Oil and gas ‘scratching the surface’ on benefits of operational data

Ian Phillips, left, CEO of the Oil and Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC) and Stephen Ashley, digital transformation solution centre manager at the OGTC.
Ian Phillips, left, CEO of the Oil and Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC) and Stephen Ashley, digital transformation solution centre manager at the OGTC.

The industry is still just “scratching the surface” of what can be achieved through greater access to data.

While the OGA’s National Data Repository (NDR) will widely improve access to subsurface information, there are still “significant challenges” in opening up operational data, which is more commercially sensitive but has the potential to make huge savings for the sector.

Organisations like the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) and the Oil and Gas Innovation Centre (OGIC) are making strides to improve things in that space.

Stephen Ashley, digital transformation solution centre manager at the OGTC, highlighted its recent report with the OGA and the Technology Leadership Board which shows the industry’s approach to data is still “relatively immature”.

“The Digital Landscaping Study of the Oil and Gas Industry highlights that while we are good at data visualisation, we are less advanced in applying analytics and then using results to drive decision making,” he said.

“In the area of asset maintenance and operations alone, this could increase production and lower costs to the value of £1.5 billion annually.

“If we are to maximise the economic recovery of our region and support the transition to a lower-carbon economy, we must address this more broadly – something we are actively pursuing in the OGTC.”

Mr Ashley said the industry needs to start adopting new solutions for artificial intelligence to improve costs but in order to do so there needs to be better access to operational data.

He said there needs to be a framework put in place to allow firms to feel “comfortable” sharing this information.

“The OGA is taking the first steps in providing data access at a national level through the National Data Repository, which will make subsurface data far more widely available,” he said.

“However, the data types supported need to expand to include operational data if we are to achieve similar capability in that space. This is undoubtedly more commercially sensitive, but access can be governed using data trusts or safe havens – an approach already adopted by the NHS.

“Their central repository of anonymised medical data is already being used to support advanced research.”

The reason this operational data should be shared is that this technology needs vast amounts of information in order to “learn”.

Ian Phillips, chief executive of OGIC, explained: “A key element in the digitalisation of the oil and gas industry is having access to large amounts of data in the right place at the right time.

“A ‘machine learning’ algorithm needs historical data to “learn”, and an artificial intelligence system needs new data to apply that learning.”

This in turn can bring benefits including more accurate predictions of equipment failure and predictive maintenance, bringing down costs.

However, the way operational data is collected and shared is too disjointed, according to Mr Phillips.

He added: “For the last 50 years offshore operational data has been collected in isolation by different systems, and stored in a variety of locations and in a variety of formats.

“The lack of a joined-up approach to data management means that the sector has only scratched the surface of the benefits which data analysis can bring to the industry.

“Whilst there have been huge strides in deploying data analytics to improve performance, there are significant challenges in accessing the underpinning data.

“Organisations such as OGIC and the Oil & Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) are supporting projects that address these underlying issues, helping to ensure that we can access the data needed to solve some of the biggest challenges facing the industry.”