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Digitalization speeding delivery of complex subsea concepts

By Editorial

Digitalization advances are helping engineering contractors design subsea field concepts in one-fifth the time taken by traditional project planning methods.

Developments in robotic process automation, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, analytics and cognitive technology are increasingly addressing the industry’s problems of accessing data, converting data across expert systems, and visualizing data for offshore field layouts. Emerging technologies (sometimes called Industry 4.0) are transforming the way engineering, procurement, and contracting (EPC) companies conduct business by generating more field concepts in a much shorter time and eliminating inexact options. This is being accomplished using real-time data uploaded into the cloud to visualize the fields and run computations from a single source of data.

Compare this to the traditional approach. The basic bidding process would capture brainstormed ideas from engineers on flip charts and in PowerPoint and convert them into visuals via Visio, Corel Draw, and MS Paint. Then an outsourced engineering house would turn these documents into Computer Aided Design (CAD) files, with the drawn-out process stunting the EPC firms’ ability to meet tight design schedules and implement late changes quickly.

Cloud-based technologies such as FutureOn’s FieldAP and FieldTwin represent the next-generation of subsea project planning, bringing real-time data into plain sight through easy-to-use 2D/3D visualization in a collaborative web environment. Two key components that are revolutionizing the oil and gas bidding process are data visualization and data management, which allow greater collaboration, speed the design concept process, enable more meaningful decision-making, and reduce overall costs.


Screen shots showing different field development options.


The visual rendering of complex real-time data streams increases an engineer’s responsiveness because the human brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. Data visualization advances allow engineers to conceptualize, build, and approve pre-front-end-engineering design (FEED) field concepts three times faster and help engineers manage engineering IoT sensor data and risk management more effectively during operations.

Data management makes sense of the enormous influx of IoT sensor data and identifies discrepancies, leading to better business decisions and improved workflows. The work can be done more rapidly in collaboration with colleagues (both inside and outside of the company) and around the world, since everyone works from the same pool of real-time data housed in a single place. Furthermore, FieldAP and FieldTwin create a space within the engineering process for creativity without negatively affecting progress and allow solutions to evolve through a collaborative effort as opposed to the siloed approach of the past.

While global demand for oil and gas has created tight work schedules and, over the past year, an excess of projects to complete, tighter operating budgets have forced companies to rely on fewer employees in the immediate term to meet this growing work demand. The smartest and most future-focused, long-term-profit-driven companies have responded by exploring digitalization strategies to drive higher and better thinking from their engineering talent, fulfilling the business imperative of providing improved value to bring in revenues.

EPC companies design useful early concepts of offshore oilfield projects that are then handed off seamlessly to the construction teams and oil and gas operators to construct and maintain all in a matter of weeks, as opposed to the previous months, because teams can now produce from the same single data platform.



It has become the standard operating practice for oil and gas industry to find new ways to reduce expenses in uncertain times. The oil and gas industry is now looking for new tools as well as new approaches to budgeting, forecasting, and reporting.

Typical digitalization approaches involve significant upfront expenditure. Deploying IoT devices, SMART sensors, and robotic tools require expensive new equipment purchases, employee training, and retrofitting of existing systems, and the return on investment can be difficult to assess. However, it is possible to pursue a more efficient and immediate digitalization strategy by investing in instantly implementable data-driven solutions that improve work processes and increase data accessibility and usability. FieldTwin deployed in real-world fields can reduce pre-FEED time and investment by as much as 60%, bringing a return on investment more quickly.

Contractors savvy enough not to feel threatened by digitization are deploying technology such as FieldAP to deliver faster delivery of more detailed concepts, including design options that give their customers choices they typically would not see at each stage of a project.

McDermott now uses both FieldAP and FieldTwin to build 2D and 3D fields directly in a collaborative web environment to rapidly produce many more concept designs for multiple fields that include essential information, such as flowline data. The company is developing concept proposals in 20-30% of the time taken previously for this process and can respond quickly to questions from operators and partners by accessing critical data directly.

