How EMI Helps Subsea Data Collection

By Janice Abel


One of the biggest challenges facing companies today is being able to integrate, contextualize, and use data from disparate EMI helps subsea data collectionsources.  Enterprise manufacturing intelligence (EMI) systems help companies tap into the vast quantities of data they collect and turn those data into actionable information for decision support to help run their assets and operations more effectively.  EMI technology can help improve production, minimize human mistakes, and improve efficiencies. EMI helps subsea data collection by including components that integrate, contextualize, analyze, and visualize the data.

Integrating data for EMI is even more challenging in subsea oil & gas operations, where owner-operators need to access data from a variety of data sources on the ocean floor remotely, typically using low-bandwidth communications.

Chevron’s Jack and St. Malo (JSM) fields are located in the Walker Ridge Area in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 270 miles south of New Orleans.  The two fields are 30 miles apart, in water depths of approximately 7,000 feet.  The fields are being developed with EMI helps subsea data collectionsubsea completions flowing back to a single host floating production unit (semi-submersible) located between the fields. The facility is the largest deepwater semi-submersible floating production unit in the world (based on displacement).  The Jack/St. Malo oil export pipeline is the largest pipeline ever placed at this water depth.  The site’s host facility’s initial capacity is 170,000 barrels per day of oil and 42.5 million cubic feet per day of natural gas, with capabilities for future expansion.

This pilot project is an important part of Chevron’s plan to increase production to 3.1 million barrels per day by 2017.   To enable this goal, the company is deploying game-changing technologies to integrate and deal with the massive amount of data obtained from the sea floor.  Obtaining reliable, high-quality, real-time data at these depths can be extremely challenging. 

The company wanted to enable operators to interact with and control the process reliably and safely from different operator stations and locations with the same look and feel. This requires a standard approach to avoid the need for operators to be familiar with different graphical interfaces, alarm handling procedures, and other applications. 

Pilot Project Scope

An objective of the pilot was to automate and standardize critical operations workflows using a reservoir management framework. Another goal was to connect the JSM facility to the operations center in Covington, LA to support remote operations and to subject matter experts (SMEs) at Chevron’s Houston office.

Upstream Workflow Transformation (UWT) Vision

Chevron’s Enterprise Automation System (EAS) vision is to connect the company’s vast assets on the ocean floor (with over 3,000 individual wells), to over 125 of Chevron’s global facilities.  Chevron launched its “i-field” digital oilfield initiative over 15 years ago to collect the data.

About five years ago, Chevron began another initiative called "Upstream Workflow Transformation (UWT),” to create value from the data. The initiative included setting up surveillance and data-gathering capabilities.  The company wanted to automate, standardize, and optimize workflows and reservoir management globally to improve cross-organizational collaboration, support remote engineering, and reduce training requirements. 

Supporting the UWT Initiative

The UWT initiative requires being able to control and monitor the i-field remotely.  This was particularly challenging because of the low bandwidth and high latency constraints typically encountered in subsea operations.  Not all offshore facility had fiber optics, satellite equipment, or even the same communication equipment.  UWT also includes enterprise integration supported by a web-based platform, mobile devices, KPIs, dashboards, and other capabilities.  To provide operational intelligence for remote decision support, Chevron required the ability to integrate and view surveillance data in real time and near-real time on dashboards and operator consoles. 

EMI helps subsea data collection

Zero-Engineering Solution

A principle driver for EAS is having one main control system and data infrastructure or historian.  According to Uy Pham, Chevron Team Lead, “We did not want to have one system and then have to build another database or have to map the data to other databases because of the high volume of data being collected.  The goal was to have a ‘zero-engineering solution’ or seamless integration and automatic conversion from the facility to the enterprise.”

The EAS solution has several components and is based on Yokogawa’s FAST/TOOLS application:

  • A remote gateway station to collect data from the facility to integrate with the enterprise
  • HMI and web servers to get the data to the right worker 
  • Secure data and intelligence, even with low-bandwidth communications

Integrating to the Bottom of the Sea

For an automation platform, the company implemented a Yokogawa CENTUM process automation system (PAS).  The PAS is fully integrated with the safety systems, power generation systems, utilities, hydrocarbon production systems, subsea metering systems, and other support systems used in oil production.

