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Industry game changer?

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Oilfield Technology,

The information that oil and gas companies generate may be their most valuable asset, says Rolta’s Ravi Pandey

In a challenging market, oil and gas companies often cut manpower to reduce their overheads and replace capital. But they may be missing a trick.

Upstream companies rightly regard top performing people and plant as valuable assets. But they own another, frequently overlooked asset – data, generated from multiple sources at each stage of the upstream lifecycle. Exploration, engineering, operations and maintenance and project management all generate a mass of information.

A large conventional oil field may have hundreds of wells, each of which produces its own set of data; while shale oil and gas exploration and production is more akin to an industrial manufacturing process than that for conventional oil and gas, requiring more wells to be drilled, more quickly - which in turn generates more data.

To be of value this information, both current and historic needs to be stored, analysed and offered up in a way that makes it usable to the company that generates it. The realisation that it may be the most powerful asset at the organisation’s disposal has led to the recent emergence of a new technology type – ‘data-driven analytics’.

Data-driven analytics is a smart technology that produces ‘new insights’ for upstream industry management decision making. It sounds a little esoteric but its effect is very real. A number of oil and gas companies have already recorded the impact of data-driven analytics deployments on their assets and operations. Results include asset downtime reductions of 5% to 10%; asset efficiency improvements of 5% to 15%; greater project reliability, resulting in savings of up to 10%; and a decrease in operational costs of 15% to 25%. Improvements in schedule adherence (15% to 30%), specification throughput (10% to 15%) and inventory turns (10% to 15%) have also been recorded.*

So why is this data-driven approach not more widely used by oil and gas companies? The problem is that it requires access to all types of data across the organisation, and to date most technology suppliers and consultants have limited their data acquisition to IT (information technology), because ‘they know it’. Unfortunately however, IT accounts for only 5% to 10% of plant and related supply chain data, while in an asset-intensive industry such as oil and gas, data gathered from operations (also known as OT, or operations technology) accounts for the bulk.

Much of the recent focus on operations data has been from the burgeoning software industry in India, a country in which economic and social conditions have led to the necessary development of inexpensive solutions centred on operations improvement (or making more of what you already have). Today, for the oil and gas industry this approach has never been more pertinent.

The information from operations is the missing piece of the data-driven analytics jigsaw that unlocks new intelligence, which can then be used by management to improve the performance of their company’s assets. No new systems investment is needed, and the process of gathering and analysing the data is automated, with no disruption to the organisation’s processes. Importantly, the data gathering process has visibility across company functions, cutting through the departmental information silos that are so often barriers to progress. Industry-specific key performance indicators (KPIs) can also be used to keep the process focused on the company’s operational priorities.

One leading energy producer was able to deploy data-driven analytics for oil field operations, maintenance and asset performance management in this way, using over 3000 built-in KPIs, in three months.

What does data analytics do for the business, in practice?

In the data-driven environment described above ‘asset performance management’ cuts costs by capturing asset information from multiple operations sources so that company personnel can view it in a smart and visual, non-technical format, and analyse it to optimise the performance of their assets in order to increase availability, minimise cost and reduce operational risk.

Upstream companies can use technology to do remote monitoring not only for a single well but at an enterprise level, tracking performance across their assets and taking actions based on their analysis. Which assets are doing better than others? Where, and why? This is data-driven decision making at its most powerful, when top-performing asset qualities are identified for replication elsewhere, now and in the future.

Remote equipment condition monitoring and oil field digitisation using sensor technology allows companies to capture real time operating data via the signals that sensors emit. Using specialist tools, they can now analyse that information to predict failures and other interruptions to performance.

Maintenance, including corrective maintenance is a big cash consumer for all upstream organisations. Remote, real time equipment monitoring now allows the owner operator to do condition monitoring and execute ‘smart’, condition-based maintenance, thanks to their analysis of the data.

*Source: Rolta/O&G industry surveys

The author

Ravi Pandey is Rolta’s president international for IPR and Digital Solutions. He can be contacted at to answer questions related to this article.

Adapted by David Bizley

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