ITF gets up to speed on data analytics


posted 14 Jul 2016

ITF gets up to speed on data analytics

By Lisa Hutchison, Technology Analyst, ITF

Data analytics, together with efficient processes for using results, is one of the main digital drivers to reduce costs and streamline operations. Unlocking the implicit, latent value of information and using it in novel ways has the potential to improve operational performance, enhance decision-making and create value for oil and gas companies.

The extraction and analysis of valuable information from existing or new datasets is widely used in other sectors. For example, data gathered on heat and vibration within an engine can be used to predict when it is going to break down.

Unlike the automotive and aerospace sectors, the oil and gas market has been somewhat slower in its uptake of data analytics and recent surveys have indicated that it only uses around 30% of the volume of data collected. This is due in a large part not to the quality of the complex information produced but to the industry’s limited ability to analyse, extrapolate and exploit an immeasurable quantity of data in meaningful ways. This information overload can lead to difficulties and costly delays in making straightforward decisions which can amplify uncertainty and raise risk. The traditional approach of cognitive computing is struggling to cope.

The industry requires new technologies and approaches to support the integration and interpretation of this data to drive faster and more accurate decision-making. For example, in 2014 GE Oil and Gas developed sensors that can operate reliably in extreme environments making it possible to gather more data from more points on equipment. These sensors have helped GE Oil & Gas develop new products whilst also increasing the level of information that can be captured and analysed making field and well operations even safer, more efficient and profitable.

Better data analysis enables companies to optimise their value chain activities. An example is that of Royal Dutch Shell which has implemented fibre optic cables, along with Hewlett-Packard, which allows data to be transferred to private servers. This can then be compared with any prospective oilfield - anywhere in the world, ultimately enabling geologists to make more accurate decisions concerning where to drill and what technical challenges to expect.

The skills required to implement, maintain and monitor this digital overhaul are scarce in the oil and gas sector and competition is fierce to attract data scientists to an industry which may be deemed unattractive and unstable. Company bosses need to invest in staff training and development in data analytics to build capabilities and expertise to bring this digital dawn out of the darkness.

There’s no doubt that more innovation is needed to organise, integrate and allow accessibility across silos and in existing work processes to make digitalisation truly exceed its expectations. The sector’s immaturity in this digital arena needn’t be a hindrance but a chance to ensure that companies adopt and design data analysis practices to support the capabilities it wants to develop.

ITF, in collaboration with The Data Lab and Scottish Enterprise, is seeking to work with the technology developer community to bring relevant data science projects into the oil and gas industry. The organisation will shortly be inviting its members’ subject matter experts to complete a questionnaire which will then be followed by a focused workshop to identify the most pertinent challenges in data analytics before welcoming technical proposals and solutions from the developer community.

ITF is a not for profit organisation owned by major oil and gas operating and service companies that comprise its membership. ITF has an impressive track record in facilitating the launch of collaborative technology projects funded by its members to help develop or advance technologies for the oil and gas industry, and includes projects from early stage research and development through to field trials and commercialisation. ITF has supported over 200 projects and secured more than £60 million in funding from members. ITF’s key objectives are to identify technology needs, foster innovation and facilitate the development and implementation of new technologies. ITF’s single objective is to make technology impact on the oil and gas industry.

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