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Customer Story

Aera uses the PI System to drive operational efficiency

Pumpjacks at dusk
  • Challenge
    Reduce manual surveillance of water injection systems and wellbores
  • Solution
    Implement data infrastructure for preventative and condition-based maintenance
  • Benefits
    $14 million in recurring annual savings

Aera Energy delivers almost 25% of California’s oil and gas production from six major fields in the state’s San Joaquin Valley. The company’s Belridge Producing Complex covers 55 square miles of land near Bakersfield, California, and contains 7,500 wells and 5,000 water-injection completions. Belridge accounts for 80,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day, which is piped to refineries across the state. Daily production depends on injection of 300,000 barrels of treated water to maintain subterrain pressure, particularly in soft diatomite soil, once oil is extracted. Aera’s management gave Marcus Coleman, an information analyst, the task of applying the PI System to operations. He first focused the technology on one of the thorniest problems: monitoring the critical water flow and pressure at the water-injection completion sites.

Maintaining pressure and flow throughout a complex system

Monitoring the miles of infrastructure connecting Belridge’s wells and water pumps was time-intensive and challenging. Each operator monitored about 500 injection wells at any given moment. For Belridge’s diatomite formation, which spans over 10 miles, visibility into water-injection sites was especially critical. When oil is recovered from a well, reservoir pressure drops significantly. Unless water is injected to restore the pressure, the soft diatomite rock can collapse and damage the wellbore, requiring redrilling and expensive repair.

Aera’s technology included advanced surveillance of flow rates and pressure-drop ratios at every well. However, without real-time intelligence, management knew that its methods did not produce sufficiently granular data. For instance, operators have to maintain constant pressure in miles of water pipelines running across Belridge. To do so, they cleaned the pipeline every quarter to remove internal buildup using a scouring device known as a pig. The cleaning process took half a day of a full crew’s time. But without a real-time view into actual pipeline health, the scheduled-maintenance approach was inefficient. “We were losing millions of dollars by not doing this efficiently in condition-based monitoring,”said Coleman.

Because Aera lacked real-time data and analytics, too many operational failures slipped past the site’s surveillance technology. To enable a cultural shift toward more asset accountability, proactive problem-solving, and reliance on data-driven insights, Aera signed an Enterprise Agreement in 2014. With the PI System as its new, enterprise-scale data infrastructure, Belridge was ready for a digital transformation.

How we show up, the questions we ask, and the actions we take are different. We’re moving to a proactive culture, and the staff feel empowered.
Marcus Coleman
Information analyst at Aera Energy
PI Vision dashboard for pump station 20PI Vision dashboards with real-time data enable Aera’s engineers to quickly allocate resources where they are needed most.

Condition-based surveillance saves millions in operational costs

The PI System offered engineers a suite of analytic tools and dashboards. These tools transmit alerts to mobile devices and allow operators to stave off events that can waste water and compromise oil production. PI Vision provided a 360-degree view into pipeline health and pump-station reliability so operators could track pressure drops in real time. Predictive insights into when maintenance was required allowed managers to shift resources to where they could make the biggest impact on the bottom line. The results were dramatic: Belridge’s well monitoring became more efficient. In addition, cost savings in monitoring of the water-injection wells and pump stations totaled $6.8 million a year.

Concurrently, the site’s engineering team needed better tools to monitor completions, wellbore conditions, and the relationship between the oil-production units and injectors. The PI System obviates the need for constant manual surveillance and provided alerts when pressure drops at the wells. The information helps engineers avoid the very expensive process of abandoning and redrilling wells. “PI’s wellbore integrity alerts bring data straight from the SCADA,” Coleman said. “It’s the only application in the engineering space that can give us that.” The cost savings based on wells cycling in 2017 was conservatively estimated at $7.2 million.

End users reap the benefit of operations data

These rolling financial impacts, while impressive, represent only part of the benefit a successful company can expect from the PI System. The strategic advantage of Aera’s enterprise-scale deployment of the PI System is a shift in how engineers break down problems and interface with other company sectors. “Getting real information and applications into end users’ hands—that’s what sustainability looks like,” said Coleman.

In one year, the number of operations data users at Belridge has jumped from a handful to 30. Even engineers who questioned the need for an analytic and preventative approach have come to rely on the PI System for their day-to-day decision-making. “There are multiple calls from them whenever the system has interruptions or issues,” Coleman reported. “It’s a good problem to have.”

For more information about Aera Energy and the PI System, watch the full presentation here.

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