Skip to main content

Decoding digital dilemmas

Oilfield Technology,

Big data, cloud computing and intelligent systems promise more than just simplifying operations. Many at the forefront of this digital revolution envisage it will allow faster, smarter and more targeted innovation to solve the most complex and technically demanding challenges across E&P activity. However, the time from development to implementation of current and future technologies needs to be significantly reduced.

Despite the downturn, investment in innovation will always be closely connected to the upside of the technology. Applications still require effort to individuate a profitable scope, integration with existing platforms and alignment with work processes. In this current climate, there is less uncertainty of where to go and a much better understanding of the need for digitalisation. The goal is to shift the mindset from building to operation of oilfields. This requires holistic thinking in the way we address the technology, organisation, competence and processes at all levels. Due to its potential, this is a prioritised area for both short and long-term investment.

Prioritising technology

Recent surveys have indicated that the industry only utilises around 30% of the volume of data collected. As more and more data is produced, but not exploited, straightforward decisions are becoming more difficult to achieve through an overload of information, which lacks structure and precision, leading to increased uncertainty and delays. To be successful, data analytics need to be designed with clear roles supporting the capabilities the industry wants to develop. The ‘game-changer’ will be the ability to develop a fully integrated model.

Improved methods, visualisations, and application support for dynamic risk assessment has significant potential for improved safety, and at the same time allows for more efficient operations. Innovation is needed not in the production of data but in its organisation, integration and accessibility across silos and current processes in order to make true digitalisation a reality. The challenge is that many great ideas and projects fail to deliver the expected outcome, not necessarily because the data is not useful, but because companies fail to realise the potential in their work processes.

There is also a growing realisation that what we have learned about instrumentation, monitoring, and supporting technical processes and physical equipment can also be leveraged to processes where people and personal interactions play a significant role. This could lead to major improvements to operational safety, performance and compliance.

A new way of working

Though billions have already been invested in the digital oilfield, the industry is yet to reap the full benefits from smart fields. During the last ten to fifteen years, there has been huge investment in data gathering and infrastructure, but the potential on productivity, risk mitigation, etc, cannot be realised without improved integration into project models and smart implementations.

Value from investments can only be realised by building and incorporating capabilities that wholly manage people, work processes and technology from the desktop out to the sharp end. As an example, surveillance equipment can read out deviating temperatures, overheating and high load on systems, but collating and monitoring such data is often regarded as ‘noise’ at a time when assets are striving to increase production capacity.

The current downturn provides a positive opportunity to prioritise improvement efforts and use digital investments to develop models and work processes needed to reduce the need, and cost, for further or unnecessary modifications and maintenance.

Manpower to implement, maintain and monitor this digital overhaul is scarce and the oil and gas industry must compete with other sectors which may be more advanced in this area. Strengthening the petroleum sector as a stronghold for digital development is a key factor for robust sustainability.

The digital dawn

The future of the oil and gas industry could be radically reshaped by ‘Big Data’. By adopting coordinated, digital processes to analyse and understand the overwhelming amount of data being produced; reports have suggested that operational efficiency and productivity could be boosted by as much as 20%. Its application and integration can also improve risk assessment and address cost control. Mature concepts can be invigorated and transformed through digital augmentation. It could also unlock potential regions that otherwise would be unprofitable. For example, without digital technologies, shale would not exist as directed and monitored technologies have helped make shale extraction possible. Digitalisation is also not as cost intensive as some other hardware-based efficiency drivers, making it viable in the current climate.

Through the alignment of smarter data applications and integration, the downturn is, to some degree, building a sense of urgency to realise the full potential of intelligent energy where automation and efficient use of digitalisation is the obvious solution to control cost and increase productivity. It is clear that decision-makers are already challenging outdated IT strategies to ensure it delivers simplification and efficiency.

The digital oilfield has evolved into the perfect arena for collaborative environments, communication, data collection, reporting, monitoring and information exchange. These issues will be core to SPE Intelligent Energy 2016 taking place in Aberdeen from 6 to 8 September 2016. The event will cover application of digital and intelligent technologies to all lifecycle aspects of E&P, from seismic and exploration, to production and late field life optimisation of recovery and will showcase the latest smart technologies and digital solutions.

Asegir Drøivoldsmo

Adapted from an article written by Asgeir Drøivoldsmo

Read the article online at:

You might also like


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):