A Fresh Perspective on Applying Data in the Oil & Gas Industry

A Fresh Perspective on Applying Data in the Oil & Gas Industry
A Fresh Perspective on Applying Data in the Oil & Gas Industry

“The reality is, while we have become data rich in many places, in many cases we are still information poor,” said Jim Crompton, Professor of Practice in the Petroleum Engineering Department at the Colorado School of Mines during his keynote address on Feb. 22. He was speaking at a new online event put on by ISA: The ISA Data Analytics in Upstream Oil and Gas Virtual Conference. “It isn’t about how cool an algorithm is or having the latest piece of technology… it’s about how we are using it,” he said. 

The multi-session event presented a series of subject matter experts who spoke about how operators can harness today’s unprecedented influx of data to reduce cost, improve safety and increase production over the life of a field. Featured speakers were also from the University of Houston, Seeq, Canvass AI and Shell Permian Basin. 

Saving money in the oil & gas field with automation

Rystad Energy recently published a report that indicated automation and digitalization could save the oil and gas industry 100 billion dollars per year. Currently, the C-suite of every company is working on some kind of digital transformation program. However, as Crompton indicated, there’s too much digital and not enough transformation going on. Crompton discussed the current state of digital transformation in the upstream oil and gas industry, commenting on business drivers; tech companies’ marketing efforts; pilots and investments; and the challenges ahead.

“Particularly because of low oil prices, getting oil and natural gas out of the rock isn’t the problem anymore,” Crompton said. “[The problem is] making money while we’re getting oil and natural gas out of the rocks. And we hope to do that not with more people and more rigs, but with more data and insight into that data.”

Crompton highlighted the importance of applying data not just within one function of the industry but over multi-departmental, multi-functional, multi-lifecycle stages within an oil and gas well. However, combining data from, for example, oil field services, ERP, operations technology, engineering technology, and information technology to form useful information can be challenging. 

“We need a data platform that allows us to have access to good data from all over the company, solving the classic silo problem,” Crompton said. 
Crompton reminded his listeners that while data is important to drive the industry forward, we can’t forget that oil and gas are physical assets. While some might criticize the industry for being late technology adopters, Crompton instead believes those in the oil and gas industry are intelligent adopters. He recommends watching the new technology come out and see how well it actually works without necessarily risking early adoption. “We don’t need to take a leading innovator risk,” he said. 

Applying useful data in the field

Crompton encouraged listeners to focus less on moving the data from the field to the office and focus more on “using smart processes and equipment to train the algorithms and apply them to the automation systems, putting them to work in the field.” 

“[When it comes to data], it’s not the invention; it’s the application,” Crompton said, pointing out that many of the data processes applied in the field today are hundreds of years old. “What’s new today is our management. It’s now coming in our offices and asking, ‘What’s going to happen?’ That’s why predictive models are being adopted: We want to tell the future. Unfortunately, not all models give the right answers. “Machine learning doesn’t tell you why,” Crompton said. “It just gives you a model to predict.” 


Crompton recommends focusing on not only data but also people and processes to solve problems. 

Those who register for the conference can have access to the recordings and other materials for 30 days after the event aired. 

About The Author

Melissa Landon is the Content Editor at Automation.com.

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