The additional smart functionality of digitalization eliminates the pre-FEED CAD work during the proof-of-concept stage and the need to hire an outsourced engineering firm; an outsourced team of four drafters, working for two to three weeks, can cost up to $40,000.

As a result, field development enters FEED with a single, well-defined option with major design issues decided, risks and uncertainties understood, and the cost estimate, budgets, and schedules clear. Recently, McDermott designed and delivered four early design concepts to an oil and gas operator using FutureOn technology. Previously, the company’s team would likely only have produced one design because of the limitations of traditional design methods.

Darrell Knight

Darrell Knight.


If executives can harness the right technologies to support their business strategies and make better use of existing technology, there could be serious returns: up to $1 billion in cost savings or production increases, according to McKinsey. And the World Economic Forum has suggested that the digital transformation in the oil and gas sector could unlock $1.6 trillion of value for the industry.

So, industry futurists are saying that in the new era of energy, companies must move quickly to capitalize on this unique opportunity and stay competitive. Forward-thinking engineering companies that use these technologies can win more bids in an increasingly competitive environment in which operators expect engineering companies to absorb the field concept costs. Progressive engineering firms can now load accurate real-time data from real-world coordinates to build field concepts more rapidly, cost-effectively, and confidently with precise field options and real-time cost analysis.

The digitalization of offshore assets can seem like a leap into the unknown, but companies that make that leap begin to recognize how digitalization can empower them to accomplish more, particularly in making more profitable and prompt decisions in the field. There is now an eagerness to learn how using smart, cloud-based digital solutions to address daily decision-making challenges. Companies throughout the supply chain can see the competitive advantages that digitalization brings and are acting quickly to ensure that they do not get left behind.


Making The Offshore Life Cycle Smarter With Digital Twins

By Editorial


The demand for oil will continue to grow over the medium term according to figures from OPEC. They predict that in the medium-term period up to 2022 there is an anticipated increase of 6.9 mb/d, rising from 95.4 mb/d to 102.3 mb/d. This corresponds to an average annual increase of close to 1.2 mb/d.

The outlook for long-term oil demand growth is slightly more optimistic, reaching 111.1 mb/d by 2040, although average growth slows to around 300,000 b/d between 2035 and 2040 on the back of anticipated efficiency improvements, a further tightening of energy policies, as well as decelerating GDP and population growth.

Slowing investment

This demand needs to be met. However, because the investment, especially in offshore, has slowed or even halted during the oil price downturn of the past three or four years the supply is down to a point where huge investment is required in developing new sources. According to Darrell Knight, EVP Global Accounts of FutureOn that is what is happening in the offshore space.

“Investment is jumping from where sanctioned projects in 2018 were in the region of $30 billion and that will jump to $182 billion this year,” he said. “It is going to be in that neck of the woods at least for the next four years or possibly longer. This is the known offshore fields that are ready now for development. Some of them are being developed already.”

These figures are backed up by the latest data from GlobalData who predict that total new-build capital expenditure (CapEx) of US$846bn is expected to be spent globally on planned and announced upstream projects from 2019 to 2025. Royal Dutch Shell leads among all oil and gas companies and is expected to spend US$54.6bn on upcoming upstream projects during the forecast period.

Need for digital

For FutureOn this presents a tremendous opportunity as a supplier of software into the offshore space that already works with many of the major operators. “We believe that this new jump in demand, plus the sanctioning of offshore fields, will drive the need for digital technologies in offshore,” Knight adds. “It will escalate that need, accelerate it because all new projects, certainly within our customer base, need to be developed in a way that is very cost-effective because of the price of oil. Even though the demand ironically is going up, the price of oil is likely still to be politically managed by OPEC and others to stay within the $50 to $60 range now.”

“Companies like Equinor, are working on new fields, one of which is called Peon, which is an announced project where they are developing completely unmanned offshore platforms. The idea being everything is being controlled through digital means. Peon is part of the Naust formation, a shallow deposit that contains estimated recoverable resources of 15-30 billion standard cubic meters.

