Big Data is a novelty? Oil and gas industry clearly proves it otherwise

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While pulling up at a gas station, have you ever wondered about something more than price, buying a Red Bull or a hot dog? Did you know that behind the whole process, which leads to you filling the tank of your car, is a powerful technology and an analysis of billions of data points? Don’t worry, I would also never have looked at it that way. So, it’s time to change the way of thinking and show how Big Data influences billions in revenue in this sector.

In many industries, the analysis of massive amounts of data is a novelty, but where oil and gas are, apart from political factors the process of decision-making have long been influenced by technology. To find out what lies beneath the Earth’s surface, where to look for deposits and how to extract them, companies in the industry for years have invested in seismology software, visualization tools and other digital technologies to help develop the mining. The technology allows you to capture more detailed data, with many previously undiscovered areas, process them in real time and simultaneously lower the costs and improve the productivity of oil fields. One example can be calculating in real time the correlation between data from the drill shaft and production data from nearby wells, which allows for customizing an appropriate drilling strategy.

As calculated by Bain&Company – a consulting company based in Boston – the extensive data analytics alone is able to increase production of 6 to 8%. American study on a group of 400 people in executive positions in various industries has also shown that companies with extensive analytical department were twice as likely to represent the top quartile financial performance in their industry. Moreover, the speed of decision-making process increases and projects are more frequently delivered on time.

So how are analyses of Big Data able to help the industry?

A huge number of places from which oil is extracted and the required production speed, with which the producers are struggling, affect the vital role of real-time analyses that play a key role in the whole process. The exploiters decide with limited engagement of their headquarters. Advanced analytics are able to support their decisions with regard to the assessment of geographical and geological characteristics, with fewer mistakes, which results in saved time and consequently increase revenues. Another advantage of the extended analyses is the way in which companies manage drilling process. Reducing errors and delays increases productivity, as exemplified by 3D imaging using optical fibers. The provided data is also able to affect the drilling process itself by optimizing its performance and creating a technique suitably chosen to a surface. Big Data is of paramount importance especially in deep-sea mining where man tries to delve deeper and deeper, breaking new boundaries. It is also significant that more people were on the moon than at … the depth at which drills are currently performed by the biggest producers in the world.

An important role the industry plays in the discovery of defects and technical errors in time. In order to locate places where a failure can occur as soon as possible, a predictive analysis is used. An example here can be sensors placed in the drilled shafts or on oil drilling equipment. They send a steady stream of information, helping the producers predict the point at which the drill may encounter problems and human life can be threatened, which, in the case of drilling up to 3 km below the surface (Shell Oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico), it is of extreme importance.


After the tragedy, in which 11 workers were killed, that took place in the Gulf of Mexico, where a dramatic explosion sank the Deepwater Horizon platform leased by BP, the companies decided to put safety in the first place. Within 87 days, about 4.9 million barrels of oil leaked from the unsecured drilling site. The largest in US history ecological disaster affected the economy of the whole region. It has also led to rigorous tightening of safety regulations throughout the oil industry. Here also the help of Big Data was employed, as operations centers were launched, where experienced engineers work around the clock monitoring platforms in real time. Much more often and more accurately the work of some devices (such as anti-explosion heads) is analyzed.

Summing up

The analysis of Big Data process is, has been and will be necessary in the oil and gas industry. Its use in the future should be considered through the prism of overcoming new, previously unreachable barriers. It is perfectly reflected in the words of John Hollowell, Shell Vice President for Deep Water in the Americas, who said:  “How far you can go is really technology based. When we can’t overcome the technical barriers, that will be the end, but we have yet to reach that stage. The will of the people to make it happen is also an important component of deepwater. Some people associate it with landing on the moon of sorts.”

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Published July 29, 2015