Digitalization and Decarbonization: Embracing the Future of Offshore Oil & Gas

Jennifer Hooper, Senior Vice President Industrial Applications Process Solutions at Siemens Energy September 26, 2022
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Offshore operators across the globe continue to push ahead with their Energy Transition strategies, seeking new, innovative ways to improve sustainability while simultaneously reducing costs and increasing efficiency. At Siemens Energy, we are seeing first-hand a willingness from customers to embrace new technologies and rethink traditional ways of working on a truly unprecedented scale. While the pace and path of the transition will look different for every company, one thing is clear: the extent to which a project or facility can both digitalize and decarbonize has become a key competitive advantage.

Harnessing Renewables

Power generation represents the single largest source of emissions on an offshore oil & gas facility. The Oil & Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) estimates that nearly 75% of CO2 emissions from its member company’s operations come from the energy used to power them. In the North Sea, gas turbines and diesel gen-sets make up more than two-thirds of total upstream greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.{1}

Several innovative solutions have been commercialized in recent years that aim to decarbonize prime mover operations. Examples include direct current (DC) grids or variable speed generators to optimize output from power plants for the given facility load. In addition, hybrid (i.e., diesel-electric) power plants with battery energy storage have also been used successfully. These solutions, and others, have yielded material emissions reductions from facilities. However, even more aggressive steps will be required for the industry to meet its long-term climate targets.

Using wind or solar to supplement generation from fossil fuel-based power plants has been discussed for several years but only recently deployed commercially (e.g., Hywind Tampen in the Norwegian Continental Shelf as a pilot).

Arguably the biggest hurdle standing in the way has been an inability on the part of operators to justify investments in offshore wind or floating solar generating capacity and supporting infrastructure. This is particularly the case for aging offshore production assets with only a limited number of service years, assets far from shore, or production assets in areas poor in gas. In addition, the inherent intermittency and unpredictability of power generation from wind and solar also present power stability risks that operators cannot afford to take on. In this case, as the Hywind Tampen, the estimated savings in terms of emissions are quite low (expected < 30%).

Siemens Energy’s BlueWind solution addresses these issues by employing lithium-ion batteries and grid converters in combination with offshore floating wind units (OFWUs) or solar arrays to create fully independent renewable microgrids. As a result, microgrids can supply emissions-free power to any offshore asset (drilling or production), thereby offsetting fossil-fuel-based power generation from gas turbines or gas/diesel gen-sets.

With BlueWind, it is possible for all onsite generators on the host installation to be shut down entirely during periods of peak wind or solar power production. This gives operators the option to (at least) partially electrify assets without investing in permanent infrastructures like long-distance “power from shore” transmission cables or permanent wind farms.

The extent to which emissions can be reduced will depend on several factors, including location and climatic conditions, total electrical demand of the asset, design of the existing power plant, etc. However, for North Sea assets, studies have shown that carbon emissions reductions in the range of up to 60-70% are possible compared to conventional power generation from gas turbines alone.

Accelerating Digital Transformation

Digitalization also has a vital role to play in the future of the offshore sector, particularly for companies that have aspirations of operating their assets remotely or de-manning.  

The industry has recently accelerated its adoption of technologies, including smart sensors, data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). However, most companies have yet to realize the full potential of their digital deployments – owing to a lack of functional and operational integration of data sources.

Today, many offshore installations have condition and performance monitoring systems (CPMS) to supervise critical processes and equipment, including motors, pumps, compressors, variable speed drives, cooling systems, and many other asset types. As a result, finding as many as 20-25 different diagnostic or monitoring systems on a modern production facility is not uncommon. Typically, these systems are provided by separate vendors/OEMs and thus are proprietary and siloed, creating a highly disparate environment where there is little standardization.

In this disparate environment, operators looking to access and analyze data from diverse sources often have to adopt a “swivel chair” approach, jumping from one screen or application to another. As a result, developing an up-to-date view of an asset or fleet of assets is virtually impossible. In addition, the lack of standardization for visualization and analysis creates challenges and inefficiencies that can lead to the wrong decisions being made; and, in some cases, compromised reliability and safety.

Addressing these challenges and taking the next step in offshore digitalization requires a more holistic approach to condition and performance monitoring, where data from real-time and near real-time sources is aggregated to create a single-pane view. This was the primary impetus behind the development of Siemens Energy’s BlueVision solution.

With a library of 80 different asset types, BlueVision enables operators to utilize a singular digital condition monitoring system for their entire facility or fleet, providing real-time transparency across multiple sites for more effective remote management. The ultimate objective is to minimize the overall risk profile across one or more facilities — in terms of operations and HSE compliance — and potentially even lower insurance premiums by reducing uncertainty during the underwriting process.

AI and ML toolsets within the application can define operating envelopes for specific assets and monitor data to alert operators to deviations and anomalous trends. This way, issues can be identified and mitigated before costly production disruptions or potential HSE events occur. In addition, digital twins of individual assets, entire systems, and entire plants can be invoked from within the application, with functional issues clearly identified on specific components.

Embracing Collaboration and Long-term Partnerships

Ultimately, navigating the Energy Transition is not something any single organization can achieve on its own. It will require co-creation and collaboration from many different parties, including operators, EPCs, equipment OEMs, etc. The companies that succeed will be the ones who embrace long-term partnerships that make full use of each respective party’s strengths and areas of expertise. Everyone’s resources will be needed to expand the range of business cases for emerging technologies and succeed in a low-carbon future.

For more information on Siemens Energy’s BlueWind solutions, visit BlueWind | Battery Energy Storage Solutions | BESS | Siemens Energy Global (


1 – Is net zero oil and gas production possible? 5 January 2021.

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