The PAS also integrates to third-party systems, including a power management system and a complex electrical system used to power subsea pumps.  All information for the semi-submersible production is integrated into the central control system from which operators can monitor all subsea and surface operations and manage alarms and events using a common interface.

The process depends upon having redundant safety controllers (45) and process control network (PCN) security to provide the high availability required.  In addition, the project included 21 field control stations and many servers (86) that run operator graphics, data historian, application services, operator training simulators (OTSs) and other applications.  With over 10,000 I/O points, the site generates a lot of data.

Wide Area Controller

The offshore operator stations are replicated in the remote operations center in Covington, LA.  The data are fed to the UWT i-field EMI helps subsea data collectionapplications, which are organized into work streams such as real-time reservoir monitoring, rotating equipment, gas turbines, submersible pumps, etc. By continuously integrating and organizing the data into work streams, the data are analyzed to be able to predict the performance of offshore assets.

Because regulations prohibit hydrocarbon production on unmanned facilities, the system is connected to the Yokogawa PAS and linked to other systems for environmental monitoring, load monitoring, and safety system monitoring.  The wide area controller solution connects all equipment through low-bandwidth satellite communications and transmits the data to the Covington facility.  The hurricane evacuation system replicates offshore activity in the central offshore control system environment. 

Latency represented a real challenge. However, even with a high latency on the satellite link, Chevron can achieve a call up time of two seconds for graphics and one-second data update rates, an acceptable level of performance.

Connecting Data for Hurricane Response

Chevron has leveraged EMI technology to integrate weather capabilities that help the company prepare for evacuations. By monitoring local weather conditions workers can be evacuated 48 hours before a hurricane is expected to arrive. While making sure the workers are safe, Chevron also needs to maintain surveillance - even when they leave the facility.  If a hurricane is predicted to be in the facility’s path, the company’s procedure is to shut down operations and evacuate the crew.  Once evacuated, the safety and marine facilities on the semi-submersible floating production units are controlled and monitored remotely. 

Managing the Data

With over half a million tags per subsea production asset coming in to the system every six seconds that equals five million tags in a minute.   If ten assets are connected it’s ten times that amount. Clearly, this is way too much information for an operator to comprehend.  Thus, Chevron uses advanced operator graphics that sparingly uses color to draw operators’ attention to the most critical screens and information on an exception basis.  The company also utilizes the data and alarms in various work streams for real-time decision support.

Mobile Visibility

Mobility is becoming more important in EMI applications.  For Chevron, mobility was not previously available.  Now engineers can get a call from operations offshore and interpret the data using graphics on a smart phone or tablet securely.  An engineer in the Gulf of Mexico can get help from Perth or any one of Chevron’s Global Network experts because they can see what’s happening on their smartphone.


The St. Jack and Malo pilot project enabled Chevron to evaluate a number of new integration, automation, and Big Data EMI helps subsea data collectiontechnologies in a demanding real-world environment to lay the groundwork for similar projects.  

The company believes that the project’s success was largely attributed to the development of high-performance teams and partnerships, which enabled the company to leverage the team’s experience, stewardship and guidance with their global engineering standards.

Chevron collaborated with hundreds of suppliers and contractors, harnessing the talent of thousands of people across multiple countries to complete the project.  The project’s successes with technological advancements will be transferred to other deepwater projects in Chevron’s portfolio.    Future plans include integrating more operational intelligence with analytics and intelligence for more informed actionable decisions and optimization.

Chevron’s recommendations for successfully implementing this type of project include:

  • Get support from the business units and global automation teams during initial project conception
  • Enforce corporate policies and procedures, particularly network security
  • Develop a high-performance team that includes partnerships with third parties
  • Work with new and advanced technologies
  • Get resource commitments, including partnerships and third parties
  • Consider lifecycle support and deployment


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Keywords: Chevron, Deepwater Oilfields, Subsea, Yokogawa, Big Data, IoT, Remote Operations, Enterprise Manufacturing Intelligence, EMI, ARC Advisory Group.

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