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OCC Manifesto

OCC’s have become the valley in the shit rolls downhill expression- this manifesto will help guide you out of the valley

Operations Control Center Manifesto

Operations Control Centers (OCC’s) value is remote work at scale via SCADA, control, and communication. An OCC is not referencing the office where forman, operators, and field engineers gather. It is the team of control room operators and specialists remotely operating and assisting in field work. OCC’s are constantly challenged by Operations to become a catch-all for “other” work. Without healthy boundaries, the effectiveness of centralized remote work is lost to external noise. OCC’s are successful when they go deep on a narrow set of responsibilities. Going wide, without adequate staff to support, is a certain way to lower the value & effectiveness of the OCC. 

OCC Strengths

Focusing on the strengths of centralized compared to dispersed field work makes it easy to see where in Operations an OCC creates the most value:

  • It is easier to align 5 OCC personnel than 100 field operators. 
  • Daily work has structure compared to field firefighting and daily unknowns. Processes are easy to follow. 
  • Multiple screens and faster wifi make information more available. 
  • Comradery working in a room together leads to strong relationships- strong relationships make for a safe environment for continuous process improvement
  • Operations objectivity- Lack of bias on how things used to be done on a well, pad, or route.
  • Higher willingness to capture information to automate processes over rushing to the next well to turn a valve.
  • Macro view of field performance over micro exposure to a few pads or routes.
  • Able to remotely act (setpoints) on 3X more wells in a day compared to field wrench work. 

OCC Weaknesses

The weaknesses of an OCC need to be addressed through delegation of work to the field and Operations alignment on roles & responsibilities: 

  • Unable to turn a valve, walk down a site, restart a compressor, or do anything physically on site. 
  • Perceived as stepping on operators’ toes (wells).
  • Operators remember the 1 well an OCC may load up, not the 10 they fix.
  • Communication with the field operators is challenging- at times, indifferent. 
  • They are only as good as the SCADA, control, and well history available to them. 
  • Lack of tribal knowledge and intimacy with the history of a well or pad- missing details. 
  • Unclear responsibilities to field operators creates a “that's not my job” mentality.

OCC Opportunities

Now that we know the strengths & weaknesses of an OCC, we can discern the appropriate application in Operations:

  • By a long shot, artificial lift (AL) is the key driver of base production performance and well reliability. Every operator has their own philosophy on how to optimize artificial lift. Standardization of AL setpoints for reliability and optimization is prime for OCC influence and control.
  • Alarms are noisy and riddled with false positives and are literally “out of control”- this is a distraction to field work. Alarms require a structure and hierarchy to act- making it an excellent source of work for an OCC with a continuous improvement mentality. 
  • Underperforming wells are ignored by field operations until a shut-in, well review, or spare time... In a Tasq study, the value of underperformance across 20,000 wells makes up more than 60% of the daily production loss. Meaning there is more value in getting wells back to normal production than going to return to production shut in wells, let that sink in. 
  • Theme-based root cause failure analysis (RCFA) eliminates the chronic failures causing the biggest field pain. An OCC has visibility into the entire field challenges and has the details required to effectively lead RCFA’s. This is a foundation to continuous improvement. 
  • When there is curtailment across a field, the OCC is positioned well to make the decision of wells to shut in. Tools like GOR ranking and IOR (incremental oil recovered) make it easy to keep the field optimized in constrained conditions. 
  • When the field has minimal coverage (nights and weekends), an OCC is able to remotely cover critical gaps in operations to reduce the likelihood of HSE events. 
  • Remotely assist operators who are working on an unfamiliar problem or lack adequate information to solve an issue.
  • Monitoring potential frac-hit wells over spare monitors makes it easy to respond remotely to changes in well behavior. 
  • OCC’s see themes in missing data- if I had this then I could x. They are in a prime spot to work with the IT and SCADA team for data access and transparency for process improvement. 
  • Water and oil hauling vendor communication for new wells, facilities, or frac hit wells when production is high or uncertain. 