“We see not just the topside or the platform as being automated, but the entire infrastructure from the reservoir through the field up to the platform, that entire process,” Knight added. “We’re developing software that effectively gives that capability from day one.

“Our customers are now using our software to develop digital fields in the cloud. Being able to plan, and build, and operate fields completely digitally. Because there is this uptake in new projects, it is a good time for these companies to decide that on greenfield offshore projects they will go digital from day one.”

Step forward the digital twin

FutureOn has a product that allows them to create the digital twin of the field, called FieldTwin. “Traditional digitalization approaches can threaten O&G companies’ long-term viability as they involve significant upfront CAPEX expenditures,” Knight explained. “Deploying IoT devices, SMART sensors, and robotic tools require expensive new equipment investments, employee training, and retrofitting of existing systems. Such investment may sound compelling, but the ROI on such investment is difficult to assess.

“You’re building a story, if you like, over time and managing all your data centrally. We’re offering the idea of an open platform where we use Open Web technology to allow you to access and view all the data at any point, and then some extended capabilities for editing, and operating, and tying into engineering tools. We have several different partners we’re working with to make that happen.”


FutureOn talks to Pipeline Oil & Gas Magazine about industry adaptation to digitization

By Editorial


FutureOn is an oilfield software and data visualisation company and is focused on how operators are adapting to digitisation in the oilfield.

“FutureOn has been around for over 20 years in Norway and we did a lot of visualisation rendering content for Norwegian companies. Now we have launched an offi ce in Houston and we will be adding an offi ce in London to support our growth efforts,” said Knight.

He added: “Our target now is operators – so Norway’s Equinor is a customer. We also work with ExxonMobil. We are very close with Italy’s Eni and hope to fi nalise something with them in the near future. We also work with the EPC’s. McDermott is a big customer of ours and Subsea 7.”

Knight explained that FutureOn offers a data visualisation plan.

“It is all digital and is focused on the subsea and offshore industry but the way the platform has been developed it can and will be used onshore. As the idea behind the smart asset modelling solution means every single asset is developed, so it is visual (2D/3D) and it can be assigned underlying metadata to make it smart. We then connect data with different types and format fi les that come in from the subsea, reservoir, the well and topside. Then you build out your concept field.”

He added that: “The platform itself can be completely confi gured as it is all cloud based and uses web standards. It is designed to be integrated. The idea is we bring the data in, we visualise it and then we connect it to whatever application a company wants to run the what if’s scenarios and eventually you can build the digital twin of a subsea field.” Knight said that FutureOn was focusing a lot on what it is calling the digital twin of the field.

“The big story we are pushing is the digital twin of the field.

Most of our customers are saying we have to go digital, especially in offshore where you start at the field with all that data and then it all evolves from there. The idea is that our software becomes a living, breathing software tool. Then you start linking it to other systems and it becomes something you use in operations. It represents true information that you actually have within your field. We are also partnering with software companies that are helping us
get software integration software right.” FutureOn is trying to make sure that its platform is as open as possible.

“What people like about our system is that you are not locked into a specifi c system. It is designed as a platform you can confi gure. We are not there yet but we are building out various ways to access the digital field from different user types,” Knight said.


Digital Twins: How Field Designers And Operators Can Benefit From Visualisation Solutions

By Editorial

InnovOil checks out how field designers and operators can benefit from visualisation solutions

BIG data is becoming an increasingly vital part of oil and gas operations. The companies who harness that data to provide insights into operations and gains in efficiency will ultimately succeed in making themselves market-secure for the next generation, despite any changes to oil consumption.

Visualisation software is a vital asset for turning these disparate data streams into an easily understood format. By laying the information out visually, connections that might be lost in the form of ones and zeroes are rendered lucid to a human operator.

InnovOil spoke to FutureOn senior vice president of global accounts Darrell Knight about his company’s FieldTwin visualisation software and the advantages it can bring to field designers and operators.

“Our visual tools allow people to see and use their data in a way they’ve never really experienced before,” Knight said.

FieldTwin gives a subsea field engineer the ability to create “the digital twin of the field,” a realistic simulation built up of assets and infrastructure. The cloud-based service creates “a living breathing digital document in 2D and 3D that can be accessed from anywhere by anybody,” Knight said.

