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2018年05月07日16:41 来源:小站整理
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Oil and technology

Data drilling

The oil industry struggles to enter the digital age




IT SOUNDS like a spectacular feat of engineering. Employees of Royal Dutch Shell located in Calgary, Canada, recently drilled a well 6,200 miles (10,000km) away in Vaca Muerta, Argentina. In fact, the engineers of the Anglo-Dutch oil major were using computers to perform what they call “virtual drilling”, based on their knowledge of Fox Creek, a shale bed in Alberta, which has similar geological features to Argentina’s biggest shale deposit. They used real-time data sent from a rig in Vaca Muerta to design the well and control the speed and pressure of the drilling. On their second try, they completed the well for $5.4m, down from $15m a few years ago. “It’s the cheapest well we’ve drilled in Argentina,” says Ben van Beurden, Shell’s chief executive. 这听上去是一个令人叹为观止的工程壮举(第N次…别老achievement)——身在加拿大卡尔加里(Calgary)的荷兰皇家壳牌公司员工最近在10,000公里之外的阿根廷瓦卡姆尔塔(Vaca Muerta)油田远程钻探了一口油井。实际上,这家英荷合资石油巨头的工程师是使用计算机完成了这次“虚拟钻井”。他们的操作是基于对加拿大阿尔伯塔省页岩矿区福克斯溪(Fox Creek)的了解,该矿区与瓦卡姆尔塔这个阿根廷最大的页岩沉积区具有相似的地质特征。他们运用瓦卡姆尔塔的一个钻井平台传送的实时数据来设计油井并控制钻探的速度和压力。在第二次尝试时,他们以540万美元的成本完成了钻井,低于几年前的1500万美元。“这是我们在阿根廷成本最低的钻井。”壳牌首席执行官本·范伯登(Ben van Beurden)表示。

Shell is not alone in deploying computer wizards alongside geologists in an attempt to lower costs in an era of moderate oil prices. The industry as a whole is waking up to the fact that digitisation and automation have transformed other industries, such as commerce and manufacturing, and that they have been left behind. Technology firms and consultancies are knocking on their doors peddlingalluring concepts like the “digital oil rig” and the “oilfield of the future”. Some argue that the embrace of digital technologies could be the next big thing after the shale revolution that started to transform oil and gas production in America a decade ago. But this is an industry that embraces new technologies only in fits and starts. 在油价不高的时代,部署计算机能手来配合地质学专家工作以降低成本的不只壳牌一家。整个石油业如梦初醒,意识到(写作句型)数字化和自动化已彻底改变了商业和制造业等其他行业,而自己却已然落后。科技公司和咨询公司正在敲石油业的大门,推销“数字化石油钻井平台”和“未来油田”等诱人的概念。有人认为,继十年前开始改变美国油气生产的页岩革命后,积极运用数字科技可能成为又一件大事。但石油业在接受新技术上总是断断续续。

Once, Big Oil was at the forefront of digitisation, pioneering the use of 3-D seismic data and supercomputers to help find resources. But priorities changed, especially during the past decade when oil prices rose above $100 a barrel and the primary goal was to find more of it, whatever the cost. Whizzy new technology took second place. Ulrich Spiesshofer, chief executive of ABB, a Swedish-Swiss automation-technology company, says the oil industry puts to use in exploration activities barely 5% of the seismic data it has collected. During production of oil, less than 1% of data from an oil rig reaches the people making decisions, reckons McKinsey, a consultancy. 石油巨头集团曾一度处于数字化前沿,开创使用三维地震数据和超级计算机来辅助资源勘探。但后来首要任务发生了改变,尤其是在过去十年。当时油价升至每桶超过100美元,不惜一切代价寻找更多石油成为了主要目标,高新技术则退居次席。瑞典瑞士合资自动化技术公司ABB的首席执行官乌利齐·史毕福(Ulrich Spiesshofer)表示,石油业收集的地震数据中只有不到5%被用于勘探活动中。咨询公司麦肯锡认为,在石油开采过程中,石油钻井平台收集的数据只有不足1%为决策层所知悉。

It is the process of extracting oil and gas that is considered most ripe成熟 for digitisation and automation. Drilling often takes place miles below the surface in rock formations where drill bits and pipes can be broken or snagged, which halts activity for long periods. Baker Hughes, an oil-services firm, has recently developed what it calls the first automated drill bit, capable of self-adjusting depending on the nature of the rock. McKinsey says undersea robots are also being deployed to fix problems. 如今,油气开采的过程被认为最适合应用数字化和自动化。钻探通常在岩层表面下方几英里处进行,钻头和钻杆可能会破损或卡住,这会导致钻探作业长期停顿。油田服务公司贝克休斯(Baker Hughes)最近开发出了号称全球首创的自动化钻头,能根据岩石的性质(别老character)自我调节。麦肯锡表示,海底机器人也正用于解决问题。

Above the surface, efforts are under way to reduce the amount of people and plant on oil rigs, helping improve safety in a dangerous industry. James Aday, a veteran oil driller now at Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy, says that on the drilling platform itself, automation is not new. Others say that more rigs are being controlled semi-remotely; in the Gulf of Mexico, engineers in Houston use real-time data from oil rigs to make decisions, reducing the cost of shuttling them by helicopter to rigs. “The aim is to bring the data to the expert, not the expert to the data,” says Peter Zornio of Emerson, an automation firm. “There’s a huge incentive to get the people and the choppers off the platform.” 在地面上,人们正努力减少石油钻井平台上的工作人员和机械数量,以助提高这一高危行业的安全性。资深钻探人员詹姆斯·阿代(James Aday)现任职咨询公司伍德麦肯兹(Wood Mackenzie),他表示,就钻井平台而言,自动化并非新鲜事。其他人也表示,更多钻井平台已转为半远程操控。在墨西哥湾,身在休斯敦的工程师们使用石油钻机的实时数据做决策,从而减少了用直升机运送他们往返钻井平台的成本。“这么做的目的是把数据传送给专家,而不是把专家送到数据发生地,”自动化公司艾默生电气的彼特·左尼欧(Peter Zornio)说道,“石油企业有着巨大的动力去减少派往钻井平台的人员和直升机。”

Wider use of data, sensors and automation will produce new challenges for the industry. It will have to learn about cyber-security—oil rigs are critical infrastructure—and invest in ways to prevent theft of data. But digitisation may also attract millennials to replace an ageing workforce, where mass retirement is a looming threat. 数据、传感器和自动化更广泛的应用将为该行业带来新挑战。业界将不得不去了解网络安全(石油钻井平台是至关重要的基础设施)并在数据防盗技术上投资。而数字化也可能吸引到千禧一代的加入,取代老化的劳动队伍。后者大规模退休的威胁正逐渐逼近。

As to whether the workforce could shrink across the industry in the digital age, ultimately geologists and engineers believe technology will not put them out of a job, because producing oil is art as well as science. Nor will tech startups be likely to overcome the barriers to entry—such as high capital requirements—that protect incumbents. But they add to a sense, born out of the shale revolution, that innovation will make oil and gas more accessible and that the days when oil was considered a scarce resource are long gone.至于在数字化时代整个石油业的劳动力队伍会否缩小的问题,地质学家和工程师们还是相信科技并不会让他们失业,因为石油开采既是科学也是艺术。科技创业公司也不大可能跨越保护既有企业的进入门槛,例如高资本要求。但这些改变深化了源于页岩革命的一种认知——创新技术将使石油和天然气开采变得更容易,石油被视作稀缺资源的时代早已过去。




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