Oil-rig Fleet Reduces Unplanned Downtime, Predicts Asset Life

Timothy WhiteEnsco operates the largest fleet of oil rigs in the world. With 35 jackup rigs, 12 semisubmersibles and another dozen high-tech drill ships, that’s a lot of equipment with varying degrees of technology and personnel. And the number of data points from each is anything but uniform.

Aided by Emerson Automation Solutions, the offshore-drilling energy company has completed the second year of a reliability journey that’s already reduced unplanned downtime to less than 1%.

Leading the charge has been Timothy White, director of reliability-based maintenance projects and asset management at Ensco, based in Houston. White has 27 years of experience in reliability and maintenance and has worked in the oil-and-gas industry for 10. “We started a digital journey almost two years ago,” he explained at Emerson Global Users Exchange Americas at a press conference event this week in San Antonio. “We’ve been in the implementation phase for the past year. We’re leveraging data analytics and initiating machine learning.”

Ensco encountered many hurdles to digitalization along the way, but White identified six that have been especially notable: old iron, cultural change, incumbent technologies, intrinsic safety, cybersecurity and industry economics.

“We’ve had to spend more money on the ‘old iron’ to add more sensors to get the data we want out of them,” said White. “Cultural change has been something we’ve had to address. We keep hearing, ‘Big brother is watching us.’ Incumbent technologies have been challenging because a lot of vendors are not open-source. Working with hydrocarbons, intrinsic safety is important. Equipment needs to be Zone-1-certified. We’ve done a lot of work with our IT organization regarding cybersecurity. And oil-and-gas has been struggling, so it’s difficult to convince leadership to spend money.”

The first step of an EPIC journey

In 2011, Ensco’s fleet was experiencing 8% unplanned downtime, which the company managed to whittle down to 4% through a variety of predictive and preventive maintenance practices, explained White.

With the introduction of the Ensco Predictive Intelligence Center (EPIC), unplanned downtime has continued to decrease. EPIC is designed to:

  • monitor assets in fleet in real time;
  • provide early warning of asset degradation;
  • determine the remaining useful life of an asset;
  • reduce costs by optimizing asset selection and maintenance activities; and,
  • enhance provision of offshore drilling services to clients through improved reliability and uptime.

“We used a OSIsoft PI System data historian,” explained White. “We collect from our control system and send via satellite to shore and then collect it for analytics in Houston. We calculate the inputs from the PI System and determine asset health. And we determine the remaining useful life. I can send out alerts and emails, and it’s fed back to the rig.”

Ensco identified its top five critical systems—top drives, drawworks, blowout preventers, pipe handling and thrusters—and set its focus on those for improving reliability.

“We believe digitalization will be a disruptor,” proclaimed White. “The energy sector stands to gain the most. We’re trying to monitor our equipment to understand asset health and identify the remaining useful life through investment, monitoring and prediction.”