A new course is being launched by Aberdeen University to bridge the skills gap facing by the energy sector in data management.
The Petroleum Data Management MSc degree begins in September, with industry partners including Shell, Total and Chevron funding the development of the course and helping to shape the curriculum.
The university says there is a need to keep up with the “wealth of data” being produced by the oil and gas sector, particularly as more assets come to their end of life for decommissioning.
Academics also say that more oil and gas companies are appreciating the value of data – and the efficiencies it can bring – following the oil downturn.
The programme is flexible and can be studied on a full-time basis over 12-months – or part-time for 27 months allowing students to tailor it to their other commitments.
The programme is targeted at current oil and gas professionals looking to develop their existing skills or expand into a new area.
Common Data Access (CDA), a not-for-profit subsidiary of industry body Oil & Gas UK, is the main industry partner for the course, acting on behalf of Shell, Total and Chevron.
It is offering two scholarships worth £5,000 each to go towards the programme’s tuition fees, with a deadline of August 3 for applications.
Sakthi Norton, a data manager with the organisation, said that while there is plenty of expertise to exploit data, there are skills gaps for managing it, creating a risk that the information could be lost.
“We are a data-driven industry; we generate a lot of data, which needs to be managed in the right way to get the best value out of it,” she said.
“You have the classic example of data being acquired but then a few years down the line being lost in the company’s holdings.
“It’s available somewhere but if you can’t actually find it, it’s as good as gone. On the other hand, you might have data but have no idea where it comes from or how reliable it is, which can be equally unhelpful.”
Ms Norton said that proper data management is vital from the exploration stage right through to decommissioning.
She added: “One of the things that we’re trying to impress, particularly in relation to late life and decommissioning, is that petroleum data management is a necessity across the asset life cycle.
“The data needs to be readily available, so when you perform later interventions or come to the decommissioning stage you have the answers to questions such as ‘what well engineering techniques and materials were used?’ or ‘what happened during drilling operations 30 years ago that I need to be aware of today?’
“You get the most value if you manage data from the start of the life cycle to make it a smooth process.”
“Petroleum data management is being done more effectively by some companies than others, but it’s never too late to start.
“The petroleum data management discipline is not as mature compared to the industry as a whole, but we’re seeing change, especially with courses like this being offered.”
The degree is co-taught by various departments, including Law, Engineering, Business, Geology and Computer Science.
It covers areas such as data governance, data science , information security management and legal aspects related to data entitlements and obligations.
The university has been working with a range of partners in the sector to get the curriculum in place, saying it has a “unique selling point” within Europe’s oil and gas capital. Programme director Colin North said the partnership was crucial in order to create a course “for the industry, by the industry”, with a focus on further professionalisation for those already in the sector.
He said: “It’s absolutely important that throughout the whole process we have the industry’s help in designing the course and developing it.
“I think the important thing is about preparing people with the necessary skills to take leadership roles in the industry.
“In all of our programmes we are trying to get the students to understand the challenges facing the industry.”
Entry requirements for the course include a 2:1 UK honours degree in a science discipline, or a science-based honours degree from a non-UK institution judged to be of equivalent worth.
2:2 qualifications may be considered if the applicant can demonstrate they have at least two years of professional experience relevant to the programme.
Those with other qualifications need at least three years of experience in the oil and gas industry.