As digital disruption continues to permeate all industries, offshore operations are among those set to benefit. From predictive analytics and Big Data in oil and gas, to the blockchain and AI, seven industry experts give their opinion on how technology is leading to greater efficiency in the oil and gas industry.

Speeding up data analysis offshore

“By switching to digital work instructions, oil and gas companies can build a huge bank of data for audits and simultaneously use the information to predict when failure will occur. That, perhaps, over-simplifies the enormity of the situation but it is such a critical solution to a vast array of issues.  There is the famous study by MIT Technology Review, which found that only 0.5% of all data is ever analysed. This was published in 2013 so is certain to have gone up, but not by a huge amount and there is a long way to go in terms of adoption in the oil and gas sector.

“Historically, this would have taken a day to find the information and prove the claim. Today, it takes the team three clicks and less than 10 seconds.”

“The nature of the oil and gas industry means health and safety, compliance and audit checks are frequent and detailed. Unless it is done digitally, each of these processes creates a huge volume of paper, which is difficult to track and practically impossible to measure with any degree of value or accuracy. Done digitally, anybody from the worker, to the supervisor or the auditor can see the characteristics of a check in real time, the impact it has, and provide digital evidence, such as pictures or data, to know it is done correctly. All in a fraction of the time.

“For example, one of our clients was asked in a recent audit, ‘how many times was filter X changed last year?’ Historically, this would have taken a day to find the information and prove the claim. Today, it takes the team three clicks and less than 10 seconds.”

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James Woodall, CTO, Intoware

Big Data in oil and gas is fuelling productivity

“Like most industries today, the oil and gas industry has been disrupted by technology and has taken steps to ensure it adapts to the new reality. With most offshore platforms running at 77% of their production potential, businesses are looking to Big Data and analytics as a new way to improve processes and productivity.

“The large amounts of data that are constantly generated from oil and natural gas upstream, midstream and downstream processes can be quickly processed and analysed to reveal new insights to prevent equipment malfunctioning and improve operational efficiency. For example, by integrating the Internet of Things (IoT) into offshore equipment, employees can track and monitor lifespan and other elements that can affect production, such as wave heights, temperature, and humidity.

“With this knowledge, employees can effectively maintain an offshore platform through predictive maintenance, helping detect equipment breakdown before it occurs. This leads not only to enhanced productivity but also improved results in an improvement to the bottom line.”

Ruban Phukan, Vice-president of Product, Progress DataRPM

Saving time with automation and AI

“Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a consistent buzzword in many aspects of the oil and gas sector, as well as most industrial markets globally. AI is a term used to cover many diverse technology improvements but with a focus on digital applications. We can assign everything from self-driving cars, voice commands with Apple’s Siri, to automated new articles being generated for global media.

“For applications in the offshore energy setting, there are several key ways you should be looking for AI to make improvements. Most can be lumped into two categories; automation and trending analysis. The best outcomes have a bit of both. Automation would typically be thought of as remote-control systems to remove personnel from areas of risk. However, in this context, automation includes generation of reports, evaluation of crucial and continuous monitoring, alarm communications and, if appropriate, time-critical response and actions.

“Improvements through AI will be large and small, with potential applications throughout the entire energy facilities and operations.”

“An example – the inspection of offshore assets is typically undertaken manually by an inspector with pad and pencil, and then translated into a static report. Today, that same inspector can log the location, photo, measurement, conditions assessment and mitigation in a hand-held device and the results can be with the onshore facilities manager by the time the inspector has finished his coffee during break in the accommodations unit. The data is stored in an active database, linked to maintenance scope and accessed through 3D representations of the platform making it accessible to all, rather than stuck in a report on someone’s shelf.

“To further the benefits, once the inspection measurements are entered into the database, the system can evaluate the results against pre-set limits and trending analysis. There can also be communication actions such as emails and auto-generated reports to key personnel indicating that the field observation requires action. This type of automation shortens offshore time for personnel, reducing the operational costs whilst improving response time dramatically.

“Improvements through AI will be large and small, with potential applications throughout the entire energy facilities and operations.”

Cameron Dunn, Associate Energy Leader US and Engineer, Arup

Enhancing safety offshore through electronic monitoring

“The oil and gas industry is awash with opportunities to maximise efficiency. However, companies should be wary of undertaking initiatives that save time and money unless these also sustain or materially improve overall safety. Attempting to cut corners will only end in disaster, so balancing safety with efficiency is absolutely crucial.

