There’s no denying the fact that data and analytics are gaining steam in the oil and gas industry. Just look at what Accenture and Microsoft found from a recent survey of upstream oil and gas professionals:

  • Two-thirds (66%) said analytics is one of the most important capabilities for transforming their company, even though only 13% said their organization has fully mature analytics capabilities;
  • The number of respondents who said they are investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) nearly doubled from 25% in 2015 to 44% in 2016; and
  • More than half (56%) said they plan to use the cloud to enable analytical capabilities in the next three to five years.

So what is driving this trend? Certainly, oil and gas companies see a significant opportunity to improve their operations. Better insights into processes can uncover issues and improve decision-making to help boost production, improve processes, minimize downtime and increase asset utilization. But data and analytics also can help companies contend with some of their greatest challenges, including:

  • A growing skills gap: Like other industrial sectors, the oil and gas industry is facing a skills shortage. Experienced workers are nearing retirement, and qualified young workers are increasingly hard to find to replace them;
  • Increasing operational complexity: Oil and gas producers are capturing hydrocarbons from new and more challenging locations, whether it’s deep subsea reserves or tight geological formations. This is requiring more complex systems than ever—some with more than 200,000 tags of data and alarms; and
  • Expanding regulatory challenges: Environmental and safety regulations continue to evolve as governments continue to put pressure on oil and gas companies to help prevent environmental damage and protect lives. This is only making compliance more complex.

A connected enterprise

The unconnected and distributed nature of oil and gas operations has traditionally limited companies in their ability to collect data. But this is changing as they adopt connected, information-enabled technologies and replace disparate networks with a unified network architecture.

This modern infrastructure—in which people, processes and technologies can be seamlessly connected across an enterprise that stretches hundreds or thousands of miles—is known as The Connected Enterprise. It embraces technology advances that include not only Big Data and analytics but also open-standard IoT devices, mobility, virtualization and cloud computing. Most importantly, it creates nearly unlimited opportunities to improve and transform operations.

The Connected Enterprise presents the oil and gas industry with some key opportunities:

  • By collecting valuable asset data and contextualizing it into actionable information, oil and gas companies can empower workers with critical operational information and help them optimize equipment performance;
  • Equipment data also can be used to more quickly troubleshoot issues, create predictive maintenance strategies and better understand worker behaviors, all of which can help reduce downtime; and
  • Remote-access technology can be used to monitor remote wellheads, pump stations and storage sites from a centralized location. This can help reduce safety risks and costs associated with sending workers to manually check on these systems.

These opportunities are not just theoretical. A number of oil and gas producers and operators are already demonstrating how connected, information-driven operations can improve their performance and solve business challenges.

Keeping tabs on offshore operations from afar

Even in the most remote and challenging environments operations are expected to run around the clock. That’s certainly the case for one oil and gas company with offshore production platforms located off Alaska’s coast.

The company’s oil drilling platforms use submersible pumps to help keep production running 24 hours per day. If they stop, production stops, which costs the company $100,000 to $300,000 each day.

To help reduce risk of downtime, the company upgraded to more efficient and reliable electric submersible pumps and used a virtual support service to remotely monitor the drives that power the pumps.

The cloud-based service collects key equipment data such as speed, current, power and voltage and analyzes those data in real time. If any potential issues or failures are detected, a Rockwell Automation support engineer is notified immediately. The service nearly paid for itself in the first two weeks since it helped detect and notify key personnel of four incidents in that time frame after implementation.

Refining business models onshore

Onshore, the use of cloud technology is growing as a remote monitoring tool as well as for storing data and analyzing and contextualizing information. For example, M.G. Bryan, a heavy equipment and machinery supplier to the oil and gas industry, knew it needed a way to remotely monitor and maintain the performance of its $1 million fracturing trucks. Downtime on the vehicles can cost $3,000 to $7,000 per day, and that’s before lost product revenues are taken into account.

The company invested in a cloud-based fleet-management system. Using mobile technology and the seamless transfer of business information over the cloud, M.G. Bryan securely pulls data to web browsers. Then the software management system produces reports and dashboards showing the condition of individual vehicles’ drivetrains and hydraulic fracturing performance. The system takes the guesswork out of maintenance scheduling, thus helping prevent unplanned downtime.

In addition, the instant visibility into remote-asset data has improved asset uptime and productivity for end users. It also has allowed the original equipment manufacturer to shift its business model from monthly agreements to pay-by-use, giving the company a competitive advantage. By using the cloud, M.G. Bryan maintains no infrastructure, and it can scale the solution from one truck to 4,000 trucks.

Data drives companies into the future

The potential for data and analytics in oil and gas is growing every day as more companies tap into it. For example, companies are beginning to explore the use of real-time production allocation.

Rockwell Automation is working with a producer to capture real-time multiphase flow volumes from all of its existing wells. This will enable operators to monitor data and allocate production to individual wells, specifically pinpointing assets that are underproducing and improving overall productivity.

That’s just the beginning. The possibilities are unlimited. More advanced oil and gas companies are looking to integrate these field data with production planning and accounting systems to enable timely and accurate oilfield production reconciliation.

As more companies seek to capitalize on their data and make the journey to The Connected Enterprise, the decisions they make along the way will be critical to realizing long-term business benefits. Accessing and monitoring assets and merging disparate oilfield data into streams of actionable information are essential to remaining competitive. The space continues to grow with new technologies and smart devices.

References available. Contact E&P Executive Editor Rhonda Duey at for additional information.