OCC Misapplication

I have seen OCC’s become the valley in the shit rolls downhill expression. It is critical to keep the OCC focused on key responsibilities. Spreading an OCC thin negates one of its key value drivers- efficiency. If a task is being done well by the field operators or engineers, there is no need to incorporate it into an OCC and dilute their focus:

  • Production allocations
  • On-site work
  • Slickline and pumping scheduling
  • Downtime reporting
  • Workover coordination
  • Maintenance scheduling
  • Email reporting for an area summary
  • Equipment tracking
  • Vendor communications (compressor, rod pump, plunger lift…)
  • Trend scanning
  • Regulatory forms


With a clear idea of the opportunities and best application of an OCC, we can now define core and ancillary responsibilities: 

OCC Core

  • Artificial lift management
  • Alarm response & management
  • Underperforming wells

OCC Ancillary

  • Remotely assist operators
  • Automating processes 
  • RCFA’s
  • Water & oil hauling
  • Frac hit monitoring
  • Weekend/night HSE coverage
  • Curtailment

Responsibility Tactics

80% of an OCC’s value comes from its core responsibilities. Robust processes around the core are needed to set the team up for success. 

Artificial lift management

  1. AL standardization brings all of the fields' different optimization philosophies into a single aligned strategy. This aims to scale best practices and address edge cases as necessary. The current Ops standard is that all wells are edge cases because the setpoints are far from a standard. To do this, you need data like the pump or BHBS depth, type of plunger/pump, formation name, well type (HZ/VT), cycle log/ rod pump setpoints, and other metadata based on the AL type. With this information, it is very easy to spot anomalous AL settings like a dual pad plunger with an 8,000 ft BHBS depth with a 15 minute off time- that plunger will never get to the bottom. 
  1. AL Optimization: Once a standard is set across the artificial lift in the field, the OCC can begin to tune the wells into their optimized state by leveraging dynamic setpoints like fillage, pressure open, and flow rate close. This requires remote changes and tracking of the effectiveness. No more than 10 wells per OCC operator per day should be pushed to an optimal state because of the follow-up time required to validate success and make adjustments.
  2. Data prioritization: If you do not have the data to standardize or optimize AL, you should stop whatever project is at the top of the IT queue and prioritize this above anything. E&P’s invest so much money in drilling wells, and when a well transitions to a base well, there's little care given to their needs. Maturing wells need data to understand performance, and if you don't have plunger cycle logs, rod pump remote control and cards, or gas lift injection rates- these wells will be neglected until a complete failure deems otherwise. 


Alarms are full of false positives and noisy because they are not managed, nor is there explicit action based on the alarm type. An alarm prioritization matrix is the best way to clean up the nuisance alarms and distribute the work to the field methodically. Determine which alarms fit into each category and create required durations to act on the alarm- 1 hour, 1 day, 1 week…

Underperforming Wells

On average, 60% of a field's daily lost volume is from underperforming wells. To regain this volume, you need a system to manage the thousands of wells without trending every well every morning. Even with adequate time to scan thousands of wells, the best of us fail to prioritize the wells into an accurate top 10 list. There is data required to do this well and it includes:

  • The wells status- this must come from a data capture system and not word of mouth.
  • Knowing why the well is underperforming makes it easier to focus on the right “top 10”. For example- if a hole in the tubing is identified and the well is down 50% of its production, this is not a well the OCC should spend time on. Instead, this should be prioritized by the engineering team for a workover and scheduling.
  • Operational targets- do not use a variance, reservoir, or single number for the well target; these lead to a noisy false positive-laden system. 
  • The operational target is the daily oil and gas volume a well can achieve based on its ideal operational performance- not what the reservoir team forecasted last year. When a deviation from this target occurs, it means it needs attention by the OCC. The severity of the deviation makes it easy to prioritize the top 10 underperforming wells to action. 
  • Well history- what actions have field operations taken on the well. 
  • Underperformance can occur from a negative action taken by the field, and time is wasted by the OCC guessing what happened and potentially coming up with the wrong solution. You need a single location for work history so that the OCC is set up to successfully solve problems. This is typically done with a field data capture system and a historian that is easily accessible & searchable.

