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Efficiency is a significant priority to every business operating in the full range of oil and gas markets. The sustained oil low price has certainly driven major changes across all aspects of the exploration and production industries in recent years.

In 2014, a report by McKinsey into the efficiency of North Sea production facilities highlighted the potential for both new and ageing production infrastructure to deliver greater production efficiency.  The industry reacted to the efficiency challenge, following the major drop in oil price, with initiatives like the UK Oil and Gas Efficiency Task Force; which has helped define many areas where action can be taken to target improved efficiency and work towards securing the future of the industry.

Efficiency improvements can come in a multitude of areas, through every aspect of an oil and gas business and throughout the industry, for example in:

  1. Oil and gas production and processing – the Efficiency Task Force mentioned above has highlighted many areas that will help here;

  2. How companies are managed, operated and structured – we continue to read announcements of business restructuring, acquisitions and mergers where talk of business efficiencies are a primary objective;

  3. How we perform our work – digital technology can enable significant progress to be made in the efficiency of engineering activities in design, analysis and simulation are undertaken as discussed in the following.

Relating to Siemens Industrial Software activities, there are two key steps to facilitate fundamental change in efficiency in how we perform our work in engineering design, analysis and simulation both during product development (and standardization) and project delivery:

  • Increased automation of computer-aided engineering (CAE) processes that have historically been resource-intensive for engineers and analysts;

  • The ability to automatically and critically find designs quickly and efficiently, especially where many complex (and potentially conflicting) design criteria and operating constraints exist. At Siemens, we term this approach automated design-space exploration.

Siemens Industrial Software and services are assisting our oil and gas customers to make significant efficiency improvements in engineering design and simulation, enabling reduction in the time, cost and engineering resources needed to deliver a project, product or system. If we cast our minds back only a short time, the engineering resource shortage was the key oil and gas issue when the oil price was at its highest. This goes to show that improving the efficiency of how we deliver value as engineers will remain a long-standing critical issue, both during the highs and lows in the market.

The value of automated design-space exploration was first grasped in markets that have gone through similar complex and challenging market conditions, such as automotive and aerospace. The commercial, engineering and technological challenges faced by these other industries have more parallels to oil and gas than may first appear obvious. There are now a fast-growing number of examples where our customers have implemented automated design-space exploration to find appropriate engineering design or operating solutions faster; saving time and money.

In the animation below, FMC combined Siemens Industrial Software simulation and automated design-space exploration technology to design a subsea heat exchanger.  There were 11 complex design parameters that together produced millions of potential design and operating configurations.  Previous system design had taken around six months using a Design of Experiments approach, combined with simulations of the heat exchanger’s performance.  


Within two weeks of introducing automated design-space exploration, FMC’s engineers identified three families of design, each of which exceeded the design objectives and the prior design’s thermal performance by 20 percent. This new way of working improved the design in much less time than the previous, traditional approach and identified multiple groups of design options, allowing FMC to also reduce manufacturing and material costs.  

As I wrote earlier in this piece, efficiency comes in many forms and we all play our part in looking for ways to come through these challenging times stronger and better equipped for whatever the future may hold.


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