“If someone has various data files associated with their project, we bring those things into a visual 3D environment,” Knight explained. “We interface on the well planning side in partnership with a number of different companies to visualise where the most ideal location of wells might be.”

Assets have metadata associated with them, providing information about their real world analogue. This may be information about a pipeline’s length, its diameter, material, pressure, etc. Relationships between assets can be gauged and altered to help plan a field.

“The field planners can start laying out their field and click on a pipeline and have all the relevant metadata pooled from existing libraries sent through our integrated ATI directly to their algorithms and get a result back right within the software,” Knight said.

“Click on a pipeline and it’ll give you a flow assurance graph or it’ll give you a production estimate based on what you know right now and it helps you work through the process in a very efficient manner. You don’t have to design a field before you start doing any flow assurance work.”

While FieldTwin was designed for use by EPCs for field planning during the preFEED stage of a field’s life, it can also be used by operators during the later stages as a maintenance tool.

“We’re building out FieldTwin to be more about updating and maintaining a field, with things like operational excellence, asset integrity, maintenance use cases,” Knight said.

“By creating this evolving digital twin of the field, the content itself is much more risk averse,” Knight added. “The value becomes more about reducing risk and reducing liability by making sure that the virtual field representation is constantly up to date and accurate.”

Gaming the system

FieldTwin utilises an intuitive user interface, making it easy to pick up and learn. “Our developers are from the gaming industry, so it’s using the same principles of user interface, of functionality and performance to make it fully optimised,” Knight said. Assets are moved around with a simple drag-and-drop system.

By having a plan for a field sorted, a field designer is able to save time and money by avoiding having to bring in consultants during the pre-engineering phase.

“That’s a very expensive process, and it can take a long time, it can take months,” Knight explained. “Our clients effectively eliminated the need to bring in anyone from the outside because they’ve integrated it with various tools. They’ve got the costing information in there and the accuracy of the data is high enough to feel comfortable about the concepts they bring together.

“The ability to understand at any moment in time what your estimated capex and potentially opex for that field is likely to be helps you make the right decisions as early as possible,” Knight said. “That means the process is significantly sped up on the field planning side. We have clients where it used to take weeks or months to come up with any kind of concept field. Now, in a couple of days, they can knock out two or three viable alternatives and then they can move very quickly into a proposal process into the pre-FEED type area.

“You can present the entire concept field using our tools and so they’ve reduced the times from weeks and months to, in some cases, maybe days. They can put a very quick field together in a matter of hours. Depending on the complexity of the field and the amount of data they have available to build on, a company can save 80-90% of the time, and that of course saves a huge amount of money at the pre-FEED stage.”

FieldTwin also creates value over the lifetime of the field. An accurate digital simulation of a field can see a field de-manned, as physical operators are unnecessary, removing humans from dangerous offshore environments.

“By having much more intuitive access to the field, all the data that’s being generated from sensors is going to allow them to make those offshore platforms a lot less expensive because there’ll be fewer people on them, which is typically the highest cost,” Knight explained.

“They’re able to reduce the risk, which is a lot of the insurance cost, the risk and liability of individuals out in high-risk situations.”


Of course, FieldTwin relies on a client effectively managing its data. This means that a company that both produces a lot of data from its field, through the use of various sensors and monitors, and stores it in an easily accessible manner will have an advantage over less data-savvy companies.

“There are companies that are developing what are called data lakes, which are effectively an internal data aggregation and normalisation of all their data files,” Knight said.

“The ability to make it useful is dependent on a company’s flexibility about how we integrate with their data,” Knight said. “It takes us three to six months to successfully bring a customer on board, although they will be able to use the software from out of the box effectively.

“It takes time and energy to integrate and we do a lot of that work. Part of the challenge in the digitalisation of this industry is that everyone has their own set of data challenges which are quite different from each other.”

FutureOn aims to make FieldTwin the industry standard for oilfield visualisation software. “But it’ll be an open standard,” Knight noted. “What we don’t want to do is to lock into proprietary formats or anything like that.”

