Relays Help Energy Company Protect Its Investments

Oil producer Oxy Permian—a unit of Occidental Petroleum—requires ample energy resources for its oil-drilling operations in the Permian Basin of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. When the company's electricity-distribution infrastructure was identified as a contributor to falling production rates, managers invested in new power relays to monitor, control and protect their sy...

03/01/2003


Oil producer Oxy Permian—a unit of Occidental Petroleum—requires ample energy resources for its oil-drilling operations in the Permian Basin of western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. When the company's electricity-distribution infrastructure was identified as a contributor to falling production rates, managers invested in new power relays to monitor, control and protect their systems. The result: fewer equipment failures and more reliable operations.

Maintaining electricity supplies at remote drilling sites is always a challenge. With long transmission-line runs, brownouts are a regular occurrence. With 99% of its electrical load related to sensitive induction motors, Oxy's operations are especially vulnerable to power fluctuations. The area's legendary lightning storms only add to these concerns.

Field managers began their equipment upgrades by installing relays to help them monitor, control and protect the distribution systems. The devices' "events-recorder" function helped team members see exactly how the distribution system functioned during and after electrical storms. Resulting actions have improved both system uptime and equipment life.

The relays also have enabled Oxy personnel to anticipate problems before they occur when planning future operations. Data from the field devices is used with computer-modeling tools to simulate system behavior before capital investments are made. The devices also allow engineers to create sophisticated topographical fault maps that allow fault locations to be identified within three poles, reducing system downtime.

The next step will be to move to individual devices, like the electric submersible pumps vital to drilling operations. Oxy has more than 1,000 of these units in its Permian Basin fields and is adding more all the time. Restarting the pumps after they've stopped is tricky. Start them too soon, before they've stopped backspinning, and their motors can burn out. Wait too long, and valuable production time is wasted. Managers feel the new relays will allow better calculation of restart times result in more efficient operations.

From Pure Power, Spring 2003





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