The room’ s Big Data ele­phant


The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - ENERGY -

It’s just over a year since In­tel­li­gent En­ergy was staged in Aberdeen for the first time, it be­ing a con­so­la­tion prize for the loss of All-En­ergy to Glas­gow.

How­ever, in­tel­li­gent en­ergy per se is not new to the North Sea au­di­ence; one way or another it’s been dis­cussed in a high pro­file way for more than 20 years.

And, be­lieve it or not, dig­i­tal has been ap­plied in cer­tain sub-sets of the in­dus­try for more than 30 years.

And yet some of the con­ver­sa­tions I’ve wit­nessed treat it as a new topic and, by the way guys, we’re told time and again that the sec­tor is way be­hind some other in­dus­tries when it comes to Big Data.

Well, per­haps it is in pro­duc­tion op­ti­mi­sa­tion terms. Call it the dig­i­tal oil­field for con­ve­nience and it re­ally is the ele­phant in the room, or is it the fridge?

I think I pre­fer the fridge. You all know the joke: How can you tell if an ele­phant’s been in your fridge? An­swer: Coz it left foot­prints in the but­ter.

But the ele­phant in the room is at least equally rel­e­vant. But do you ac­tu­ally know what it means? In short, it’s all about an ob­vi­ous prob­lem or dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion that ev­ery­one goes out of their way to avoid.

They’ve been talk­ing about the dig­i­tal oil­field/pro­duc­tion op­ti­mi­sa­tion ele­phant for a very long time and, to be fair, a huge amount of work has been done to ad­dress this Big Data man­age­ment chal­lenge.

As far back as 2006, Shell first ap­plied what I un­der­stand was pro­pri­etary smart field tech­nol­ogy in the Cham­pion West as­set, off­shore Brunei in the South China Sea. It utilised sen­sors with fi­bre-op­tic ca­bles to re­lay dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion on tem­per­a­ture, pres­sure and other field con­di­tions to the field’s con­trol cen­tre.

In 2008, an­a­lysts Booz & Co (now PWC) pub­lished the re­port ‘Un­leash­ing Pro­duc­tiv­ity: The Dig­i­tal Oil Field Ad­van­tage’.

This says in its open­ing lines: “De­spite record oil prices and in­creas­ing de­mand for crude, the oil & gas in­dus­try will be in­hib­ited in reach­ing its full po­ten­tial for value cre­ation un­less it can solve its dilem­mas re­gard­ing hu­man cap­i­tal and re­sources.

“Clos­ing the labour and skills gaps rep­re­sents one of the in­dus­try’s ma­jor – if not the pri­mary – fac­tors in sus­tain­ing growth and max­imis­ing prof­itabil­ity against a tide of ris­ing cap­i­tal and op­er­at­ing costs.”

Nine go­ing on 10 years later, the sit­u­a­tion is no dif­fer­ent ex­cept that the oil price is one heck of a lot lower, the in­dus­try is older and the ele­phant is still there.

Let’s turn to those foot­prints in the but­ter.

Dig­i­tal has in fact been part and par­cel of the off­shore in­dus­try since the early 1980s. Just think in terms of 3D seis­mic and steer­able bot­tom-hole drilling as­sem­blies. And there’s the com­mer­cial ad­vent of hor­i­zon­tal wells and multi-lat­er­als too. Dig­i­tal data feed and man­age­ment sys­tems are cru­cial to each.

Ac­cord­ing to the Booz & Co re­port, among the tech­nolo­gies re­ceiv­ing “uni­ver­sal in­dus­try ac­cep­tance” by 2008 in­cluded:

• Re­mote real-time fa­cil­ity mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol. The off-site con­trol of fa­cil­ity process sys­tems through the net­work­ing of SCADA (sys­tems con­trol and data anal­y­sis) and its trans­fer to on­shore con­trol rooms, en­abling field data cap­ture, set point con­trol, and valve/pump ma­nip­u­la­tion.

• Real-time drilling. The col­lec­tion and in­te­gra­tion of real-time drilling data such as RPM, cir­cu­la­tion solids, down­hole pres­sures cap­tured through MWD, and re­motely steer­able down-hole tools.

