Optimized oil production with edge computing

Siemens digitalization expert Helmut Schnabl talked about the strengths of a software-driven system and optimizing oil pumps directly on the field.

SIWELL Artificial Lift Suite

Siemens is optimizing oil production by applying digital technologies 

The oil price has settled in at just under 80 dollars a barrel. What effect is this price level having on investment in the oil and gas industry?

Helmut Schnabl: We are seeing investment activity pick back up in the oil industry. The industry seems to believe that the price level will not rise substantially from where it is now over the medium term. Without investments, it will not be possible to make profits in the future. The focus here is on increasing efficiency, including in oil production. And this is exactly what our SIWELL Artificial Lift Suite is about. It is an innovative software-driven solution for optimizing oil pumps. SIWELL Artificial Lift Suite uses existing hardware and sensors at the wells and processes the data by means of analytical methods on IoT devices from the Siemens portfolio. This industrial approach is based on standardized software and hardware components, which makes it extremely competitive. The ideal answer to the current challenges on the market!

What role is Siemens Austria playing in this innovation, and how is it structured?

Schnabl: Siemens Austria developed this end-to-end solution for the automation of well pumps in collaboration with colleagues around the world. It is a modular system and covers all components from power supply and automation to the analytical software to operate the pumps. The core of the solution is the Simatic Nanobox from Siemens, an edge computing device that processes all sensor data from the well and pumps in real time to optimize operations. The Nanobox is relatively small, includes a full-power IPC, and accesses the existing sensors, which allows it to perform calculations to optimize the pumps and thus oil production directly in the field. We model the conditions in the well – which can be thousands of meters deep – based on various parameters such as pressure, temperature, and flow, and in this way can ensure optimal operation.

SIWELL Artificial Lift Suite is an innovative software-driven solution for optimizing oil pumps. It uses existing hardware and sensors at the wells and processes the data by means of analytical methods on IoT devices from the Siemens portfolio.
Helmut Schnabl, principal consultant for digital oil and gas at Siemens

Directly at the well – does this mean that the Nanobox has to be explosion proof?

Schnabl: No, because it is located outside the hazard zone in the control cabinet. The sensors that it accesses must of course be certified as explosion proof. But this hardware is already installed, we simply connect it to the Nanobox. And the system not only operates autonomously, but can be integrated into a larger overall system. The raw data from the well is stored locally in the IPC and can be called up at any time so it can be used to control and optimize the entire oilfield. The values calculated by the Nanobox are also handed over to higher-level systems, where they can be processed further.


How many wells does an oilfield have on average?

Schnabl: That is hard to say. The number can vary substantially, from less than a hundred to thousands of wells per field. But that is is not relevant for the use of our system. The solution is highly scalable, and can thus be deployed on any size of oilfield. This is the particular strength of the SIWELL Artificial Lift Suite. We can use it to optimize a single well as it operates, making it into an “autonomous oil well.” This means automating production and also reducing maintenance to the greatest degree possible. This includes methods for predictive and preventive maintenance as well as the inclusion of video analyses and vibration and acoustic sensors, for example, to obtain a detailed overview of the conditions on the field at all times.


The solution was launched recently on the market, what is the pricing structure?

Schnabl: We are currently working on innovative pricing models such as a pay-per-use concept. In this case, customers would pay a moderate fixed monthly fee per connected oil well.


Who is SIWELL primarily intended for, conventional oil production, gas production, or non-conventional exploration methods like oil sands?

Schnabl: Our focus at present is on conventional oil production. Our solution will be available for virtually all types of oil pumps, whether they are pumpjacks that work on the surface or electric submersible pumps that work thousands of meters down in the well. Gas will soon also be part of the standard solution portfolio, and other production methods can be covered by adapting the software module with relatively little effort.


How big is the core team that developed this solution in Austria?

Schnabl: The core team is made up of a handful of experts. We are proud of what we have achieved in Austria. Our strength lies in being embedded in the worldwide Siemens structure, which enables us to continue developing the system with colleagues from around the globe as a networked interdisciplinary team.


Interview from process pur from September 3, 2018