As I’ve written before, the oil and gas industry has long lagged in its use of digital technologies. But that’s rapidly changing: A report by the consulting firm EY “New technology can lead the way, but do you know where you're headed?” found that 89 percent of oil and gas organizations surveyed say their investments in digital technology will increase in the next two years. And 87 percent of them are already using advanced analytics.
What Are Intelligent Oil Fields?
A lot of that technology will go towards building what the industry calls intelligent oil fields, which are designed to increase yields and production, decrease costs, and keep workers safer and the environment cleaner. Once one company uses technology this way, others will be forced to as well if they want to remain competitive.
Intelligent oil fields use technologies that have already swept across other industries. In them, Internet of Things (IoT) sensors gather vast amounts of data, which can then be analyzed and mined to yield important insights about how to operate more effectively. The blog post, "What is a key driver for an ‘Intelligent Oilfield’?" from the mobile satellite communications company Inmarsat describes their benefits this way: “The oil and gas industry has invested billions of dollars to make equipment ’smarter’, adding software and sensors that can help drillers to understand what’s happening in real time, and then leverage that data to plan future actions. The stakes are high, because unplanned downtime can cost drillers hundreds of thousands of dollars per day, while creating a knock-on effect that can impair a drilling schedule for months to come.”
Jaap van Dijk, a control and automation engineer for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), a joint venture between the government of Oman, Shell, Total and Partex, works to deploy intelligent oil fields. Here’s what he says about them in the Shell article, “The Rise of Intelligent Oil Fields:” “We’re bringing the technology and connectivity that we use in our personal lives to our fields. That’s a real buzz. It’s driving major efficiencies at a time when we need to do more with the same number of workers.”
Digital oil fields use mobile technology for data collection, equipment reports, process management and field team management. Big data analytics are used to uncover actionable intelligence, and then the data is to be shared among many teams, frequently using mobile tools.
The Shell article points to a particularly effective use of intelligent oil fields in the Gulf state Oman, which has aging oil fields, as well as “complex reservoirs with heavy oil that is difficult to extract.” Intelligent oil fields there gather vast amounts of data, which is analyzed by data tool called Nibras which collates one million data values every few of minutes. Engineers use the data to make smarter decisions. Oil technician Yahya Riyami uses the live data to keep the fields optimized. He explains, “Previously, we’d have inspected a production component that needed adjustment. If we couldn’t get expert advice from engineers on the phone, we weren’t able to change settings there and then. With the mobile platform, changes that sometimes took two days can now be made in an hour or two because we can communicate so much faster.”
What’s the Best Digital Platform for Intelligent Oil Fields?
To build and make use of intelligent oil fields, oil and gas companies must have the best digital platform. Alpha TransForm is ideally suited for the task. It has the unique ability to rapidly create mobile-optimized forms and field apps that can easily access and integrate with existing databases and web services and can exploit built-in role-based security. It builds offline apps, vital for the oil and gas industry, and has frequently been used to write mobile apps for field workers.
Read a case study on how one developer for a major oil drilling company built an offline-capable maintenance app for offshore oil platforms.
View and download Alpha Software's pumpjack inspection app and watch a related webinar on how to customize it for your organization.