Special Report: Editor’s Comment: Downtime is no fun at the oilfield

Operators want reliability from their power solutions, writes Jonathan Sheikh-Miller

Gas, HVDC, Navigant, Oil, Power, Turbines, Upstream, COMMENT, Industry Trends

It’s fair to say the prospect of downtime is probably what keeps upstream oil and gas operators awake at night. Losing production time is an expensive business.

Just recently, in the midstream transportation sector, we witnessed the Forties pipeline, which carries 450,000 barrels of crude oil per day from North Sea platforms to the British mainland, shut down for three weeks due to the development of a crack.

The impact of this one outage reverberated around the globe, giving an additional boost to the strengthening oil price at the start of the year.

Just do the maths. A single day’s inactivity at the Forties pipeline represents a staggering $29.3m worth of oil lying around with no place to go.

The bottom line for exploration and production (E&P) outfits is to make sure their part in the energy value chain is continually uninterrupted. They need to drill, extract the fuel and then move it on.  Oil and gas fields are routinely found in remote, hard to reach locations such as offshore or in arid deserts. A power outage in the middle of the Empty Quarter is not necessarily a routine fix.

It is therefore crucial that E&P firms can rely upon their chosen power solutions. A shutdown at Saudi Aramco’s vast Ghawar oil field in the kingdom’s Eastern Province for just one hour would represent more than 200,000 barrels of missed production, the equivalent of around $13mn at current Brent crude prices.

Power generation in the hydrocarbon industry is an expanding business. A study last year by the US based Navigant Research revealed that annual capacity additions will grow from 3.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2017 to 5.6 GW by 2026, representing a compound annual growth rate of 4.1% and a total cumulative capacity of 48GW.

E&P operators have to make different assessments these days when they are selecting their preferred power solution. Once it was largely about reliability, efficiency and cost but now emissions targets have been added to the key selection criteria.

Technological advances have consequently mirrored the driving needs of operators meaning less environmentally harmful, but more cost effective, solutions are beginning to overtake established power choices.

This month, we take a look at some of these innovations including cabling enhancements and the benefits of HVDC.

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