By Joe Craparotta, Vice President, Energy Business at Schneider Electric

AUSTRALIA’S oil and gas industry faces the risk of weakening economic conditions, lower commodity pricing and increasing demand for return on investment from stakeholders.

The recent increasing pressure to limit environmental impacts has also driven the need for higher efficiencies in the extraction, transportation and process areas of production.

As a result, the oil and gas industry has been given a wake-up call and senior management are now focussing on how to optimise investments, boost productivity and ensure sites operate efficiently round the clock.

Despite the challenges, it is estimated that the oil and gas industry will grow from 2.1% GDP ($28 billion) to 3.5% GDP by 2020, just from current projects under construction, and will contribute approximately 58 per cent of Australia’s primary energy source.

Facing the challenges of today

According to the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics, in its 2013 ‘Australian Energy Update’ report, over 60 per cent of energy consumption in Australia is attributed to oil and gas industries and was a significant contributor to the growth in overall energy consumption.

This means consistent, high quality energy is a must – if the power goes out the whole plant comes to a standstill.

A reliable power supply is crucial to productivity and profits and the oil and gas industry is now looking at new technologies that not only safeguard and protect power supplies, but maximise efficiency.

This begins in the design phase of a new project and focuses on the balance of the installed load across the entire site.

Linking production to energy management is the key to creating the optimised plant of the future. But if you can’t measure and control these elements in real time your best case scenario is history.

Traditionally Industry has implemented distribution, control and measurement elements, (including switchgear, drives and periphery distribution equipment) from multiple suppliers making integration in many cases, impossible.

Therefore the need to reduce time, costs and increase efficiency has meant that there is a growing trend towards delivering an integrated and installed electrical and automation system, known as an integrated eHouse solution.

Integrated solutions

Starting with an eHouse option, (transportable site substation) and integrating major power and control equipment into prefabricated electrical buildings makes design, installation and maintenance seamless across the life of an industrial site and provides an environment in which all aspects of control are contained in a single area.

These powerhouses then provide managed energy to your industrial installation.

In the design phase several challenges exist in bringing together the vision of each engineering discipline (power, automation and mechanical controls) however the additional effort in this phase creates benefits that impact the entire life of plant and should not be underestimated.

Harnessing the knowledge base of multiple vendors, integrators and builders creates an ever expanding risk that the outcomes will not be as planned. Unique turnkey solutions have emerged over the past five years and have changed the landscape for good.

By providing a simple face of design and execution, which combines a pre-tested solution, engineering capability, local standard knowledge and project management, the eHouse offers genuine cost and time saving benefits.

An eHouse solution can be prefabricated to order, fully equipped at the factory and delivered to a work site ready to ‘plug and play’.

An eHouse solution can also be made to order to meet the variable demands of the development and environmental conditions of the location. This means, many of the environmental impacts have already been considered before work commences, and only minor work is required on delivery.

Case study: The Gorgon Project

Schneider Electric works closely with oil and gas companies and understands their critical power needs. One of the company’s most significant projects where it was required to supply substations was the Gorgon Project, located on Barrow Island, Perth.

For the LNG plant, Schneider Electric was commissioned to supply 39 prefabricated EHouse buildings. These are between 22 and 28 metres long and are seven metres wide. The buildings feature Schneider Electric and third party equipment such as HVAC, fire and gas detection, fire suppression, safety equipment and facilities for small light and power outlets.

As well as reducing the environmental impact by cutting back on the onsite work required, the technology within the substation allows Schneider Electric to offer a compact footprint, a design which promotes hazard reduction, complete automation of the equipment supplied and compliance to local codes and standards.

Protection, control and interlocking system designs were customised specifically for the project, and Schneider Electric Power Management System solutions were installed to ensure the LNG plant has continual functionality.

Equipment within Schneider Electric EHouses, transforms and switches sequentially to ensure maximum power availability to the network to maintain a controlled electrical system environment for the automated systems powering the plant.

In order to easily monitor power at the plant, integrated with the Schneider Electric EHouse hardware is a SEL Automation system. The system is designed to retrieve information from the field. The PACiS Operator Interface provides the Gorgon Joint Venture operators with access to information such as the rate of flow, which areas are in operation at particular times, as well as providing alerts when a problem occurs. The products were all part of a solution, which was specifically designed for the Gorgon Project.

In order to house the workforce needed to complete the project, an ‘accommodation village’, known as Butler Park has been built on Barrow Island. It includes facilities such as kitchens, a wet mess and a number of gyms for people working on the Gorgon Project.

To power this area, Schneider Electric supplied nine ‘plug and play’ substation solutions. The pre-fabricated buildings measure between 17 and 25 meters long by six meters wide and power the village electrical distribution network. The substations have been constructed with glass reinforced concrete. This material provides internal arc protection, impact resistance and high protection resistance against solar radiation. The substations include engineered and integrated 33kV, 11kV, 6.6kV, 690V, and 400V switchgear, control systems, HVAC and power management systems, to keep track of the energy usage.

One of the Gorgon Project’s key priorities for the job other than safety and compliance was efficiency – a vital requirement for any similar oil or gas project. Schneider Electric’s ability to work in a professional and competent manner, teamed with its technology and substation solutions ensured these objectives were met.

The Gorgon Project is operated by an Australian subsidiary of Chevron and is a joint venture of the Australian subsidiaries of Chevron (47.3%), ExxonMobil (25%), Shell (25%), Osaka Gas (1.25%), Tokyo Gas (1%) and Chubu Electric Power (0.417%). It is the largest single resource development in Australia’s history.