In the last two decades Shell has been working to simplify and automate field operations processes and sub-processes in its assets throughout the world. This is driven by the need to develop competitive and cost-efficient technical solutions that increase safety and reliability of operations, especially in remote and/or harsh environments.
Remotely starting up and shutting down certain pieces of equipment was already standard practice in the industry since decades, introduced in gas fired furnaces, heaters, and boilers. Nowadays, automation has extended to sensitive equipment and complete processing units.
This paper looks at the level of automation and degree of remote operations achieved in the operation of the giant NAM Groningen Gas Field, in the north of The Netherlands. NAM is a joint venture between Shell and Exxon, operated by Shell. After an extensive redevelopment project, with the addition of compressors, more than 300 wells, previously distributed over more than 25 locally operated production facilities, are now linked up and operated remotely from one central control room by two operators. The production facilities are now normally unmanned, and only visited for repairs and/or scheduled maintenance. NAM Groningen demonstrates a technically advanced solution that minimizes HSE and risk exposure, standardizes operations, and reduces resources required to manage one of the largest gas fields in all of Europe.
Using some of the most advanced technologies available in the industry, Shell has applied such a high degree of automation to NAM’s Groningen gas field, that each of the production facilities can be ramped up from zero flow to some 25 million Nm3/d in only one hour – all remotely.