Other companies can create and save their own assets for other companies to use. This synergy will assist FieldTwin in providing an immense library of common oilfield equipment, as well as helping EPCs promote their products. As more clients come on board, more assets and more information will come on stream.

“Because of the cost, companies want to use less custom equipment and they want to use lower cost equipment,” Knight said. “Enabling a dialogue as a digital discussion between well planners and field planners is one aspect that we are working with.”

“Subsea 7 are putting all their riser bundles as unique assets to make available to the industry,” Knight noted. “They have begun using our products to be able to make concept fields that use their equipment as opposed to other people’s equipment, so it helps them kind of put together a bid process more efficiently.

“McDermott’s the same: they partner with Baker Hughes as the equipment provider, so they want to be able to showcase a lot of Baker Hughes’ technology as part of their proposals.”

“We are trying to help people collaborate in a more efficient way,” Knight said. “It’s all about driving efficiency and saving money, from the concept phase all the way to production becoming cost-effective and able to support a low per barrel price of oil.”



FutureOn featured in Energy CIO Insights as a Top 10 Digital Oil Field Solutions Provider

By Editorial

We deliver a data visualization platform that integrates with machine learning, production analysis and flow simulation tools to process data relevant to a particular decision-making workflow

A blueprint and a prototype model are effectively equal. They both present their content as a general description of the information an individual is seeking. Only, one is more effective than the other. While the blueprint provides a bird’s-eye view of a subject, the prototype realizes it on a more manageable scale, in 3D. Now, a realistic visualization software introduces a whole new level of graphical capacity, as it presents information more vividly than drawings and numbers alone.

With increasing complexity in enterprise data—by volume, variety and velocity—the need to see the biggest and most accurate picture becomes paramount, most notably in complex industrial settings. The oilfield is one vast system of interconnected industrial assets that generate hundreds of millions of bytes of data every day, meaning that the information to be presented has to be descriptive yet easily palatable. What started out as a vision in 1999, when a group of engineers, came together to provide content including media and visualization, high-resolution graphic imagery, videos, animation, and impressive PowerPoint® presentations, soon became grounds for designing field concepts for bidding processes in oil field operations—and that is FutureOn. To quote Darrell Knight, EVP of FutureOn, “We deliver a data visualization platform that integrates with machine learning, production analysis and flow simulation tools to process data relevant to a particular decision-making workflow and bridge the gap between information and the process with an entirely digital methodology. This is allowing our customers to make real-time decisions based on bringing all their data together in a visual way.”

The Makings of a Digital Twin Visualizer

The company is now helping their customers build concept fields in the Cloud. A potential field or multiple concepts might be in a Greenfield or Brownfield environment. With FutureOn’s solution, every asset in the system is replicated in the Cloud, using a drag-and-drop ecosystem, rendered in full 2D or 3D, where a user can design risers, umbilicals or pipelines. Users can drag in all their assets and bring in all the key data types, including mapping data, to ensure everything is in context and placed in the correct geographical coordinates. FutureOn brings multifarious data into the system and can visualize it for maximum visibility into an oil field’s operations. Knight explains, “When we typically onboard a client, we bring the software, and our next question becomes, ‘What data do you need to bring into your environment to make decisions on developing a field?’”

From a use case perspective on the field development side, FutureOn has assisted clients to integrate a lot of the core data they have, reducing weeks spent in developing a concept field down to a couple of hours with FutureOn, driving a significant ROI for their customers.

Each and every team member, right from the installation team to the person performing the field planning to the well operator overseeing the drilling, would all be fundamentally looking at the same set of data, thanks to FutureOn’s Cloud-based solution. All users will have the right version of the data, in relevance to the decisions they have to make, all the way from the beginning through to the process of planning, to engineering, and up to the operations side.

