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Weeks to cap a subsea oil leak? It’s industry standard, says official

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Oil companies working in Newfoundland and Labrador’s offshore say it could take weeks to bring in and install special equipment to cap a blown-out subsea well, but a company in Houston, Texas says that timeline could be shorter.

“With nothing else to hand, the industry has accepted that these systems are the standard. Until, of course, response times are investigated more fully,” said Andy Cuthbert, global engineering and technology manager for Boots and Coots, a well-control company owned by Halliburton.

Cuthbert said a system developed by Boots and Coots called RapidCap can be transported much faster than the systems most-often used by major oil companies, cutting down on travel time.

“What we’re saying is we can get to a site a lot quicker.”

Massive equipment to be shipped

Documents filed by ExxonMobil and Equinor, then called Statoil, to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency say it could take anywhere from 14 to 36 days to deliver and install capping stack systems, special devices that can be affixed to a blown-out well leaking oil into the sea.

In the documents filed by ExxonMobil for an exploratory drilling project in the Jeanne d’Arc Basin and Flemish Pass Basin, the company says it can cap a well in 14-21 days, with a worst-case scenario of 30 days.

Equinor gives a window of 18-36 days for an exploratory drilling project in the Flemish Pass Basin. A spokesperson for the company told CBC News earlier that those kinds of timelines are widespread across the industry.

Statoil contracted the West Hercules, a deepwater rig designed for harsh conditions, for exploration in the Barents Sea. (Statoil/Canadian Press) (Statoil/Canadian Press)

Cuthbert said the big delays come from old equipment that can’t be easily transported.

The most-often used stacks are owned by Oil Spill Response Limited, an British company whose shareholders include major oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Statoil and Chevron.

Those stacks are stationed in Norway, Brazil, South Africa and Singapore. If one is needed in Newfoundland and Labrador, it has to be shipped from one of those four locations.

Those cap systems can weigh between 50 and 100 tonnes and need to be transported on huge, specialized ships.

The availability of vessels that large, Cuthbert said, is “few and far between.”

30 days is industry standard, says CAPP

Paul Barnes, Atlantic and Arctic Canada director of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’s (CAPP), says a 30-day window for a capping system is the industry norm and that it’s not presently a concern for CAPP.

“It is certainly a long time, without a doubt,” he said. “But this would be a very rare occurrence, blowouts are very rare, worldwide. The view around the world is if there is a blowout, it will take at least 30 days in order to stop it.”

Paul Barnes, director of Atlantic Canada and Arctic for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. (CBC)

That’s because of transport, he said, but it’s also because the area around a blown-out well, and the well itself, need a lot of prep work. Preparing to lower and attach the cap also needs a lot of logistical work.

“A 30-day window seems to be the average worldwide in order to kind of prepare for a capping stack to go on. You could likely do it much quicker, but 30 days; it seems to be kind of an outlier, a good guess.”

Because of all the prep work needed, he said cutting down on travel time by shipping the stack by air won’t cut down on the overall time required to install the system.

“It will still take just as long by an air freight-able capping stack versus one that’s brought here on a vessel,” he said.

Cuthbert says the RapidCap system could change capping times. (Halliburton)

With respect to the RapidCap system, he said because it’s modular, it has to be dismantled, shipped and then put back together before it can be sailed out to the blown well, which takes time and testing.

“So the amount of time you will save is probably no different than you would by having it shipped by sea right away.”

Barnes said he couldn’t give an estimate for how long a best-case scenario installation would take if the equipment — ships and technicians included — were nearby, ready and waiting.

Read more stories from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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