Offshore oil and gas field developments are capital-intensive projects that require extensive facilities to drill, produce and transport the hydrocarbon from the reservoir to the processing plant. Determining the site, number and size of these facilities are amongst the most important decisions impacting a project's success. Here, we present a novel strategy to assist in these decisions by combining a stochastic optimization routine with a Virtual Reality (VR) Aided Design. The model uses a discrete-network optimization algorithm that employs a Monte Carlo Markov chain to explore feasible configurations that minimize the development's investment. It integrates the optimization with a state-of-the-art VR environment to allow the engineer to both monitor the progress of the optimization and help guide the field development in real time.
We present results illustrating how the approach can be employed in field developments to connect well targets to processing facilities. The model determines the optimum location, size and number of offshore well-head platforms, tie-in facilities, well paths and pipeline routes. It incorporates critical technical considerations for the design of drilling paths (e.g. dog leg severity) and surface facilities (e.g. water depth). The model has been applied to real data from offshore field developments in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. Results including the investment value and optimum configuration are shown and supplemented with graphics from the VR environment. The VR technology enables a novel approach to optimize the development. The immersive platform lets the user not only visualize the field, it is also capable of providing real-time interaction with the computer-generated design. This allows the integration of engineering intuition and experience to enhance the development and eliminate infeasible or unfavorable configurations.