Technology Update

Sustained production optimization, a longstanding objective within the exploration and production sector, has witnessed only incremental and sporadic advances. Obstacles to adoption of a holistic approach seem intransigent—an apparently daunting challenge to individual stakeholder groups. Yet, within the industry, there is a renewed sense of drive toward consistency, and growing consensus, on key components.

Effective production-data management, model management, and real-time production-optimization systems are necessary but not sufficient. Integration of these components by means of orchestrating critical workflows—to provide a human/system interface for efficient organizational, operational, and technological collaboration—is required. To overcome inertia requires a reductionist approach to the problem. As the adage goes, we eat the elephant one bite at a time.

Workflow orchestration within an overall scheme for integrated production operations is a pragmatic implementation approach, one now being applied successfully to a diverse range of projects.

Production as a System of Interrelated Workflows

Operational-excellence initiatives have improved individual workflows to reflect best practices. However, because of the degree of fragmentation inherent in many assets, these initiatives often remain inefficient. Cultural and operational influences significantly determine the degree to which an organization is either experience-driven or process-driven. The orchestration of technical workflows can play an important role in creating a system capable of meeting the necessary demands by means of capturing implicit expertise and automating many processes to a significant degree.

Consider the components of a workflow in which data are analyzed and interpreted against some context (e.g., a model) antecedent to decision making. The degree of discontinuity experienced in a workflow cycle and its connectivity to the context of the entire production system determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the workflow. Thus, integrating these components and orchestrating the workflow cycle across an organization are necessary for improved optimization.

The accurate definition of workflows and their interaction can be achieved by means of decomposing the main value-chain activities. Improving decline analysis or monthly economics forecasting may be of value; however, greater value is realized by combining these tasks into a prediction of the economic impact of a new decline curve. A holistic effort must be guided within the context of the system in a synchronized way that reflects the interrelatedness of the workflows.

The next step change involves orchestration of work processes and their technology interfaces. Workflows reflect the needs of a particular basin, well, facility, operation, and organization, and workflows accurately reflect the entire value chain from reservoir to sales meter. Removal of workflow bottlenecks across the value chain improves the asset's overall effectiveness, thus adding value. Spanning discipline silos, systematizing knowledge capture, providing timely data to stakeholders, and streamlining the numerous human/system interfaces involved in a workflow improve cycle times and the quality of decisions, as well as minimizing the need for change management. Perhaps most significantly, orchestrated workflows leverage the expert human resources available to the asset. This distributed workflow system addresses the specific needs and challenges of operational and technical workflows.

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