The oil and gas industry generates enormous amount of data in its operations. Essentially it is a data-driven industry with volumes of data generated in varied forms such as structured, unstructured, technical and commercial. For instance, in the upstream sector each production platform has approximately 40,000 tags attached to the instruments deployed in the oil production operations. These sensor tags generate continuous real-time data on performance and operating condition of the equipment which are transmitted to control rooms for performance monitoring. Gathering and analyzing these voluminous data is an important part of Big Data to gain valuable insight in the operating efficiency of the plant.

Big Data revolutionizing the way Oil & Gas industry is working

While the oil & gas industry is known for handling these voluminous data akin to its nature of operations, what has changed in recent times is the advancement in handling the data. The emergence of Big Data has brought in a new perspective in looking at these capacious data to gain valuable insight to enhance operational excellence. It has helped to process the data with speed, time and predictability of events that could disrupt the operations leading to production and financial loss.

Guiding crucial business decisions

In the context of oil & gas business, every business decision particularly at the strategic level has a long lasting effect on the economics of the business. For example, with oil reserves fast depleting, a business call whether to explore new wells or to expand the life of the existing well is a big decision management faces these days. For a well informed business decision, it will be an apt idea for the organizations to use an analytical tool to analyze the production history of the existing reservoirs and well production numbers with time so as to quickly decide whether they will focus on existing wells for enhanced oil recovery instead of exploring new wells. Indeed, new wells could entail additional capital expenditure which would add to costs pressure in a downward oil price syndrome. Hence, for a well informed decision, Big Data guides these critical decisions with business conviction.

Key characteristics of Big Data

As seen before, conventionally the Oil & Gas industry generates large volumes of data. With the advancements in technology and digitization of operations in particular, data traffic in oil organizations has compounded. Let us briefly see the main characteristics of Big Data in the industry.

Volume: Implementing new technologies chiefly in IT and production space has resulted in exponential data generation in the Oil & Gas business. An integrated oil company’s CIO indicated that their IT department handles data exceeding 1.5 terabytes a day, which is phenomenal. Upstream organizations are ever on the lookout for new frontiers of oil exploration. Hence, they adopt various technologies both onshore and offshore to hunt for oil reserves. These modern technologies and gadgets are used generate real-time data and transmit the same to the data processing center for further analysis on a continuous basis. For example, powerful multi-sensors attached to boats are deployed on the seabed to find out possibility of oil reserves beneath the sea. These sensors pick up vibrations and send the data to the data center where they are processed further.

Velocity: With the deployment of high performance sensors across operations, data capture and relaying capability has become remarkable. Data is always sent in streaming feed and in a live environment. It is possible for the rig operators to swiftly change the course of operation depending on the data feed send from the underwater sensors during the drilling operations. Prowess for smart interpretation of raw data is clearly a high competency skill required in this environment. For example, it can avert an accident or critical equipment failure which could result in financial losses.

Variety and diversity:Oil & Gas operations data are generated in varied forms such as, structured, unstructured, raw feed of data with pictures, etc., which need to be stored and processed for further analysis. Harvesting these data sets could provide crucial insights into operational enhancement areas. Organizations need to formulate the right strategies to store the data and retrieve it whenever necessary for an analytical insight.

Transforming Oil & Gas industry

Big Data is changing the way the Oil & Gas industry is operating nowadays. The nature of the industry in adapting to new technologies and tools is selective due to the complex nature of its operations. However, the benefits of gaining insights can change operations which have far reaching implications on the way the activities are carried out. For example, by employing high performance analytical tools, the critical equipment in a gas turbine deployed at the upstream production platform can be monitored on a continuous basis with the help of sensors. Again, this analytical tool would provide a clear insight into when particular equipment is likely to fail with the existing level of operational parameters. With this actionable intelligence, the operators are in a position either to adjust the operating parameters so that the equipment will not fail or schedule an unplanned interim maintenance work so that the equipment can continue to function and take on the current load.

With Big Data, the Oil & Gas industry has moved to smart operating practices. They are able to make well informed business decisions with the help of data analytics. Their operations have become more efficient leading to operational excellence in all spheres of operations. The potential of Big Data and analytics application in high value areas such as reservoir sizing, micro-seismic data analysis, well spacing, etc., are huge and have substantial financial gains. The complexity and diversity of data generated in these areas poses challenges on handling Big Data by Oil organizations. They are upskilling in analytics space either through outsourcing or harnessing internal talents to meet the challenges. In coming years, Big Data will play a big role and stay longer in driving business decisions in the Oil & Gas space.