Woman technician working on the Pad of the Future

Advances in automation

In mid-November 2019, Shell  completed construction of the first integrated iShale® multi-well pad and production facility system in the East Slash Ranch development area of its Permian Basin asset, in West Texas.

iShale® is Shell Unconventionals’ program to leverage technological advances in automation, digitalization and advanced analytics to reduce the industrial intensity of shale development and implement more efficient ways of working. The iShale® program underpins our views for a potential ‘asset of the future’. 

iShale® provides an open innovation platform for technology companies - big and small – to test whether their innovations can be rapidly modified and transferred to the shale industry. Shell enables its industry partners to co-invest in technology deployments without restricting future replication.

The concept

This first installation consists of two well pads with a total of eight wells, multiphase gathering systems and a mini-modular processing facility, which is integrated into a larger Central Processing Facility (CPF). First oil from the wells was produced in late-November.

The project aims to trial new technologies and capabilities to reduce unit development and operating costs and project cycle time as well as improve safety and environmental performance.

It brings together ten iShale® technologies, which Shell has developed together with industry partners, which include TechnipFMC, Emerson, Schlumberger, Ameresco Solar, Rebellion Photonics, Flutura Decision Sciences and Analytics, Sirius, and Rockwell Automation. 

Throughout the project lifecycle, our iShale® team worked in close cooperation with our industry partners as well as our Permian operations team to optimize the design and implementation of the integrated iShale® multi-well pad and production facility system.

What’s new about this project?

Key elements of the iShale® system include:

  • Wireless controls and process automation to reduce well pad construction and instrumentation costs
  • Digital reporting to optimize vendor communications and reduce inefficient reporting during development and construction operations
  • Multiphase meters on well pads to minimize work required for routine well tests, and reduce HSE exposure 
  • Simplified well pad design to remove pad separators and enable separation at central processing facilities 
  • Multifunction central processing facility to reduce site storage requirements at central processing facilities
  • Remote sensors and analytics to minimize production deferment and remotely detect incidents
  • Exception-based ways of working for efficient operator routes and surveillance
  • Mobile personal productivity tools for faster decision making and work efficiency
  • Failure analysis and advanced analytics to enable system-wide optimization and reduce costs
Drone ready to launch and review the pad of the future

From offshore to onshore

One of the unique features of the integrated iShale® multi-well pad and production facility system is that they incorporate several technologies common in Deepwater, where space is limited, and efficiency is critical. These technologies include the use of high efficiency internals in both the high-and low-pressure separators, which enable removal of storage tanks on location to meet sales specification, and the use of multiphase flowmeters, which replace pad level separation and metering.

Not just a science experiment

While we are still collecting and analyzing performance data, we already know that the integrated iShale® multi-well pad and production facility system were delivered with around 20% less installation costs, 40% less in-field construction hours and 50% less health and safety construction exposure hours compared to traditional pads and CPFs. It is also a notable achievement that no harm or leaks were reported during execution while introducing new partners, designs and technologies. In addition to reduced installation costs, the iShale® project has the potential to reduce unit technical costs (UTC) by 40%.

Moreover, the pad and production facility system have the potential to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 60% compared to traditional pads and CPFs.

What’s next?

Moving forwards, it is not our intent to immediately replicate the integrated iShale® multi-well pad and production facility system but use learnings from the project to drive further evolution of our facility design and construction across our shale assets in North America and Argentina. We are also working to innovate our subsurface, drilling and completions designs.

The project provides a better understanding of a suite of technologies developed for iShale®, allowing Shell to assess their limitations and advantages to help improve the value of future developments. 

iShale Journey

Read the iShale Journey to see how the process tranfsorms the industry. Read the iShale Journey to see how the process tranfsorms the industry. Read the iShale Journey to see how the process tranfsorms the industry.

Innovating Safety – Shell Drone Program

Shell is developing multi-mission surveillance drones for its’ shales operations for greater efficiency and safety.  

Shell and our strategy

The businesses and investment highlights of Royal Dutch Shell plc are presented in brief, including our strategy.

1 Royal Dutch Shell plc and its various subsidiaries and affiliates (the “Shell Group”) are separate legal entities. In this announcement the expression “Shell” is sometimes used for convenience where references are made to those entities individually or collectively. Likewise, the words “we”, “us” and “our” are also used to refer to companies in the Shell Group in general or those who work for them, and these references do not reflect the operational or corporate structure of, or the relationship between, entities in the Shell Group. Nothing in this announcement is intended to suggest that any entity in the Shell Group, including Royal Dutch Shell plc, directs or is responsible for the day-to-day operations of any other entity in the Shell Group.

2 Royal Dutch Shell plc and its various subsidiaries and affiliates (the “Shell Group”) are separate legal entities. In this announcement the expression “Shell” is sometimes used for convenience where references are made to those entities individually or collectively. Likewise, the words “we”, “us” and “our” are also used to refer to companies in the Shell Group in general or those who work for them, and these references do not reflect the operational or corporate structure of, or the relationship between, entities in the Shell Group. Nothing in this announcement is intended to suggest that any entity in the Shell Group, including Royal Dutch Shell plc, directs or is responsible for the day-to-day operations of any other entity in the Shell Group.