Measurement Q&A: Making sure metering matters
Retaining up-to-date and reliable measurement technologies matters: from helping to protect and secure company profits through to meeting governmental regulations, having visibility of production rates and metering control system performance is always critical.
As our measurement team, based at our Centre of Excellence in Cumbernauld, Scotland, marks 35 years in the energy sector in 2023, Janice MacLeod, General Manager, Measurement Operations and Alick MacGillivray, Project Engineer discuss the fundamental needs and trends of the market right now and how our philosophy and broad array of solutions can benefit customers.
Let’s deal with exactly why measurement matters. If a customer has a poorly performing metering system, not prioritising the regular maintenance and necessary upgrades of this core equipment, what could be the consequences?
The bottom line is that flow measurement technology effectively acts as a cash register and so it’s right on the very frontline of production. Flow meter readings have a direct impact financially on the revenue that is generated by an operator. But one of the challenges within the industry is that sometimes metering can be regarded as an afterthought.
It is almost universally the case the measurement system is retrofitted to the existing production equipment, and with our OEM agnostic positioning we have the know-how and expertise to do just that, but operators need to realise that this should actually be an integral part of the design of the overall system.
An undetected metering anomaly could potentially mean the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of profits per annum, through just a relatively marginal error in metering accuracy. It stands to reason that when you don’t precisely know what is being produced from a field, then you have financial exposure where you could potentially overcharge or undercharge customers and when commodity prices are higher, then exposure increases.
This industry is a mature space and so declining production rates towards the end of a field’s life are also a factor. You could have a meter, perhaps a turbine meter or a differential pressure meter, that has been designed and calibrated to measure a particular production rate. But as fields age, production rates decline and so that equipment becomes less efficient in what it’s doing. The uncertainty in the measurement then starts to increase and that contributes to greater financial exposure as well.
When issues develop, around quantities delivered or received, litigation is quite common and reputational risks are highlighted. This is why auditors make regular visits, looking at the integrity of the measurement system, how it’s been operated, how often it’s been calibrated and maintained, and whether the equipment has been installed properly. It is at these times operators soon realise that they should look after their measurement equipment.
Improving operational performance and efficiencies are a constant pursuit in the energy sector as we pivot further into the transition. Remote condition-monitoring brings a host of benefits, and it is something that Proserv is proactively driving, what can the measurement team offer in this area?
Our systems have a positive and direct environmental impact by enabling better scrutiny of flare gas measurements and produced water which, when it is returned to the sea, needs to be clean. If operators exceed the regulated limits, they would be adding to their carbon footprint via CO2 emissions, or potentially damaging ocean habitats and they would be facing stringent fines.
Proserv has the enhancement of operational performance at the heart of its identity and offerings. Condition monitoring is a powerful method to assess failures or deviations before they become more costly.
We have been developing several exciting software solutions including Prognosis Pro, Valid8 and Dynamic Uncertainty all of which support our clients with their visibility of operational processes and the condition of critical infrastructure. To be on top of this can mean reducing unnecessary emissions, water use and extending the life of equipment, thus lessening waste.
Prognosis Pro is a solution we have been collaborating on with a US based measurement consultancy called DP Diagnostics. Essentially, it provides diagnostic data which improves an operator’s awareness and understanding of the condition of its differential pressure-based measurement system. So, when a problem appears, Prognosis Pro can support in swiftly and accurately identifying the cause but, just as critically, it can demonstrate that all is performing well – eliminating calendar-based maintenance along with the cost, time and carbon footprint of needless physical inspections, as monitoring is done remotely.
Valid8 is something that we have been developing for some years. It offers verification of flow computer calculations powered by our Valid8 calculation engine. These calculations are critical in the industry and ensure that the worldwide trade in hydrocarbons is carried out in a fair, transparent and accurate manner.
Flow calculation input values are manually entered by operators and so this is always susceptible to human error. Valid8 automates the process by including a calculation verification function into the metering control system which directly reads the data from the flow computer inputs, automatically performs a fully independent check calculation, compares the results against the flow computer outputs and produces a clear Pass/Fail report for the operator. It offers a valuable layer of reassurance.
Dynamic Uncertainty very much reflects the demand for real-time, live data to analyse and evaluate operational performance to identify anomalies early. This solution acts on fresh data and if, for instance, a flow rate is detected that is outside the optimum range, then the uncertainty estimation goes up.
Dynamic Uncertainty allows a user to track information in real-time as well as undertake trend analysis. So, if something is not right, immediate action can be taken. Again, this supports our customers in making sure they are meeting regulatory levels of uncertainty, so limiting flaring and preventing unnecessary fines.
This is what is demanded by the digital oilfield where fast, accurate visualisation is expected. Dynamic Uncertainty is a fundamental step up from static monitoring methods involving consultants making site visits and delivering reports weeks later – this is live, real-time monitoring and issues can be identified before they become problems, potentially saving millions of dollars.
Regarding all of these solutions, operators and prospective users should reach out to us directly or via the Proserv website, as engaging real-time monitoring and accessing insights to performance are vital to operational excellence on so many levels.
You have mentioned the market is mature, with many long-standing brownfield assets. You win work around the globe so how much are obsolete, unsupported systems an issue in the measurement industry?
Obsolete metering control systems represent a huge issue. Equipment, over time, that isn’t upgraded and isn’t maintained, will simply become unsupported. It’s no different to what would occur to a new phone or laptop that isn’t replaced or upgraded after multiple years.
So we are very focused on obsolescence and we provide monthly reports to our customers, which are accessible and intuitive, based on a red, amber or green traffic light system. We will highlight any parts of their system that we believe to be at risk. There’s nothing better than getting a report that’s all green for go, but if there’s some amber or red in there, they have an opportunity to act.
Preventing systems from becoming obsolete is a key focus for our support team who are available 24/7. If an operator’s obsolete metering equipment was to break down on a large asset, involving multiple partners, it would have no option but to trust in the measurements taken by third parties, with no direct visibility of the tens of millions of dollars of oil or gas produced, or how much is ultimately transferred. That is a serious financial exposure.
At Proserv, we offer support for the whole lifecycle of a system, factoring in the need for new upgrades and preventing equipment from becoming obsolete. At the end of the day, this is about what Proserv does so well – optimisation. At our Measurement Centre of Excellence, we have decades-worth of industry experience in our ranks and no matter what issues a client might have, we have the expertise to design, install, maintain or upgrade as required.