Enabling transformation: ADNOC's Panorama Command Centre unifies data from its 14 companies

Chris Dartnell, Schneider Electric’s president of oil, gas and petrochemicals, talks about its work on ADNOC’s Panorama Command Centre, its acquisition of a 60% stake in AVEVA, and the technologies poised to change the industry

ADNOC, Sultan al jaber, Schneider Electric, ADNOC Digitization, Panorama Command Centre, Digital transformation, Digitisation
Chris Dartnell, president of oil, gas and petrochemicals at Schneider Electric
Chris Dartnell, president of oil, gas and petrochemicals at Schneider Electric

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) comprises 14 integrated companies, more than 3mn bpd of oil production and 151 oil transportation and support vessels. ADNOC Group CEO Sultan Al Jaber wants it all to be digitised. It is not a simple task—ADNOC’s business spans from exploration and production all the way to distribution, and sensors track even the most minute assets throughout the entire process—there are easily tens of thousands of data points that need to be tracked and analysed to optimise operations. That is where oilfield services companies come in.

In November 2018, Schneider Electric finished developing a single home for all of that data: The Panorama Command Centre, which takes up an entire floor in ADNOC’s headquarters. It culminates in a screen at 50 metres length, which curves to fit seamlessly with the wall and covers its height from floor to ceiling. It is an impressive display.

“The Panorama Digital Command Centre represents a single source of accurate and timely data from across our entire value chain,” says Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi, senior vice president of digital at ADNOC. “Streamlining and visualising our entire operations and critical business information on a single 50-metre video wall in one secure facility puts big data at the fingertips of our sharpest minds and enables us to uncover and recommend new pathways to optimise our assets and infrastructure, as well as facilitate faster and more-informed decision-making.”

“Panorama gives ADNOC a single, national view of their oil and gas assets and production,” says Chris Dartnell, president of oil, gas and petrochemicals business at Schneider Electric.

Since Al Jaber took the helm of ADNOC in 2016 as director-general and then CEO, he has heralded a shift in the company—and, arguably, in the regional oil and gas industry—towards digital technology. At Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC) in November 2018, he said that the oil and gas industry would be a critical enabler of economic growth in the fourth industrial age. He called this mission “oil & gas 4.0.”

“We are at the cusp of a new age of opportunity for our industry—an era where digital innovation is delivering unprecedented levels of progress,” he said. “This era, known as the fourth industrial age, is creating a paradigm shift in global growth and driving demand for our products. Our industry must step up to enable this massive step change in global development.”

The company set out ambitious plans in November 2018, announcing that it would increase oil production capacity to 4mn barrels per day (bpd) by 2020, and 5mn bpd by 2030. ADNOC also hopes to leverage the nation’s gas resources to transform it from net gas importer to net gas exporter. For Al Jaber, technology is a key enabler of this progress, and companies like Schneider Electric help make that digital transformation a reality. “It’s interesting; oil and gas companies are not quite sure as to what the answer is when it comes to digital transformation. But they know digital technology is the way forward,” Dartnell says. “Digitisation here is driven from the top, quite often from the very top, so when the company CEO is looking at a longer horizon, he or she believe digitisation is the next step.”

Schneider Electric is a global oilfield services company—ranked sixth on Oil & Gas Middle East’s Top 30 Oilfield Services Companies 2018—and a large team from the company spent three months developing the Panorama Command Centre.

To create the Panorama Command Centre, Schneider Electric connected around 70 existing systems from ADNOC. “The foundation of our digital transformation is our big data: harnessing and streamlining the masses of data we generate, in real time, from across our operations and from Abu Dhabi’s subsurface, and finding ways to utilise that data to better understand our operations and optimise our performance,” says Al Mughairbi.

Dartnell notes that Schneider is not replicating information, it simply “gathers data and allows a single view from the wellhead through all the production to export.” He has been leading Schneider Electric’s global oil, gas and petrochemicals business for two years, after a stint as its head of sales for automation solutions. He says the real value from this endeavour, like most data analysis, is the insight that can be drawn from the vast quantities of data amassed by ADNOC throughout its daily operation. “They can get their leadership in one room and look at solving the bigger problems for ADNOC,” Dartnell says. “They can look at every one of their compressors in Abu Dhabi and see which is the best performer and which is not performing well.”

He also notes that ADNOC leadership could compare different plants, wellheads, or any other assets in order to optimise operations. He estimates that the company could save between $100mn to $200mn because the Panorama Command Centre allows it to optimise operations.

