siemens Energy are included. Two
full-scale simulators also will be installed, one for operator training and the
other for engineering and service.
In addition to
routine control room tasks, Aker BP will have all the required facilities and
systems to support maintenance and modifications. Several integrated
operational rooms that cover dedicated functions will be established. An
example of such a function is support for rotating equipment, where experts can
monitor and investigate any circumstances that may occur and develop reports
and work orders for further actions. Control room operators will have
continuous programs, where different scenarios can be rehearsed to keep the
operators prepared for critical situations.
systems will be based on Siemens Energy’s Omnivise for Offshore (O4O), which
provides dashboards, interfaces, and reports for condition and performance
monitoring. O4O is being adapted according to Aker BP’s organizational
structure, demands, and unique work processes.
model. In keeping with the principle of close collaboration,
Yggdrasil is being developed under Aker BP’s Alliance Model. Four alliances
spanning from drilling activities, subsea, pipelines and platform constructions
are involved. Siemens Energy is part of the Fixed Facilities Alliance, which
will deliver the engineering services and construction of the Hugin A and Hugin
B topsides and jackets.
tenet of the Alliance Model is to select strategic partners for the project
early and involve them in all phases, including conceptual studies, front-end
engineering, construction, commissioning, operations, and maintenance. The
intention is to facilitate cooperation between parties and streamline decisions
and work processes by creating a single integrated team. It forms the basis for
a long-term strategic partnership based on trust, collaboration, empowerment
Facility Alliance for Yggdrasil includes Aker BP, covering top project
management; Aker Solutions, overseeing engineering activities and construction;
and Siemens Energy, providing the EICT technology and services. The
organizational structure is matrix-based, with a low degree of hierarchy, so
there are short paths for decisions. The Norwegian
Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) approved the plans for development and
operation of Yggdrasil in June 2023. Onshore construction work for the project
began this autumn. Start of production is expected in 2027.
fields of the future. The oil
and gas industry faces several challenges in the coming years. In addition to
mounting pressure to decarbonize operations, producers must contend with
operating long-term in a highly uncertain environment. This is particularly a
concern for the offshore industry, where long project cycle times and high
development costs leave many companies exposed to market volatility. Given the
current outlook, it is no surprise that operators have increased efforts to
reduce risk and lower break-even prices through de-manning of fields.
Many forward-thinking operators,
like Aker BP, have already adopted low-manning initiatives for greenfields, and
others are following suit. While the objective of these initiatives is similar,
the process for getting there will look different for every facility. Ultimately,
driving a successful implementation requires a combination of technology
expertise and an understanding of the business situation. Both criteria should
be prioritized early in the project timeline when selecting partners. WO
Lead Photo: When completed, the Yggdrasil project will include 55 wells tied back to three low-manned offshore
platforms. Illustration: Aker BP.
JENNIFER HOOPER is senior vice president for Siemens Energy’s
Electrification, Automation and Digitalization group for the Transformation of
Industry Business. She joined Siemens Energy in 2020. Prior to this, Ms. Hooper
held positions of increasing responsibility with TechnipFMC. She holds an MBA
from the University of Saint Thomas, Houston, Texas.