The wrench, the screwdriver and the iPad

Operators on Maersk Oil’s Culzean platform in the North Sea will be as likely to carry a tablet as more traditional tools. Advanced information management will mean more data can be stored in a more easily accessible format – making the whole operation more efficient.

Culzean spare parts
With a fully connected platform, more positions will be able to be based onshore, and maintenance and ordering of spare parts can be better planned.

The Culzean project

  • Approved by the UK Oil and Gas Authority in August 2015, Culzean is located about 240 kilometres off Aberdeen and is expected to produce enough gas to meet 5% of total UK demand at peak production in 2020/21
  • Its forecast plateau production is 300-450 million standard cubic feet per day, giving Maersk Oil equity production of 30,000-45,000 boepd
  • Maersk Oil UK (49.99%) is the operator of the high pressure, high temperature (HPHT) field. JX Nippon (34.01%) and Britoil (BP) (16%) are its partners
  • Culzean benefits from an HPHT fiscal allowance, which exempts a portion of a company’s profits from the supplementary charge, or top-up tax paid by the North Sea industry

There’s a problem with a valve on a North Sea production platform. A worker steps outside with a tablet and snaps a photo.

Back onshore, they pull up the whole history of the part – how old it is and what maintenance has been carried out – at the push of a button. Linked up on a permanent video conference, the experts in the onshore office can quickly assess the best course of action and immediately discuss this with the manufacturer and offshore team.

This is how Culzean’s connected platform will work after production starts in 2019. With fibre optic cables, advanced data management and robust wireless networks that cover the whole facility, everything can be documented online, meaning ease of access, improved safety, and time and money savings.

“The aim on Culzean is to tie everything together,” says Stuart McAuley, Culzean Engineering Manager.

“One of the biggest challenges offshore today is that you spend a lot of time finding the right data.

What we plan for Culzean is if something breaks or a valve needs replacing, you will have instant access to the data required whether you are on the worksite, office or the other side of the world.”

Design expertise
The technology already exists, but is often employed piecemeal, meaning the full benefits are not realised. With a fully connected platform, more positions will be able to be based onshore, and maintenance and ordering of spare parts can be better planned. The aim is to improve efficiency by 20% in terms of people’s time.

“With the challenges in energy markets, using technology to improve our efficiency and bring sustainable cost savings is becoming ever more important. We estimate the digital toolkit can save more than USD 10m annually,” says Troels Albrechtsen, Vice President for Corporate Technology & Projects.

“The planning that is going into Culzean is building minimised costs into the whole project and new models of working that offer protection against wherever markets go next.”

Critical equipment will be tagged so that when it is scanned, key details such as manufacturing data and certificates and video simulation of maintenance and operations come up immediately. Routine maintenance will be carried out by checking off a list on a tablet.

Building in lower costs
One of the biggest costs offshore is helicopter flights. By basing more staff onshore, the number of required flights will be reduced, bringing significant savings.

Planning ahead means operational delivery can be as a competitive as possible throughout Culzean’s lifespan.

Gretchen Watkins


The permanent video link will mean onshore and offshore teams can communicate face-to-face whenever needed, simply by walking into the conference room and asking their counterpart to join them at the other end.

“We have decided to have a small operations team embedded in the Culzean project team from an early stage. By planning carefully in the design phase, when we have the expertise of the design team and vendors on board, the operations team has established the foundation for bigger savings through the operating phase,” says Gretchen Watkins, Maersk Oil’s Chief Operating Officer.

“This ensures operations excellence is given the best chance of success and our operational delivery can be as competitive as possible throughout the life of the facility.”