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GE Collaborating With Noble Corp. to Digitize Offshore Fleet

As the offshore increasingly moves to compete with the monumental efficiency gains made on land, General Electric (GE), whose takeover of Baker Hughes Inc. is in progress, is collaborating with Noble Corp. plc to improve its rig fleet using digitized solutions.

The "Digital Rig" solution implemented by GE is expected to give the offshore drilling contractor an edge in managing its asset lifecycle and providing more efficient operations for its customers.

"It is time for the industry to rethink the drilling ecosystem," said GE's Tim Schweikert, CEO of Marine Solutions. "Offshore companies must adapt to industry disruptions by leveraging digital solutions to counteract the current downswing and for readiness to scale during a market upswing. Industry-wide collaboration underpins a solid digital future. Together, we are stronger and will get there faster."

Digitizing the oil and gas industry is GE's forte. Its$32 billion merger with oilfield services specialist Baker Hughes, expected to be completed by mid-year, would pair reservoir expertise with GE’s digital platform. GE already has several collaborative efforts specifically in the offshore.

Last November GE and BP plc launched a digital solution system to improve oil and gas production operations worldwide, beginning with a pilot at the Atlantis operating hub in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. In 2015, GE Oil & Gas launched a partnershipwith McDermott International Inc. to offer front-end offshore field services, ranging from portfolio evaluation to final investment decisions. It also is collaborating with National Oilwell Varco Inc. to optimize deepwater production.

The agreement with Noble initially calls for GE to deploy its digital system on four drilling rigs as part of a fleet pilot program. Noble has a worldwide fleet of 28 units -- 14 drillships/semisubmersibles and 14 jackups -- that mostly focus on ultra-deepwater and high-specification jackup drilling.

The expected efficiencies captured by implementing GE's Digital Rig are targeting a 20% reduction in repair and maintenance expenditures across the pilot rigs.

The "data-driven drilling" model created by combining Noble's operational knowledge with GE's advanced data analytics system is expected to transform the entire drilling ecosystem by enhancing drilling process efficiency; shifting to predictive asset management and reducing third-party service costs.

Digitizing the rigs could allow anomalies to be detected sooner to prevent potential problems before they occur.

"As the system continues to learn, the Digital Rig solution will be able to gauge and predict the asset's condition in order to enable a shift from planned to predictive maintenance," GE noted. "Empowered by innovative software-based analysis, maintenance is exercised when there is evidence of need."

By reducing "unnecessary or excessive maintenance," the partners said the transition to predictive maintenance would lead to cost savings, mitigate the risk of maintenance-induced problems, reduce downtime and improve drilling productivity.

In addition, the digitization would allow real-time asset data to be actively monitored worldwide, allowing onshore experts to remotely diagnose and advise offshore personnel of issues before they occur.

"With shifting market dynamics, the offshore industry is on the cusp of change," said Noble CEO David W. Williams. "Drilling contractors must seize the moment to enhance their competitive edge. We believe the shift to data-driven decisions will have a significant effect on drilling efficiencies. It is imperative for our industry to embrace the digital revolution to stay efficient and nimble..."

Collaboration among OFS operators to cut costs and improve efficiencies appears to be the keyword in the revamped industry. Late Friday, Schlumberger Ltd. and Weatherford International plc agreed to form OneStim, a pressure pumping joint venture that would combine Halliburton’s 2 million hydraulic hp with Weatherford’s 1 million hhp. Together, the partners would control the second-largest fracking fleet in North America.

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