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Special Report: How big data can make a big impact

by Arabian Oil & Gas Staff on Jul 17, 2016


Fadi Kanafani of NetApp.
Fadi Kanafani of NetApp.

Oil has been one of the most important commodities for decades. Today, the oil and gas industry is facing major challenges as the price of oil is exhibiting a downward trend and the costs of extraction are rising. This is coupled with the turbulent state of international politics, which affects the performance of many organisations.

Additionally, oil and gas companies across the globe also deal with large quantities of data, on a daily basis. Over the past few years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of energy companies that are investing in seismic software, visualisation and data management tools, and other digital technologies to improve production and efficiency.

Current estimates place the Middle East’s conventional oil at about 800bn barrels or, quite simply, nearly half of the world’s proven recoverable crude. The region also houses 40% of the world’s conventional gas reserves.

As oil and gas are two of the most important natural resources in the region, and the global prices are unstable, most organisations are looking inwards to reduce costs and drive business gains. One way to do so is by adopting better data management strategies.

Oil and gas companies have the potential to tap into different forms of data and use it to generate insights that can empower decision-makers. The data can come from various sources, including equipment monitoring, maintenance records, seismic inputs, weather patterns, and production information.

As advancements in instrumentation, process automation, and collaboration rapidly increase data volumes, some industry observers expect these volumes to grow by a factor of five each year. IDC predicts that usable data generated in the oil and gas industry will grow from a total of 52 exabytes today to 888 exabytes in 2020. Due to the vast amounts of data that companies have at their disposal, it becomes essential to plan how this ‘big data’ will be stored.

Using data can yield multiple advantages, not only for companies, but also for their workforces. For instance, weather data can be used to analyse environmental conditions before creating schedules for workers, to mitigate risk and ensure safety.

On a business level, big data and advanced analytics can assist companies to explore new resources. They enable the identification of unnoticed, yet potentially productive, seismic trace signatures, which can then be explored. The data makes it a lot easier to locate new hydrocarbon deposits. By leveraging big data, the usual process for finding these deposits, which normally requires a lot of materials, personnel, and logistics, can become streamlined. This leads to cost savings and better workforce planning.

Big data is also useful for daily production and operational activities. If a company is equipped with the information to predict future performance based on historical results, or to identify sub-par production zones, it can reallocate its resources and increase productivity.

Data services have also opened doors to activities that were not possible in the past. For instance, remote visualisation via the cloud enables rapid collaboration between a well site and remotely located experts, improving the safety, speed, and accuracy of reservoir decisions. This enables the experts to analyse the subsurface data and use datasets to make better informed decisions about drilling and exploration. According to McKinsey Global Institute, in 2015, an estimated $168bn was spent on enterprise mobility solutions, with $8bn spent on oil and gas mobile apps. The investment has been positive for oil and gas companies, as they saw a 63% increase in cost savings and a 51% increase in productivity.

Big data, if utilised well, can generate numerous advantages for oil and gas businesses, including a reduction in costs, more streamlined operations, and increasingly effective manpower planning. These benefits ultimately lead to long-term business growth, and help companies to retain their competitive advantage.


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