As offshore operations become increasingly digitalised, vast amounts of data are collected and put to use with the hope of creating the most efficient rigs possible. But with such large volumes of information, how can we be sure the right data is floating to the service? At the Transforming Offshore Operations forum in Aberdeen at the end of June this year, Operational Excellence Group (OPEX ) vice president Gerry Ward made it clear that almost all of this data is going to waste, leading to increasing and unnecessary costs.

An offshore rig can have as many as 30,000 data tags but only a fraction of the data collected is put to use. This has a knock-on effect on other aspects like maintenance which is often expensively overlooked and poorly organised. For example, one company spent £20m refurbishing accommodation units so they could be used during maintenance, only for them to be thrown away after just one use.

As the oil and gas industry is changing, so must its attitude to data waste. “The industry has a real opportunity to embrace emerging big data technologies that can help them maximise economic recovery in the UK continental shelf,” explains Ward.

We sat down with Ward to discuss how OPEX’s predictive systems can put a stop to data wastage, and why so much data is being overlooked.

Molly Lempriere: How are you using data to improve the way oil rigs work?

Gerry Ward: OPEX has pioneered a unique data-driven approach to maximising production uptime, known as X-PAS, which combines predictive technologies and techniques with the expertise of data scientists and the domain experience of oil and gas engineers.

Expert sources state that the majority of oil and gas production losses are attributed to issues with critical systems.  However, if you can predict the threats to these systems in advance, in most cases you can take the required steps to mitigate or eliminate the risk.

Most data analysis tools and conventional monitoring techniques look for changes in single data points to signal a problem or issue, for example changes in temperature, vibration, pressure or flow.  The X-PAS approach is different.

Using data from existing offshore sensors we can create bespoke models that enable us to reveal the many thousands of relationships that exist within critical systems.  Essentially, we can look at how millions of data points from an asset are interacting with each other at the same time.  It’s multi-dimensional.

“An offshore rig can have as many as 30,000 data tags but only a fraction of the data collected is put to use.”

Using live sensor data, our team of data scientists use these complex models to carry out analysis on behalf of our customers to pinpoint any anomalies or developing issues.  Our oil and gas engineers then verify and place these insights into the context of the offshore operating environment to identify emergent risks to production before they occur, often months in advance.  Rather than ‘flooding’ our customers with meaningless observations we ensure that only filtered, actionable insights are escalated.

ML: Can you give us an example of a situation where your technology has made a big difference?

GW: By turning huge volumes of operational data into valuable filtered information, the X-PAS service enables our customers to make informed decisions and interventions to maximise the uptime on their installations.  This improvement helps to increase production revenues; lift production efficiency; reduce operational, maintenance and repair costs; and improve the performance of plant and people.

The X-PAS service was initially piloted in 2015 and is now being used by a number of UKCS operators.

For example, the X-PAS service is in operation on the gas compression system on a major UKCS installation.  2.5million data points and thousands of relationships are analysed on a daily basis from the X-PAS Support Centre.  Over a 12-month period the X-PAS service helped the customer earn an additional $20mn in production revenue through 40 crucial interventions, resulting in a 65% reduction in system trips and a number of important safety and performance improvements

By making use of existing infrastructure and operational data that was previously going to waste, no additional capital expenditure was required to achieve these efficiency gains.

ML: Why do you think so much data is going to waste?

GW: The industry has invested heavily in infrastructure to capture data from the offshore installations, each one having something like 30,000 data tags, yet less than 1% of the data collected is used to aid decision making.

There are many factors that contribute to this.  In simple terms, people are just too busy – they don’t have the time to dedicate to analysing the data, and data is useless unless it is turned into actionable insights.

The industry is wrestling with the changes that digital transformations present.  We are seeing a move in the right direction, with more and more operators recognising the opportunities that exist by unlocking the value in their data.

ML: What are the next steps for OPEX?

GW: The team at OPEX have a genuine desire to make a difference to the oil and gas industry by harnessing the power of ‘big data’ to increase production, reduce costs and improve performance.  We are now working closely with our customers and industry bodies to explore the potential of applying predictive big data techniques and technology for a number of other solutions for the oil and gas industry.