Fuelling the energy transition

By Austin Hay, ADC Energy

Control systems and DP: Closed-bus operations deliver a more efficient power management system
Control systems and DP: Closed-bus operations deliver a more efficient power management system (photo: ADC Energy Ltd.)

The oil and gas industry has faced rising pressure to demonstrate decarbonisation efforts, and following COP26 and the subsequent Glasgow Pact, the world remains more focused than ever on reducing carbon emissions to reach net zero targets.

To support this drive, operators are increasingly re-evaluating existing assets to determine where energy efficiencies can be gained, and a key element of this process is the assessment of power management systems.

Evaluating power sources
Dynamically Positioned (DP) rigs are widely used in deep water oil and gas exploration as they allow the asset to retain position over the wellhead using propellers and thrusters.

Generally, DP drilling rigs operate in a split-bus or open-bus configuration, with the power management switchboards operating as silos. A typical configuration will have all the breakers between the switchboards with each operating independently. This is the most fault-tolerant option to ensure malfunctions on one switchboard are not automatically transferred between the systems. While a split-bus configuration delivers greater asset assurance, it results in more engines being online than may be required for the total operational loads. Therefore, the engines are not working as efficiently as intended and can create greater emission output. As rig owners strive to reduce fuel consumption, this option is no longer viewed as the ideal mode of power management.

Investment in technology is essential to allow this change to happen safely and efficiently
Investment in technology is essential to allow this change to happen safely and efficiently (photo: ADC Energy Ltd.)

The application of closed-bus operations is not a new concept. However, as the industry continues to focus on decarbonising existing assets, there has been a greater emphasis on how rigs can successfully transition to this configuration to deliver a more efficient power management system.

When operating in closed-bus mode, the switchboards are tied together, enabling the power plant to run with fewer engines and more optimal loads, resulting in a significant reduction in fuel usage.

While this option provides a more efficient power source, it does present assurance threats. With switchboards operating together, and not independently, faults can more easily transfer from one engine room to another. In worst-case scenarios, this can result in overspeed or underfilling, driving the load so much that it pulls power from the engine, creating a blackout. While there is a clear desire from operators to drive energy efficiency goals, operational integrity must be guaranteed throughout this process. Therefore, investment in technology is essential to allow this change to happen safely and efficiently.

Identifying fuel efficiency gains
ADC Energy recently completed a project with a major rig owner to analyse a rig’s current power management system and determine if it could safely and effectively operate in a closed-bus configuration.

As part of the project, Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) was conducted to determine if the existing protection system was able to support this transition. As asset assurance is an integral element to consider when evaluating power management systems, it is critical that testing parameters are analysed to mitigate any risk to the rig.

The project highlighted that moving to closed-bus mode could successfully reduce annual CO2 emissions by 4,800 tonnes per year – potentially delivering a fuel saving of $620,000 per year – while reducing engine running hours by 20%.

With the number of engines required to be online at any given time decreased, the enhancement also provides operators and asset owners with greater maintenance schedule flexibility, which can create potential savings of up to USD 150,000 per annum. The project clearly demonstrates how operators can utilise specialist inspection providers to help navigate them through this process to ensure that assets continue to operate securely and efficiently with minimal environmental impact.

Investing in a net-zero future
Existing assets will play a key role in the energy transition, but rig owners currently face a difficult balance of reducing carbon emissions, while recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. For the industry to achieve its goal of decarbonising assets and deliver more sustainable operations, investment is critical. While we are seeing encouraging signs of this, the industry must act quickly if we are we are to move towards a net-zero future.

ADC Energy Director, Austin Hay
ADC Energy Director, Austin Hay

ADC Energy Ltd. is a specialist provider of integrated rig inspections, working with some of the largest operators in the world to deliver collaborative assessments to identify potential digital, mechanical, electrical or hydraulic issues which may occur onboard an installation or offshore asset. The business works closely its customers to provide support in the identification of appropriate solutions, applying 35 years of science, engineering and practical knowledge to identify cost effective and appropriate solutions to engineering problems.