“[ADNOC’s] operations are vast and varied,” Al Mughairbi says. “The Panorama Command Centre has given us unique visibility across these operations and our businesses, and is enabling us to be more agile and responsive, for example, to production capacity, to customer needs, to market dynamics.”

The Panorama Command Centre is powered by Wonderware, an automation software sold by AVEVA, which allowed Schneider to take data from ADNOC’s existing sensors and data gathering systems, display it on the Command Centre and verify that it is accurate compared to the data source. In April 2018, Schneider Electric bought a 60% stake in AVEVA, with 40% remaining on the British stock market, and AVEVA acquired Schneider’s software portfolio. Dartnell says this was the latest of several key acquisitions by the vendor—Schneider Electric acquired Telvent, an IT solutions and information services provider, in 2011, and in 2014 acquired Invensys, which develops monitoring, control and automation tools.

“AVEVA brings the leading technology around design and Schneider brings the leading tech around operations, so when they are integrated we have a bold attempt at the digital twin,” Dartnell says. AVEVA’s strength lies in designing engineering and industrial software, and Dartnell believes this, in combination with Schneider’s operations software portfolio, is the key to taking digitalisation in the oil and gas industry a step further.

Maintaining a digital track record throughout an asset’s lifetime can simplify inspection and maintenance. Digital twin models are in effect a virtual counterpart to a real, physical asset, also allows training and inspection to occur remotely, in a totally safe environment. “The digital twin can be used from conceptual design through to more than 20 years of operations,” Dartnell says.

This level of data gathering and analysis is a precursor to predictive analysis and maintenance. Schneider Electric has a program for that purpose, called Prism, which can predict if an asset will fail in the future, on average between 10 to 15 days before asset failure. For operators, this means less unscheduled downtime.

A November 2018 report by Lloyd’s Register found that “57 of the world’s 100 largest oil and gas firms are using, or have plans to use, predictive analytics.” Companies including oil major Total, chemicals giant BASF and Air Liquide all use Prism. Because oil and gas operators rely on networks of physical assets, reliability is key, and reduced downtime saves money for operators, and could flag potential hazards onsite. Dartnell says that Schneider is working with companies in the Middle East using this technology for predictive maintenance. It sets a baseline when assets are functioning normally, and when it notices that key indicators are moving away from that baseline, it alerts operators that the asset could be approaching failure.

“One way in which [ADNOC is] using [its] data, is developing new tools that integrate all of our critical equipment into the digital value chain and leverage analysis of historical data to develop predictive maintenance capabilities to identify ahead of time maintenance requirements, understand the impact on other equipment or areas of the value chain, and better plan for and respond to those requirements,” Al Mughairbi says. “This will not only have the potential to significantly improve efficiencies but actually to revolutionise the way in which our operational production and supply chain works.”

Dartnell says there is tremendous potential for this technology—these are the types of technologies that marked his 30-year career, which has mostly been spent in senior roles in automation and software, with companies like Honeywell. A chemical engineer by training, he started his career at Mobil’s downstream business.

But digital innovation comes with a frantic pace of development—oilfield services companies have to keep up to provide relevant solutions to operators. Dartnell’s software development team consists of around 150 small teams of five to 12 people. They prototype and test new projects in two-week cycles, continually learning and improving in short bursts. “We use prototypes to visualise complex functionality in advance of actual programming to ensure we minimise rework,” Dartnell says. “We interact with strategic customers throughout the development process to ensure we get it right the first time.”

On a quarterly basis, projects are reviewed and their future assessed. Dartnell notes that the traditional design procedure is far less flexible, and would be a heavily structured, formal, annual process. “What we get with this is quicker time to market, quicker time to customer engagement,” Dartnell says. “We get that quick customer check in and then we change course and keep going in a slightly different direction. It’s just much more agile.” In a growing field where oil and gas companies are still finding their footing, agility is important. In more mature segments of the market, like valves or compressors, companies looking for a solution typically know what they are looking for, give a service provider some specifications and ask it to comply with those parameters. But when many oil and gas decision-makers look at digitalisation, with the immense range of technologies it encompasses, they might not know what is the right fit to solve their problems.

“This is the fourth industrial revolution of oil and gas,” Dartnell says. “In this context, companies are coming to us in a more consultative way.” The approach is more collaborative simply because oil and gas companies do not always know what digital technologies will provide them with the most benefit.

Dartnell says the Middle East is key, not only because of its central position in the oil and gas landscape, but because companies in the region are quick to turn to new technology.

“In any region, there are some companies that lead and some that fall in the middle of the pack, but in the Middle East, we’re seeing some leading behaviour.”

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