By Tyler Farley
Senior Project Engineer, Halker Consulting
Changes are coming to oil and gas development planning that have the potential to vastly improve the game for operators, cutting down on site development time, improving well efficiency and offering cost savings across the board. By taking a modular approach to oil field development, rather than designing each facility individually, operators are becoming better able to manage their type curves, plan their long-term equipment needs and maximize the overall efficiency of their systems.
These changes are driving significant improvements in both efficiency and cost savings. Not only do modular facilities designs enable operators to plan out their entire oilfield developments in advance, maximizing overall production by limiting downtime and easing ongoing site management, but this approach also incorporates type curve planning, allowing for more efficient, better organized installations. Further, modular site designs are simpler to build, cutting down on build out, well preparation and maintenance time. In terms of cost savings, modular sites enable operators to order equipment in bulk, thereby saving on upfront costs.
The key ideas behind the modular oilfield are threefold: repeatable, consistent and interchangeable. The goal is to minimize field construction by using prefabricated, pre-designed pieces of equipment that are built on assembly lines with standard options in place. All the operator has to do is order up the pieces they need and effectively plug them into their system. In theory, that’s all there is to it.
These types of systems are great because they offer quick, cost effective solutions, but they can be challenging because updates and changes aren’t always easy when systems are shared site-wide and designs are in the hands of a single modular manufacturer. Fortunately for operators, there are other options.
One step beyond this is fit-for-purpose modular design. By taking an operator’s existing facilities and “modularizing” them, sites can be built that include both modular pieces as well as custom-designed equipment. This way the operator still owns their own equipment designs that they can take to any manufacturer for production, leaving them in control of their equipment rather than being beholden to any one modular designer. It’s like buying a car off the lot versus going online to build and price a custom car.
And that brings us to adaptable modularity, which is the use of adapters to fit off-the-shelf pieces together with existing equipment. This is the best of both worlds: Lower-cost modular pieces adapted to work with proprietary customer systems. Facilities are becoming more complicated, so we need to adapt existing pieces from established providers to work with new parts. It’s about adapting standard equipment to your needs in a scalable, interchangeable, and safe way.
Why do these equipment trends matter to the industry at large? More than six decades after it was first introduced to the market, hydraulic fracturing is now a mainstay of the U.S. oil and gas industry and has emerged as a key technology in the nation’s push for energy independence. We are finally in a position, thanks not only to rich product reserves in the lower 48 states but also new techniques that allow us to fully exploit these reserves, to meet all of the United States’ energy needs, both today and well into the future. Hydraulic fracturing is at the heart of this opportunity. With that promise at stake, now is the time to improve on these decades-old production techniques in order to maximize their efficiency and ensure long-term cost savings for operators
The modular oilfield is a key step in this direction.