Volume: 2 | Issue: 2

Advocacy for Simplification

It has been a year since SPE launched the Oil and Gas Facilities magazine, and the number of subscribers has doubled. This is great news and demonstrates that the magazine is gaining traction and appeals to you—the projects, facilities, and construction (PFC) engineer.

SPE has more than 8,000 members who have selected PFC as their technical affiliation, and this number continues to grow. Our goal with this publication is to inform, enlighten, and challenge our constituency. It provides a vehicle for disseminating technical information through peer-reviewed papers and feature articles covering the broader topics of our business. My question to you is: Are we meeting your needs? If you have suggestions or recommendations for improvement, let us know.

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is traveling the globe and interacting with people of various cultures whose jobs and levels within an organization differ from my own. Over the years, I have met impressive folks who are in complete command of what they do and how they do it.

They have learned the skills they need for their jobs and how to use the skills of others to help them carry out their jobs more effectively. I have admired these people because most of the time, my world moves between chaos and panic. I aspire to be in a situation where I am in complete command of what I do and how I do it.

I was pondering this on a trans-Atlantic flight recently and was mulling over an article that advocated the need for simplicity in business. We make things more complicated than they need to be, and this burdens us with work of no value and often leads to frustration and underperformance.

I can identify with this, and I suspect many of you can as well. How many of your daily work tasks seem too complicated or burdensome? Based on dialogue last week with a number of facilities engineers in Houston, overcomplication seems to have reached epidemic proportions.

Because I’m always up for a challenge, I am going to embrace the concept of simplicity this year. I am in search of a simpler, more effective way of doing my job, dealing with others, and using the 1,440 minutes in a day more effectively and more productively.

I realize that the workflow/process concept of simplicity is not strictly engineering or technology. In many cases, the best engineering solutions are simple, and the best technologies are often simple and elegant. If we can use this concept in our work product, why not adopt it in our work processes?

This year is shaping up to be an important one for technology development in the facilities engineering realm. Over the past few years, investment in facilities engineering technologies has increased dramatically, mostly driven by the move to deeper water and the need to deal with higher temperatures and pressures. Innovation abounds in all sectors of our business, and the concept of the intelligent, or digital, field is being realized at several projects.

Of particular interest to me is a change in business drivers for investment in key facilities technologies. The focus has shifted from capital efficiency to improved oil and gas recovery (IOR). Seafloor boosting, for example, is now seen in this light.

The industry’s early view was that the boosting of reservoir fluid pressure was a means of moving hydrocarbons over longer distances and eliminating the need for a local host—the focus was on capital expenditure and efficiency. Today, we look for opportunities to apply boosting technology to lower backpressure in the reservoir and improve oil recovery.

The difference in the two approaches is subtle but significant. The value proposition related to incremental oil and gas recoveries is greater than elimination/reduction of capital, even in multibillion-dollar projects.

Facilities technology selection and application for IOR requires multifunctional input and a comprehensive understanding of both reservoir and facilities infrastructure performance over the full life of field.

Uncertainties abound, and technology qualification to meet these new frontier challenges is difficult and complex, often involving multiple technology components and multiple suppliers.

This presents an area that could benefit from the application of my newly embraced philosophy of simplicity. Watch this column—I will let you know how I progress.



Paul S. Jones is the subsea manager at Chevron and a past SPE technical director for Projects, Facilities, and Construction. He is a member of the Editorial Board of Oil and Gas Facilities.



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