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Equinor looks to digital systems to generate efficiencies necessitated by low-carbon future

By Stephen Whitfield, Associate Editor

As societal pressure to address climate change continues to grow, the oil and gas industry must find new ways to lower carbon emissions from its operations. Especially for large multinational oil and gas companies, they must meet increasing decarbonization demands from a myriad stakeholders, said Carri Lockhart, Executive Vice President, Technology, Digital and Innovation at Equinor.

“It’s about our license to operate,” she said. “Never has there been more focus in the world to reduce emissions from oil and gas than there is today. We need to explore, develop, produce and provide energy sources with as low a carbon footprint as possible. This is what’s expected from us in society.”

Carri Lockhart, Executive Vice President, Technology, Digital and Innovation at Equinor, discussed the steps her company is taking to adapt to a low-carbon future during a keynote address at the IADC World Drilling 2021 Conference on 15 June.

During a keynote address at the virtually held IADC World Drilling 2021 Conference on 15 June, Ms Lockhart said her company is planning to introduce stronger emissions requirements for new rig contracts moving forward. It is also working with rig owners on reducing emissions from mobile drilling units, particularly through the electrification of mobile rigs and the implementation of technologies that reduce energy consumption during drilling.

Ms Lockhart laid out an ambitious goal for the company in this area. “Rigs in the future will be able to connect to power from platforms or power hubs offshore that are green, either through carbon capture and storage power from land or from renewable offshore power production,” she noted.

On top of that, Equinor is also looking for ways to reduce cost across the project lifecycle in order to adapt to the lower-margin business that will arise from a shifting energy mix and a maturing oil and gas asset base. This will require a step-change in operational efficiency, particularly in drilling and completions, she emphasized. Much of this efficiency will come through the adoption of digital systems that could help reduce the overall time and costs associated with a drilling operation and the emissions generated from a rig.

For instance, Ms Lockhart said Equinor is focused on making improvements to its well construction process through simplified, standardized well designs and the utilization of fit-for-purpose technology, as well as smarter use of well engineering software to reduce the time spent planning a well.

“We have an immense amount of data that can be integrated. An engineer should have data gathered and presented through smart systems so they can spend more time on optimization and streamlining for safe and efficient well deliveries,” Ms Lockhart said.

Operations management is also an area of focus. In 2019, Equinor rolled out two onshore support centers to centralize its offshore exploration and production activities: the Integrated Operations Center and the Geo-Operations Center. It is piloting additional centers to support remote operations of drilling units.

“We’re working very closely with our suppliers for that total integration of remote operations, and it’s going to be more important to how we collaborate and further integrate service provider technology,” Ms Lockhart said. “Future projects will demand more efficient tools, machinery and rigs to enable improvements in well delivery, and we have to work in a more integrated fashion than we have in the past.”

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