OCC Structure

The best OCC’s I have seen are segmented by area and play to the staff's strengths. If an OCC operator is highly skilled in rod pumps and previously operated Area 1 and Area 2, it only makes sense to place him in one or both of those areas. The benefits of an OCC operator having a dedicated area are field relationships, well familiarity, pattern recognition, and efficiency. The max capacity of an OCC operator is 600 artificially lifted wells, depending on the maturity of the wells. Less mature = less wells. 

There is an extension of the OCC not discussed yet, it is the field artificial lift specialists (rovers) and they are beyond critical to realizing the OCC’s potential. Why? Because well underperformance and AL optimization is impossible on trouble wells when the field staff says “all looks good out here”. They do not have the equipment to tell otherwise. Rovers are equipped with an Echometer kit and are specialists in rod pump, gas lift, and plunger lift. They are the hands of the OCC operators in the field solving the problems that require time and effort field operators are unable to give. Their week is predetermined by the OCC operators for the top underperforming, recurring, and time consuming wells. 

An OCC Team Lead is required to block and tackle the BS that comes the team's way. They assist in RCFA’s, bird dog requests from the OCC operators (like data), and remove their bottlenecks. Always have a pack of mountain dew or two on hand to get them through the hard days… 

OCC Tracking

The core OCC responsibilities demand performance tracking. Without tracking, you will not continually improve actions. Or the OCC team will be killing it, and there is no justification to upper management on why the OCC needs to exist. Continuous improvement is critical, especially in the infancy of an OCC. To do this, you need a system that stores the action date, category, and action details. This data then needs to be analyzed (ideally automatically) for effectiveness- meaning, did the production & reliability get worse or better after the action. Improving the ineffective work, scaling the highly effective work, and summarizing the total value will keep management in the OCC’s corner. 

OCC & Route Operators

Route operators are used to reacting to alarms, adjusting setpoints, and lone wolfing well troubleshooting. It seems there are two chefs in the kitchen now. Not really! The OCC serves to reduce the operator's workload by capitalizing on the strengths of being in the OCC. This makes room in the operators day so they can focus on critical work only someone on site can do. It is a partnership, not a turf war. 

OCC Post Mortem

The OCC just failed; why? 

An OCC flounders without access to field operators and easy avenues for communication. To prevent this, use a single location for communication that is NOT EMAIL! Group chats, like  Microsoft Teams, make it easy to set up routes for seamless OCC communication with the field. When an alarm requires field operator attention, don’t text or email the operator- put it in a single location where expectations are clear- this is the one place you look for comms. This horse needs to be beaten one more time; communications will kill an OCC- email, personal text, and phone calls will lead to a slow OCC death. 

OCC operators who are not competent in artificial lift quickly cause field operators to absorb their past responsibilities and “fight” with the OCC over setpoints. OCC’s need to add O&G to the pipe, not remove it by failed attempts at remote AL optimization. Training and education of OCC operators is critical. For rovers, if they are handed an Echoemter kit without a 1 week training course at the Echometer school, you have little chance of making that part of the OCC effective. The primary requirement of an OCC operator is a willingness to learn and the company's continued support in their artificial lift training.

The OCC Team Lead is responsible for maintaining the structure and efficiency of centralized remote work. The more BS tasks they let into the OCC, the quicker your top-notch OCC operators become overpaid interns. 

Parting Wisdom

Operations is a beast of a challenge. The greater the challenge, the greater the need for design & structure. An OCC does not blindly fumble toward greatness. 

An OCC can become forgotten and become just another cog in the machine. The OCC Team Lead needs to continually advocate for the value of the OCC to upper management. Awareness of the value will lead to technology, training, and experimentation funding so OCC value can continue to grow.

The OCC is only as good as the data available to it. Their effectiveness is limited if you don't have historical cycle logs for plunger lift. If you can't see historical setpoints and pump cards for rod pumps- it is going to be a guess and check game. If you don't have field operator comments in a single well history location- there is going to be a lot of phone tag with the field operator. Make data available and the OCC will thrive. Said a better way, if you don't have the right data & systems, don't even bother setting up an OCC. Just let them pump routes- their time will be better spent there. 

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