How ‘Management by Exception’ is transforming oil and gas in the field

How ‘Management by Exception’ is transforming oil and gas in the field®

‘Managing by exception’ is known by many terms – operating by exception, exception-based surveillance, or even pump by exception. No matter what you call it, it’s a smart way to drive efficiency in any operation.  

When applied to oil and gas field operations, it’s an incredibly powerful way to operate.

In the oilfield, managing by exception means operators are focusing on problem wells that deviate from the norm – the ‘exceptions’ – like low productivity, excessive gas production, or loss of vessel pressure. It also means that field teams aren’t wasting time on wells that don’t need their attention. 

The benefits of managing by exception for the field include:

  • Makes field crews ultra efficient: operators can manage more wells in less time
  • Reduces well downtime: operators are able to spend more time on preventative maintenance, on the wells that need it
  • Improves operator safety: less time driving, especially in remote locations
  • Reduces emissions: better field oversight and less drive time means lower carbon emissions

With more producers tasking the field to manage by exception, how do foremen and operators make it a reality? 

How to manage by exception in the oilfield

Managing by exception requires a combination of technology and a change in processes. The biggest obstacle is not the technology. It’s changing the mindset that an operator needs to visit a well every day.

This mandate has been deeply ingrained in field teams from day one. Take the last 60 years in oil and gas field operations:

  • 1960s to 2000’s: Operators must visit each well daily as well data is pulled manually and taken back to the field office, such as production dry flow charts to monitor production. 
  • 2000: Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) is introduced. Well data is sent remotely to the field office to monitor production levels and identify issues to fix. Still, the mandate for operators is to continue to visit each well daily vs. rely on SCADA data alone for field monitoring visits. 
  • 2015: Advanced IoT technologies and additional monitoring technologies such as spill alarms and leak detection, video become commonplace. Operators continue to visit most wells but use these systems and information to visit top priority wells first. 
  • 2016: Producers adopt a risk assessment framework and instructs field teams to use a risk management approach for their schedules of well visits and monitoring. Operators focus on high-risk wells first, but continue to visit most wells daily.
  • 2018: Manage by exception grows in popularity, especially to reduce costs in the oilfield. Practically, operators struggle to prioritize the right actions to take because raw field data is in disparate systems and is hard to to understand and act on. Well visitation schedules continue to be determined by risk management approach, and only adds to the confusion on where best efforts are spent.

Even though we’ve added new systems like SCADA and advanced IoT technologies, field teams continue to manage wells by risk.

The problem? The traditional way to do that is by having eyes on a well everyday. Operators are wasting time driving around to wells that don’t need the routine intervention and they’re not spending enough time on the wells that do.

What’s holding field operations back from managing by exception? Field monitoring schedules are still based on risk. And field teams aren’t able to factor in multiple priorities like improving production, reducing emissions and managing compliance on top of risk.

Move beyond managing risk to managing by exception

No single operator can reasonably compute and analyze all incoming field data like tank levels, production levels and other variables like upcoming inspections and weather to accurately determine what they need to tackle first. And for foremen, managing operators and well schedules are most often just guesswork on which wells need attention and when. 

But the right software can manage by exception for you. 

Today’s efficient producers use EZ Ops, the first ‘manage by exception’ platform built for field operations teams. EZ Ops serves as a central information hub for all of your field data and then prioritizes field schedules and well monitoring activities to make the most impact, while keeping an eagle eye on risk management. 

Operators do not have to visit each well every day. They see which areas need highest attention and are guided on the right prioritized actions to tackle by location. 

Take one leading gas producer with a well count of 200. Lots of distance between wells, many in remote areas, and a field team of 11 to manage them. After 12 months of using EZ Ops to manage by exception, they significantly improved production and reduced well downtime. 

That resulted in reducing OPEX by 18% and drive time by 80%. Not only did EZ Ops help impact the bottom line, it also led to more rewarding work for the field team.

Manage your field operations by exception with EZ Ops 

When you’re ready to manage by exception, take a closer look at EZ Ops oil and gas field software.  Working with 10% of Canadian producers (and being operators ourselves), we’ve helped field crews make managing by exception a reality.

With EZ Ops automating routine activities and scheduling for you, foreman and field teams get all the benefits of managing by exception including:

  • Higher value work becomes the focus – Foreman and field teams spend less time on mundane daily tasks and paperwork, and more time on high-value priorities. 
  • Compliance issues are minimized – Effective monitoring is automated to ensure that repeat problems and failures don’t occur. 
  • Strong operations processes stick – Instead of knee jerk fixes with short-term gains, entire operations see improvements in productivity, reduced OPEX and strong ESG. 
  • Activities no longer fall through the cracks – there’s less operator risk with scheduling automated, less stress, and more peace of mind at head office. 
  • Faster resolution of issues – field teams report more rapid resolution of issues and fewer occur.

Ready to see EZ Ops in action? Book a demo with our team.

Patrick Herren picture

About Patrick Herren, Director of Customer Experience

Pat’s been operating numerous assets around Alberta for the past decade and knows firsthand the demands of the job working in the oil patch as a former production operator.

Pat leads our on-boarding and training team, providing responsive helpful service that has earned EZ Ops a 100% adoption track record in the field.