“We are going to make operations more efficient and faster by helping publish the finished field into their operational dashboard”

The Area of Expertise

In the oil and gas industry, “digitalization” is a concept that can mean different things to different people. To FutureOn, it is all about the data, particularly related to the subsea domain. The term digital twin—which means a digital version of a system’s operating assets—is often applied to the top side of the field. But FutureOn is all about what is under the water with no solution quite as robust as theirs. The FutureOn solution allows operators to understand digitally what is going on under the water. With a plethora of sensor data, the ability to visualize that information in a way that different types of users can respond to is vital. “We call it FieldTwin™, and that is our big message; we have a suite of solutions or a workflow process, that allows you to realize, create, build and then operate and decommission your facility,” elaborates Knight.

FutureOn is introducing a paradigm shift in the way oilfields use software. In a siloed world, with a variety of owned tools, applications and data, one of the earliest documented challenges was the need to centralize the disparate entities, and to make only the relevant data accessible to the people who need it. In order to collaborate, the units have to do so across the various stakeholders involved in a project, who generally will not be in the same room, time-zone or country at the same time. To work with the data and be able to see what is happening in real time, better understand the data and make sound decisions, moving to digital is crucial. Corporate must recognize that the different parts of the organizations are interconnected, and much can be benefited through this transition. People are apprehensive about technology; some will push back, as many processes can be automated such as generating reports from disparate data, although ultimately, the decision is Blockbuster vs. Netflix.

Going Live before the Field

Most companies bring in engineering processes in the pre-engineering stage. When the price of oil was high a few years ago, several operators acquired new leases, and they had enough cash available to invest in the pre-engineering stage.

They could go to a third-party engineering company, invest in their study for that field and then split the expenses among potential bidders and fund it efficiently, to see what works out. Today, there are no margins for error in the current climate, so whoever wants to bid, will have to manage the costs immediately, if they are to have a chance of winning.

What FutureOn’s products have done in the short term, is to eliminate the need for the type of detailed engineering that should be reserved only for the FEED phase. They present the data and position it accurately which makes it usable, in a way that gives precise specifications as opposed to estimates. FutureOn integrates with popular flow assurance software to test the viability of the field before any engineered field is developed. They have taken the process of concept planning from months to days or even hours, resulting in significant cost reductions. Additionally, their clients don’t have to outsource these tasks to specialized engineering groups anymore, and they can retain everything in-house, and tie it into their own costing data to come up with very accurate bids. One such company that FutureOn has worked with is McDermott, which is now using FutureOn’s software to win tenders and outbid incumbents. Being able to do so without any engineering work in the pre- FEED stage, has made them a thought leader in digitalization.

Over and beyond the Digital Oil Trenches

FutureOn’s work has been focused on the Pre-FEED/ Concept stage to date. But the creative process around what data is available, along with the ability to evaluate the possibilities of how that new field could evolve has always been the objective. They are currently working with operator clients that want to take the fields that have been developed in the concept phase, and then bring them into the engineering phase. Knight states, “We are moving into that phase where we can export the data, update to as-builts and make the Digital Twin of the Field available to the clients—the FieldTwin™. This FieldTwin™ would include integration of all the engineering tools that they could want and update the digital fields with the gathered data.” Subsequently, when the clients engineer the pipelines that they put in place conceptually, there are going to be various additions and changes that they have to determine, and they will need to know exactly what kind of pipeline they are going to use, what material availability they have. Pipelines move and change over the life of the field – FutureOn’s solution can make sure you always have all the latest information at your fingerprints.

“We call it FieldTwin™– a workflow process where you create, build and operate your facility with an entirely digital methodology”

FutureOn’s platform can be consolidated into a PLM or content management system where any content can be linked directly to the digital field. Users can then look at the field, which has all the associated documents that can be pulled programmatically from a PLM system to access a complete document set at the user’s fingertips. In the past, users have had a lot of sensor data that they had to compare manually to discover useful information from the data, i.e., the productivity the equipment should be reaching versus what it is actually doing. “We are going to make operations more efficient and faster by helping publish the finished field into their operational dashboard in whatever context that makes sense, along with the ability to access and interact among users, bridging the predictive data with the operational action required,” concludes Knight.

Source: Energy CIO Insights