Digital Oilfield Capabilities
our digital oilfield capabilities are expanding
Marathon Oil launched digital oilfield capabilities in our South Texas Eagle Ford asset in 2016 to boost operational reliability, production for sale and team efficiency. In 2017, Eagle Ford achieved production gains, efficiency improvements and other benefits from the digital oilfield.
Using lessons learned in Eagle Ford, our North Dakota Bakken and Oklahoma teams opened control centers as coordinating hubs for daily operations in late 2017 and early 2018, respectively. We are standardizing digital oilfield facilities, equipment and tools whenever possible to manage costs and enable employees to adapt easily if they transfer to a different asset. Digital technologies and solutions are pilot tested and rolled out in one asset, and then transferred to the other assets.
The digital oilfield allows us to automate field operations, transmit and manage large amounts of operational data, perform site and equipment surveillance remotely, and analyze and optimize operations. In the control centers, operators monitor and analyze a continuous stream of well data, with the aid of dashboards that help them visualize data and quickly interpret large amounts of information. Operators can adjust valves and pumps remotely to limit downtime and upsets, optimize well productivity, and observe trends that help them predict and prevent issues.
Machine learning has the potential to enable devices like controllers to operate autonomously to manage performance. For example, in 2017, Eagle Ford conducted a pilot program that involved putting controllers on gas lift wells to manage flow capacity, eliminating the need to manually shut down wells experiencing flow issues and restart the wells.
The pilot on one 25-well facility resulted in reducing deferred production and increasing efficiency. Based on the positive outcomes, Eagle Ford installed controllers on approximately 85 wells at a second facility. The asset is considering expanding controller use and other assets are planning pilots to adopt the technology.
One goal of the digital oilfield is to reduce the need to visit wells daily, as well as for unscheduled activities like manual well shutdowns. This lowers risk from driving and wellsite hazards, and allows operators to focus on high-priority locations and tasks based on well downtime, deferred production and HES risks. In addition, all Eagle Ford central facilities are outfitted with fixed security cameras for real-time monitoring, investigating alarms or reviewing events.
Due to the technology, managing the digital oilfield requires fewer, but more skilled employees. We promote many of our best field employees into higher-skilled jobs at control centers and provide them with extensive on-the-job training. Through ongoing collaboration, control center supervisors and board operators have developed standard tools, dashboards, geographic information system (GIS) maps and processes for many tasks common to all of our control centers. To further support employee development, Marathon Oil is developing a knowledge library and establishing sustainable processes for new hire onboarding, refresher training and cross-asset collaboration.
Finally, to drive sustainability in the digital oilfield, we are defining and monitoring key performance indicators (KPI) such as production increases, operator efficiency, dashboard and tool utilization rates, and business cost reductions.
As we progress in 2018, we will continue to expand our capabilities in Eagle Ford, Bakken and Oklahoma while starting to plan the digital oilfield for our Permian Basin asset.