The oil and gas industry was one of the original adopters of basic sensor technology years ago, but new predictions and research suggest the impact big data has on the industry could be even greater than originally anticipated. With some of the biggest names in oil and technology joining forces, it’s clear that Big Data has massive potential for the future of the oil and gas industry.
Investing in Big Data
At this year’s Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, General Electric revealed its plans to integrate more smart sensors and increase reliance on Big Data in order to allow oil and gas companies to produce an additional 80 billion barrels of oil – or three years’ worth of the global crude supply of oil. While this is certainly a bold claim, it shows just how far the industry has come and why an investment in Big Data is so valuable.
Shell Leading the Way
Royal Dutch Shell, one of the largest oil and gas companies in the entire world, is also one of the biggest players when it comes to Big Data and analytics. For years, the company has been working on the idea of “data-driven oilfields” which will supposedly allow them to decrease drilling costs – which is the biggest expense in the industry.
“Surveying of potential sites involves monitoring the low frequency seismic waves that move through the earth below us due to tectonic activity,” writes Bernard Marr, an expert in Big Data, analytics, and enterprise performance. “Probes are put into the earth at the spot being surveyed, which will register if the pattern of the waves is distorted as they pass through oil or gas.”
As Marr mentions, the process of surveying potential drilling sites has typically involved only a few thousand readings. Now, with new technology and capabilities, it’s possible to review more than a million readings. With so much more access to data, the exploration process becomes less of a guess and more of an accurate prediction. This can ultimately save companies like Shell hundreds of millions of dollars.
“Shell also uses Big Data to ensure its machines are working properly and spending as little time as possible offline due to breakdowns and failure,” Marr writes. In order to counteract the wear and tear that wreaks havoc during the drilling process, this machinery is fitted with sensors that collect data. This data can then be cross-referenced and compared to aggregated data that allows parts to be replaced in an efficient and appropriate manner.
Enhanced Safety and Security
It’s not all about money, though. Big Data can also improve safety and security in the gas and oil industry. For example, Hadoop, an open-source software framework that allows for the storage and distribution of large data sets, lets oil companies analyze information from a variety of sources and identify real-time threats before they become serious problems.
This same technology can also let oil and gas companies identify patterns or events that may signify an impending security threat or act of cyber-terrorism. Ultimately, this enables them to protect their technology, personnel, and equipment from debilitating attacks.
IBM Plays a Role
IBM is heavily involved in the intersection of Big Data and Big Oil, too. “With the right technology and solutions, you can move beyond traditional real-time monitoring to real-time prediction and agile responses,” their website reads. “Oil and gas solutions that leverage analytics, predictive maintenance, and engineering insight will help you improve business results across your global operations from exploration and production, to refining, processing and distribution.”
IBM aims to help the oil and gas industry in three main areas: (1) enhanced exploration and production, (2) improved upstream and downstream global operations, and (3) improved refining and processing efficiency.
Big Data Means Big Results
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Big Data and rich analytics will play an important role in the long term efficiency and profitability of the oil and gas industry. While there’s still much to be done, it’s good to see some of the world’s leading companies and technologies working together to create better solutions that maximize available resources. When big data is properly leveraged, the future is bright.