The digital oilfield is a broad term with a big, and some could say, endless vision. Critics say the idea is old yet still a concept. Supporters say a lot of innovation has occurred but we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. It's important to highlight what has changed over the past few years and why O&G is at a technology tipping point.
First let’s level set. The O&G industry is digitally quite advanced. Technicians use remote sensors to log well conditions. They access wireless communication systems that link subsurface and above ground networks to make production decisions remotely. It all sounds pretty high-tech but there is a step-change of innovation about to happen. Mainstream technology is now moving into all aspects of heavy industry – O&G included.
Let me use Royal Dutch Shell, as a single example of how three disruptive mainstream technology trends are changing the industry.
Embedded Sensors: Sensors are cheap effective and everywhere - today there are 1 trillion sensors embedded in the physical world. Shell recently started deploying fiber optic sensors in wells to gather data used to increase production and more accurately predict remaining reserves. These super-sensitive sensors, created by HP, are also being used to find oil in depleted wells or in places where previous exploration indicated no oil existed. These new sensors generated massive amounts of geological data. In fact, a single Shell well generated 1 Petabyte of information. Shell has plans to deploy these sensors in 10,000 wells which would create 10 Exabytes of data. That’s the equivalent file size to 100,000 hours of high definition video.
Growth in Bring Your Own Device (BYOD): BYOD is making significant inroads in the business world with about 44% of employees in developed markets already using their own technology at work. Shell is undertaking a significant BYOD project which will see it supporting around 135,000 devices chosen by users rather than dictated by Shell’s IT department. Shell’s shift to become a BYOD outfit is aimed at attracting young talent and this trend will enable the emergence of industrial apps.
In my opinion, the industry has already embraced the digital oilfield. However there is an acceleration in capabilities that will have a profound impact on a company's ability to remain globally competitive. Let's drill for software.
Author: Whitney Rockley