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Oil and Gas Get Help From Big Data

Megan Nichols's picture
Freelance Technical Writer Self-Employed

Megan Ray Nichols is the editor of Schooled By Science, a blog dedicated to breaking down current complex scientific discussions into the vernacular. She loves writing about the latest...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jan 14, 2017


Big Data is positively influencing industries across the globe. This includes healthcare, education, government, manufacturing, banking and more. The ability to use predictive analysis helps companies save both time and money.

The oil and gas markets only use a small percentage of the Big Data solutions available — however, with new data-driven software, these markets may be able to overcome industry challenges while reducing costs and improving company efficiency.

With domestic and international politics influencing the locations available for exploration and drilling, as well as the increasing costs of extraction, oil and gas organizations are investing in Big Data in surprising new ways. Many of these companies have been using sensors on machines for decades, but in many cases, these companies are only using a small percentage of the information collected and not sharing data industrywide.

How Big Data Reduces Costs and Improves Efficiency

Drilling a deep-water oil well can cost as much as $100 million or more. Operators survey the earth and monitor seismic waves that appear distorted, as reported by the company’s probes. These distorted waves may indicate oil or gas in that location.

Using the new technology, what used to require perhaps one thousand readings by operators can now be accurately done through sensors and transmitted to private servers for analyzing by geologists. Scientists can use this data to accurately pinpoint where to drill next, without wasting the company’s time on uninformed decisions. This means companies can expand their exploration to remote areas.

This predictive analysis avoids unplanned downtime, as operators can forecast when machines need servicing, while the new technology helps companies maximize their return on investment. One of the newer aspects of Big Data is cloud computing.

Cloud computing allows companies to analyze greater amounts of information stored within the cloud. By using the system in the oil and gas industry, companies can reduce their overall operational costs and downtime. Safety improvements may also come more quickly across the oil and gas markets.

With Big Data, both structured and unstructured data is thoroughly analyzed and used appropriately. According to GE, this can include spectral data, textual descriptive information and complex disjointed data. This large volume of unknown data, once analyzed, may provide companies with extensive insight into specific processes.

Integrating Big Data and Cloud-Based Systems

More companies need to integrate Big Data into their current technology to take advantage of the benefits of data-driven solutions. One of the reasons oil and gas companies have not implemented more cloud-based systems is due to not having appropriately trained employees to use, analyze and implement the data software.

Although as many as 56 percent of executives agree that Big Data will influence their companies’ business decisions over the next three to five years, the oil and gas industry has not caught up with other industries using cloud-based systems to effectively develop insights. Companies can introduce and implement lean manufacturing processes to reduce waste while improving quality, for example.

Oil and gas companies will need to hire data scientists that understand how analytics can help move the industry forward, while increasing return on investments. As for current employees, companies need to provide general training with systems that easily integrate with the current technology the employee already uses on a daily basis.

Training should include confidentiality requirements and data security to relieve any fears employees may have about using cloud-based systems. Accordingly, the new system should focus on responsiveness and reliability, with employees able to monitor key performance indicators.

How You Can Implement Big Data Processes at Your Company

Managers working within the oil and gas industry can help implement Big Data and predictive analysis. If you’re a manager, you will want to meet with the various departments within your company to gain insight into what processes you can streamline with cloud computing. The operators, engineers and other personnel can pinpoint the issues that challenge the company’s efficiency.

Your company may overlook the need for data scientists to analyze and interpret information in favor of saving money from hiring new employees. Managers can explain the necessity for people who can manipulate Big Data, which will ultimately reduce operational costs overall and increase productivity.

You can train your current employees on the procedures necessary when the system detects an issue. Qualified operators can prepare for these problems in advance and save the company money from unplanned and lengthy machinery downtime. The cloud-based system and analytics do not replace the current employees, but instead assist them in predicting problems and monitoring for cost-effective ways to conduct various processes.

Some oil and gas organizations refuse to share Big Data and predictive analyses with other firms in the industry. This lack of collaboration produces inconsistencies with the data and only results in a slight competitive edge for those companies that are unwilling to share. If the oil and gas industry is to continue to thrive while reducing costs, companies need to be willing to share data industry-wide.

Photo Credit: luckey_sun via Flickr


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