Statoil Fuels Pipelines of Innovation and Prosperity
In any industry, assets deteriorate over time. Equipment fails. Infrastructure requires maintenance. But the matter is particularly pressing in the oil and gas industry where pipes, platforms and rigs are often in remote locations with extreme environments.
One of the acute challenges faced by the petroleum industry is the buildup of wax in pipelines during transportation of waxy crude oil. The deposition of wax can lead to the ‘plugging’ of the tubing and surface flow equipment, which then leads to a significant fall in oil production rates from the affected well. This is an enormously expensive problem for nearly all oil producers around the world and companies often spend millions of dollars in remedial procedures and incur tens of millions or more in lost revenues.
Failure to address the issue of wax deposition leads to costly maintenance of the pipelines, sometimes necessitating the building of additional platforms to be able to address wax build-up at critical points in the pipeline. In extreme cases, the distance of a deep-water field may require such vast amounts of pipeline and maintenance so as to prevent it from being exploited altogether.
The build-up of wax in crude oil pumping equipment is especially problematic in less hospitable and cold environments such as the North Sea, where the long transport distances in deeper water depths and more mature fields means greater likelihood of wax deposition and greater associated cost to remedy a clogged pipeline.
Such was the challenge facing Statoil, the Norwegian oil and gas production, transport, and refining giant. Statoil operates in 40 countries and is the world's largest operator in waters more than 100 meters deep—focusing much of its upstream activities on the Norwegian continental shelf and the North Sea.
To find counter-measures to address the issue of wax buildup, a team of Statoil scientists turned to Invention Machine Goldfire, the innovation intelligence platform. Leveraging Goldfire, Statoil investigated alternatives to the costly but widely used practice of “pigging”, which involves sending a scrubbing device through the pipeline to minimize the wax build up and improve the flow of oil.
Statoil first turned to Goldfire’s Root Cause Analysis tool to help them understand what lead to wax deposition in sub-sea pipelines—why does wax form? in what conditions? what impacts do temperature and pressure have upon the wax? why does it sometimes crystallize and pass through the pipeline and other times form a sticky substance that adheres to the pipeline?
From there, Statoil then used Goldfire to collaborate and build a functional model of the wax deposition challenge. This model served to highlight some of the problems identified in the Root Cause Analysis and toidentify some of the techniques which might address the problems. Initial ranking of concepts and ideas was done using Goldfire’s Solution Ranking, helping the Statoil team to determine which concepts warranted further, more detailed research.
In researching these concepts within Goldfire, the Statoil scientists leveraged Goldfire’s extensive patent collection and access to the Deep Web. The team also researched the company’s own technical content, all of which had previously been available to the Statoil team, but had not been easily mined without the use of Goldfire’s powerful semantic engine and in the context of the concepts and challenges identified in the Function Modeling and Root Cause Analysis processes.
As a result of Statoil’s work in Goldfire, the Statoil team quickly identified several new and valuable ideas for managing the issue of wax deposition.One idea was immediately submitted for a patent application and five further ideas have subsequently been put into Statoil’s patent application system. Simultaneously, Statoil is using Goldfire to help them develop concepts around a revolutionary drilling technology and has identified three potential concepts for patent application.
Rainer Hoffman, senior research scientist explained, “Goldfire helped us structure our ideas and innovation process—helping us generate solutionsto the serious issue of wax build-up and premature pipeline abandonment. Considering the maintenance cost and lifetime value of just one pipeline, our work is an important building block, and significant.”
Wax build up in oil pipelines
restricts flow and is highly expensive to maintain. In
extreme cases, wells need to be abandoned.
Used Goldfire to identify alternatives to widely used, but costly techniques to improve oil flow.
“If we didn’t have Goldfire, sure, we would have been able to come up with some ideas. But certainly not the number of ideas we achieved, at this level of innovation, with a high degree of viability that are patent-ready—in the same time frame. This tool has helped us structure innovation and set development priorities which has been positively useful.”
- Rainer Hoffman
Senior Research Scientist Statoil
Goldfire Usage Highlights:
Statoil’s commitment to developing valuable technologies is supported by Goldfire’s:
- Root Cause Analysis to focus efforts
- Function Models to visually
articulate the challenge and
serve as a dynamic collaboration tool
- Embedded innovation methodologies to broaden
creative thinking and suggest innovative ways of approaching the challenge
- Integrated Semantic Technology to systematically research relevant concepts from Statoil’s internal data, Goldfire technical content and worldwide knowledge.
- Goldfire Intelligence to review and protect solutions as new intellectual property emerges