Offshore Drillers Attack Costs and Downtime With Data-Driven Deals

Topics: Well integrity/control

Some offshore drillers and equipment makers are betting that a cooperative, long-term relationship will reduce the cost of deepwater well control equipment.

Contracts signed over the past the past year by Diamond Offshore Drilling and Transocean, covering a total of 20 offshore drilling units, give GE Oil & Gas and Schlumberger more responsibility, and some risk, for maintaining well control equipment.

Intense pressure to both reduce costs and improve reliability and safety is pushing drillers and equipment makers to change.

“The unit of measure on this is definitely not hours, days, weeks, or months,” said Chuck Chauviere, president of Drilling Systems for GE Oil & Gas. “It is more accurately charted against quarters and years.”

GE’s recent deal with Transocean, valued at USD 180 million, makes it responsible for monitoring critical well-control equipment and maintaining it on seven offshore rigs. Also in December, Transocean agreed to a similar deal with Schlumberger to “maintain and service” blowout preventers (BOPs) on nine Transocean rigs working in deep water and harsh environments.

The announcement from Schlumberger, which announced a second contract to maintain the risers used on Transocean rigs working in the Gulf of Mexico, said it would use its ability to “enhance the value of the data” to improve the performance of the equipment, and reduce the downtime as part of a 10-year deal valued at more than USD 350 million.

One difference in the Diamond Offshore deal is that GE bought the BOPs and leased them back on four of Diamond’s drillships.

But in all cases, the rig owner is making a set payment, or payments, to an equipment maker covering repairs and parts in hopes of reducing both the cost of downtime and maintenance.

The contracts give equipment makers a financial incentive to find ways to improve reliability while reducing the cost of the work using tools, such as new inspection methods, and improved analysis to identify when parts really need to be replaced rather than doing so on a set schedule, and using this data to develop more reliable parts and systems.

“Both companies, which are significant players in their space, have their own experts who are working from different perspectives trying to solve the same equation,” Chauviere said, adding that the deals last for 10 years or more.

Chauviere describes this still-small business as a “budding opportunity” that will ultimately reduce downtime and maintenance costs, and help equipment makers engineer better equipment.

The Transocean deals are one of a number of changes at the biggest offshore driller, which is looking at new technology and business relationships to lower operating costs, downtime, and risks. In a recent presentation, it reported reducing its BOP-related downtime by 75% from 2011 to 2015.

Transocean’s previously announced efforts include a long-term cooperative development project with Shell to create a new-generation BOP control system designed to be more reliable. But in this down market, there is not enough demand for equipment makers to successfully launch next-generation hardware.

When asked when equipment orders might recover, Chauviere jokes that his vision of the future is cloudy because “my eyes are so puffy from getting punched in the face in this market.” He adds that for now, maintenance deals “are the opportunities right now that are in front of us.”

One sign of change is the recent well control rule from the US Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), which for the first time allows condition-based maintenance, rather than requiring components to be replaced on a set time schedule without considering how long the components are likely to last.

GE has evaluated the condition of equipment using “digital fingerprinting,” which allows it to create 3-D maps and measures of the surfaces inside a BOP without taking it apart. Inspections records over time will be compared to see how the equipment is changing and combined with performance records to better predict when repairs and replacement parts are needed, Chauviere said.

“We can repeat that over time, and we can make that 3D inspection into a 4D record based on continued observations and a record of what of you did with it,” he said.

GE also has a nondestructive method for evaluating the condition of the bolts while they are assembled and, over time, the data stream will be used to develop predictive algorithms. That could save money by avoiding early replacement, or offering an accurate timetable for when parts need to be replaced, so repairs can be scheduled during downtime rather than running the risk of a costly breakdown during drilling.

Offshore Drillers Attack Costs and Downtime With Data-Driven Deals

Stephen Rassenfoss, JPT Emerging Technology Senior Editor

08 February 2017