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Real science, not science fiction

If you had told the Norwegian offshore pioneers in the 1970s that they could visualize and control subsea production facilities deep below the surface from onshore virtual control centres, they would either have thought that you were crazy or were making a science fiction film. However, the Norwegian offshore petroleum industry has taken giant leaps since its infancy, and this very real technology now makes it possible to utilize deeper and more remote fields than ever before.

This technology – of which Norway is a global developmental leader – helps to safeguard the environment, reduce hazards for personnel working offshore and potentially generate additional tens of billions of dollars for the country’s petroleum industry and society. 
Rationalizing operations will boost improved oil recovery (IOR), and to develop this technology, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has established the Centre for e-Field and Integrated Operations for Upstream Petroleum Activities in Trondheim – a centre unparalleled by any university centre in this field in the world.
An Additional Forty Billion Dollars
Chairman and head of the new centre, Professor Jon Kleppe, is confident that the Norwegian petroleum industry will be able to improve its earnings from marginal and mature oil fields by NOK 250 billion (approximately $40 billion) through the use of integrated operations. “By prioritizing integrated operations, we should be able to increase the recovery factor for each field by 5 to 10 percentage points,” says Kleppe.
Some of the best professors and researchers in the area of offshore oil and gas are present in the Norwegian technology capital of Trondheim – where a partnership of the Institute for Energy Technology, research foundation SINTEF and NTNU hosts the centre.
Additionally, the centre has entered into agreements with Stanford University and Delft University of Technology, Netherlands, as well as with several major industry partners such as Statoil, Hydro, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Aker Kværner, Kongsberg Maritime, FMC Kongsberg Subsea and IBM. The Research Council of Norway has also appointed the centre as a Centre for Research-based Innovation (CRI), and is committed to contributing to the centre’s funding.
Jon Lippe, operational manager at the centre, and the rest of the team are able to get real-time information from oilfields utilizing high-bandwidth fibre-optic cables.
”Virtual meetings are conducted between onshore and offshore personnel within drilling, production and maintenance, with access to real-time data. This enables smarter decisions, and saves travelling time and costs,” he says.
The virtual control centre in Stjørdal outside of Trondheim is Statoil’s headquarters for integrated operations. Now the company has started a strategic partnership with ABB in order to help develop and bring the technology of remote-controlled production to more distant, rougher and deeper petroleum fields than ever before.
© Øyvind Hagen/Statoil 
ABB’s Oil & Gas Research to Oslo
With operations in over 100 countries, ABB, a global leader in power and automation technologies, has chosen to locate its new global centre for strategic research and development related to automation solutions for the oil and gas industry to Oslo. Thus, the company is able to take full advantage of the combined expertise of the Norwegian offshore cluster.
In this environment, ABB will carry out research to promote cleaner and safer e-field operations in deep, rough and cold waters.
“The establishment of the R&D centre is a vote of confidence to ABB’s oil and gas operations in Norway, and to our research community, that through the years has developed systems that contribute to increased industrial productivity, while lowering environmental impact,” says ABB Norway vice president Rune Finne.
In Norway, ABB has strong partners to develop world-leading technology for integrated operations, and the company is taking the lead in a unique research consortium to improve productivity and operating efficiency of oil and gas fields, old and new. Together with Statoil, ABB has signed a technology development agreement; other partners include IBM, Aker Kværner and SKF.
The Research Council of Norway is also involved here, along with small- and medium-sized niche technology players, research institutes and colleges and universities.
“The project is an ideal opportunity to develop the oilfield technologies of tomorrow in cooperation with a demanding end-user like Statoil,” says Håvard Moe, ABB’s manager of Lead Competency Centre Enhanced Operations & Production. “It is also a perfect means of field-testing new concepts and technology before taking them to the global market.”
Top Young Innovator
Katrine Hilmen, 35, is an example of the human resources making ABB a world leader in e-field technology. In 2005 she was named one of the world’s top 35 young innovators by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Technology Review.
Hilmen received her award due to the development of an online monitoring tool that gives users easy access to relevant performance data. This system enables offshore production teams and management teams onshore to make crucial decisions efficiently.
“Technological development is fundamental for the development of our society,” Hilmen says, adding she wants her research to matter. “In this field I feel I can achieve something, and that my efforts at ABB make a real difference. It is a great honour and motivation to be recognized by MIT like this, and I am grateful to my colleagues for creating a flourishing work environment.”
And ABB and the company’s Oslo research laboratory is of course proud to have Hilmen among them. “She is a true visionary, and has played a key role in setting the future strategy and technical roadmaps for ABB in the area of asset management for the oil and gas and energy businesses,” says John Pretlove, technical director of ABB’s Strategic Oil & Gas research centre in Norway.
“Hilmen combines a rare ability to analyze current customer needs, read the market situation and predict its movements in the future, and then ties this all together with a solid understanding of the theoretical work being done in academia,” Pretlove says.
ABB researcher Katrine Hilmen’s development of an online monitoring tool helps enable both offshore production teams and management teams onshore to make crucial decisions efficiently. The development of the tool helped Oslo-based Hilmen win the title of one of the world’s top 35 young innovators in MIT’s Technology Review. 


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