Valhall complex (photo)

The need for speed ABB & Norske Shell

When Norske Shell’s Ormen Lange gas field neared the start of operations in the summer of 2007, it was already the largest single development project in Norwegian industrial history. Production from its facilities in the North Sea could reach 70 million standard cubic meters per day, enough to supply up to 20 percent of the UK’s demand for gas.

Getting the project running quickly and reliably was a textbook case in the benefits of speed. Every additional day of uptime could mean millions, literally, in gas pumped or revenues earned and costs saved.

So that’s when Shell turned to ABB.

We were already its trusted partner, having worked with Aker Solutions, the engineering contractor for the facility, to supply automation, electrification, telecommunications and operator training systems.

Norske Shell – gas field in the North Sea (photo)

Norske Shell
Gas field in the North Sea

The size and complexity of the system cannot be overstated: The distributed control system is an ABB 800xA with six operator workplaces and eight engineering stations, requiring 42 servers in six cabinets for the process automation and information management system. The 15,000 I/Os are mainly on HART and Profibus.

“Although Norske Shell was involved throughout the design phase, we did not feel we had sufficiently detailed expertise to optimize the system,” says Arne Røsdal, Norske Shell’s operations support supervisor of Ormen Lange.

Oil pump (icon)Oil pump (icon) Commissioning & Tuning

When Shell asked ABB to speed up commissioning of the control logic, as well as to increase the uptime and efficiency of the equipment, we assembled a team with specialized expertise in process and production optimization from a department within ABB called Integrated Operations.

A founding project insight was to develop the process control services simultaneously with commissioning the automation system. This would require close integration between Shell’s and ABB’s teams.

Digital solutions would make that collaboration possible.

ABB’s services combined our deep industry sector expertise with tailor-made tools and applications to single out and identify a problem, adapt the software or control strategy, as well as pinpoint issues with the mechanical equipment or the operational procedures.

“The first objective was to get the plant and sub-systems up and running as quickly as possible. We started by tackling any obvious problems and then gradually moved on to loop tuning, control logic improvement and operational support,” says Arne Røsdal.

Stop watch (icon)Stop watch (icon) Operational Excellence

The speed of operational insights that ABB provided not only made it easier to identify problems earlier and solve them permanently during the startup phase, but also enabled ongoing performance improvements.

“For instance, condensate production has increased, which helps increase revenues. The ABB team has also helped reduce the amount of heat transfer medium in the cooling processes,” says Røsdal.

Additionally, the ABB team has identified opportunities for energy savings of more than 3 MW. Significant energy savings have been achieved by optimizing control of the export compressor by reducing the cooler temperature.

Improved plant up-time, less wear of equipment, increased condensate production and reduced energy use all mean maximized profit with safe and robust operation, while maintaining quality constraints and export requirements. The result has been increased up-time by four to five days per year.

Again, time means money.