• Real-time pro­duc­tion sur­veil­lance. The util­i­sa­tion of ad­vanced alarm sys­tems to trig­ger anal­y­sis of im­por­tant pro­duc­tion in­tegrity trends to help op­ti­mise and main­tain in­stalled ca­pac­ity lev­els.

• In­tel­li­gent wells. Sur­face-con­trolled, down-hole equip­ment, en­abled by fiber-op­tic sen­sors, al­lows for con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing of con­di­tions and re­sponse.

• 4D vi­su­al­i­sa­tion and mod­el­ling. Suc­ces­sive 3D seis­mic sur­veys track fluid move­ments, al­low­ing for ad­di­tional in­sight into pro­duc­tion en­hance­ment and redi­rect­ing en­hanced re­cov­ery mech­a­nisms.

• Re­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy. Off-site fa­cil­i­ties with re­al­time vis­ual, voice, and data com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the field al­low more rapid, an­a­lyt­i­cal re­sponses by a mix of off-site and on-site staff.

• In­te­grated as­set mod­els. Ap­pli­ca­tions that model com­plete pro­duc­tion sys­tem per­for­mance from the pro­duc­ing hori­zon, through the well-bore, through the pro­duc­tion fa­cil­ity, and onto the ex­port/ sales point across dis­parate data sources and mul­ti­site work teams.

• Work­flow and knowl­edge man­age­ment sys­tems. Ro­bust his­tor­i­cal data and doc­u­ment-man­age­ment so­lu­tions that al­low as­sets and func­tions to quickly ex­e­cute work­flows and rou­tines by call­ing up com­plete his­tor­i­cal analy­ses quickly and ac­cu­rately.

• Pro­duc­tion vol­ume man­age­ment sys­tems. Stan­dard­ised pro­duc­tion data and pro­duc­tion al­lo­ca­tions, al­low­ing more ef­fi­cient real-time pro­duc­tion de­ci­sions that re­sult in re­duced de­fer­ment and im­proved op­er­a­tional in­tegrity.

Booz & Co re­ported too that some in­dus­try an­a­lysts sug­gested an im­proved net present value of up to around 25% from dig­i­tal oil­field– re­lated im­ple­men­ta­tion. A not in­con­sid­er­able gain.

And yet, in Au­gust this year at the Hal­libur­ton Land­mark In­nova- tion Fo­rum and Expo (LIFE) in Hous­ton ... so just be­fore Off­shore Europe ... it was re­ported: “The oil and gas in­dus­try has the data and the drive to pur­sue dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, but lacks a co­her­ent strat­egy to fully dig­i­talise its oper­a­tion.”

That strikes me as an in­dict­ment on the abil­i­ties of the top bosses of Big Oil to man­age their busi­nesses.

On the other hand, per­haps it has taken the ad­vent of the In­tel­li­gent Cloud to start to open the door to full ap­pli­ca­tion of dig­i­tal in oil & gas.

Af­ter all, large play­ers are said to gen­er­ate a stag­ger­ing 1.5 petabytes a day of data, and even mun­dane op­er­a­tions such as trans­port­ing hy­dro­car­bons can gen­er­ate a ter­abyte of data for ev­ery 15,000km.

Ja­son Zan­der, a VP at Mi­crosoft Azure, said at LIFE that a strate­gic al­liance formed re­cently be­tween Hal­libur­ton Land­mark and Mi­crosoft would speed digi­ti­sa­tion. “We think that’s go­ing to ac­tu­ally en­able the con­nected oil­fields, the con­nected work­force, and the pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics and things to come to­gether. [In] places where you might have cen­ters of ex­cel­lence in each, we can ac­tu­ally look for the next ways to con­nect them to­gether to get even more out of those,” said Zan­der.

Also speak­ing at LIFE, Dr Sean Gour­ley, CEO of Stealth Ma­chine In­tel­li­gence, re­minded del­e­gates just how far be­hind other lead­ing in­dus­tries Big Oil was by cit­ing a 2015 study by the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s Sloan Man­age­ment Re­view and Deloitte, which gave the sec­tor a score of 4.6 out of 10.

Hal­libur­ton Land­mark states in its still fresh white pa­per What It Takes to Lever­age E&P Big Data that Big Oil “gen­er­ates value from a mere 1% of all the data it cre­ates”.

That’s scary.

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