ABB and Equinor continue pioneering work from Aasta Hansteen for increased degree of autonomy on Johan Castberg

  • ABB delivers solutions for automated start-up and a high degree of automated normal operation in close collaboration with Equinor
  • Solutions will contribute to increased production time, lower emissions and better health, environment, and safety (HSE)
  • Operator assistance systems are on their way into the oil and gas industry
ABB and Equinor increase the degree of autonomy on the Johan Castberg offshore field (Ill. Equinor).
ABB and Equinor increase the degree of autonomy on the Johan Castberg offshore field (Ill. Equinor).

ABB was earlier awarded the contract to supply the safety and automation system (SAS) as well as a simulator to the Johan Castberg offshore platform. Equinor has now raised the ambition and awarded ABB a contract for the design and implementation of solutions for an even higher degree of automation.

«ABB is very pleased that Equinor is challenging the current level of autonomy in the oil and gas industry, and that they are choosing ABB as a key supplier on this journey,” says Tor Ove Lussand, local division manager ABB Energy Industries in Norway. “The assignment is carried out in close collaboration with Equinor operations for early involvement of users of the solutions. In addition, this ensures that all operational assessments are considered.”

This assignment is a logical succession for the collaboration that Equinor and ABB have on the Aasta Hansteen offshore platform, where ABB has delivered and put into operation similar solutions.

“Initially, some operators were skeptical about whether the automation would work in real life. New operator interfaces for better situational awareness and demonstration on the training simulator ensured confidence. The solutions quickly became popular in the control room when the operators gained experience with them,” says Stian Nerbråten in ABB. He was responsible for the design and commissioning of the Aasta Hansteen solutions.

Increased production

The new solutions are scheduled for implementation in 2024. Then Johan Castberg will have a completely new level of automation compared with similar facilities. It entails great benefits, both financially and for health, environment, and safety.

“Based on the experience from Aasta Hansteen, we expect around one week of extra production per year at Johan Castberg,” says Nerbråten. “This is because the start-up of the plant will be carried out much faster. In addition, operators will be able to avert production shutdowns in the event of a failure in parts of the process - something that would not have been possible without such automation.”

Reduced emissions and improved HSE

Tor Ove Lussand at ABB believes that such autonomous solutions will become increasingly important in the future, in part helping to reduce emissions.

“Increased use of autonomous solutions in complex facilities can be an important contribution to increased sustainability. For oil and gas facilities, it also means a reduced need for flaring and minimizing the time that heavy rotating equipment run with full recirculation, i.e., unnecessary idling,” he says. “It will also provide significant HSE benefits, among other things by removing several thousand operator clicks for a full start-up of the plant. This frees up time for the operators in the control room, which can be used for monitoring, thus strengthening the operator's role as a safety barrier, increasing safety.”

The Johan Castberg offshore field is located approx. 100 km north of the Snøhvit field in the Barents Sea. The field is being developed with a FPSO (floating production storage and offloading) and extensive seabed development, with a total of 30 wells spread over ten bottom frames and two satellite structures. It has an estimated 450-650 million barrels of oil equivalents. The field is planned to start up in 2024 and is estimated to produce oil for over 30 years.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a leading global technology company that energizes the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future. By connecting software to its electrification, robotics, automation and motion portfolio, ABB pushes the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels. With a history of excellence stretching back more than 130 years, ABB’s success is driven by about 105,000 talented employees in over 100 countries.


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