“Advanced analytics has the advantage of providing deeper and more accurate insights into production, reliability and the integrity of the infrastructure, thereby bringing savings and safety improvements. By monitoring factors such as well draw and subsea pipeline flow, analytics software can highlight potential problems before they even develop. This ensures that all processes continue to run smoothly and without interruption for the benefit of the business.

“Analytics software is already being used in a number of areas to boost efficiency. These include simulating production assets to show potential operating performance, real-time monitoring of well abnormalities to optimise both performance and safety and using data science sandboxes to trial analytical models in Cloud environments.

“In an industry where safety is so closely linked to efficiency, it’s vital that organisations have clean, usable data on every aspect of their operations. Advanced analytics can be a vital part of this solution, but most important is that organisations follow a data-led approach to their operations.

Simon Tucker, Head of Energy and Commodities, and Kevin Clark, Senior Principal of Energy and Utilities, Infosys Consulting

3D virtual modelling with drones

“Drone technology combined with 3D virtual modelling is a solution that delivers time and cost savings, but also importantly vastly improves safety. The huge infrastructures associated with oil and gas require almost constant assessment and maintenance. Where manual inspection of these big, largely inaccessible structures takes weeks or months and costs hundreds of thousands. A drone delivers in a matter of days, at a fraction of the cost.

“Where manual inspection of these big, largely inaccessible structures takes weeks or months and costs hundreds of thousands. A drone delivers in a matter of days, at a fraction of the cost.”

“For example, consider the maintenance of flare tips on an oil rig; high up, with constant flame. Assessing it for maintenance could mean shutting down the whole production pipeline and setting up a crane to physically send someone up to make an assessment. This is a costly and lengthy operation, not to mention the safety risks involved. Instead, a drone can fly in and record what’s wrong without sending a human anywhere close, and deliver information in vastly higher levels of detail.

“Another way this technology saves time and money is the software’s ability to store and enable access and interrogation of inspection and maintenance records. Often these large offshore projects will have numerous, disparate records associated with them. Without linking these records time and money are wasted on finding, replicating or merging reports. Instead, it’s now possible to create a digital twin of the whole structure, mapping all available information in a 3D location in a way that engineers can instantly access the history of a rig’s maintenance.”

Pae Natwilai, CEO and Founder, Trik.

Video surveillance technology

“The oil and gas sector typically needs to protect critical infrastructure covering large areas. To cover these areas, a large number of video surveillance cameras need to be deployed. Video analytics can help analyse the video streams of those cameras to provide real-time alerting, as well as operational insights for maintenance purposes. Most importantly for security, video analytics can be used to protect the perimeter of oil and gas facilities, alerting in real-time when a person or vehicle breaches a perimeter.

“For operations, video analytics can check the feeds of all cameras, ranging from a few to thousands, to detect if the camera quality decreased, if the camera has been turned or if it has otherwise been tampered with. This allows triggering maintenance stand operation procedures (SOPs) only when cameras need to be fixed, reducing maintenance cost and increasing the quality and uptime of the system.”

Florian Matusek, Product Group Director – video analytics, Genetec Inc.

Analysing Big Data in oil and gas with the blockchain

“The oil and gas industries increasingly rely on the analysis of data provided by edge technologies, such as sensors to improve productivity and efficiency. But amid the vast swathes of data being collected, the ability to trust its validity and provenance is becoming more difficult.

“Let’s assume data is recorded from an offshore oil rig, consisting of many connected components and sensors. In the case of a large oil spill, an action-by-action account of what led to the spill is needed. But collating this data and proving its veracity beyond doubt can be ruinously time-consuming and expensive – and even impossible in some cases.

“Amid the vast swathes of data being collected, the ability to trust its validity and provenance is becoming more difficult.”

“The blockchain’s ability to permanently record all the steps in a process is already widely known. But it can also be used to build an application that provides immediate and immutable proof demonstrating a specific chain of events. This type of application could also provide the verified data needed for safety and compliance audits. And it could even aid business intelligence by immediately providing accurate, incorruptible information to support time-crucial efficiency decisions – such as re-positioning a rig dynamically in response to input from tide and wind sensors.”

Adrian Clarke, CEO of data verification services, Evident Proof.

For more expert analysis on the future of oil and gas, see eight bold predictions here.