Making Do with Less: Revolutionizing Productivity for Oil and Gas Firms with Digital Tools
For some people, images of the oil industry in the 1900s do not appear dramatically different from the images of the industry today. Perhaps in 2015 the oil rigs loom larger and the machinery is more imposing, but the technological developments go way beyond this superficial assessment. For example, the number of extractive industry patents has nearly doubled from 2005 to 2010 and is expected to continue to rise. As described by Mac Elatab, a writer for the online publication Venture Beat, the opportunity to make “oil and gas easier, safer, cleaner, and cheaper to extract” will improve life for all individuals and drives innovation in the industry. Outside of improving people’s lives, technological innovations in oil and gas technology have the potential to transform geopolitics as countries become less dependent on Middle Eastern and Russian oil, for example, and can more freely interact with these nations to influence global happenings.
But to continue to innovate and improve, international oil companies will likely require an additional 500,000 skilled workers in the coming years, though employment in the industry has been steadily decreasing. The discrepancy between the industry’s needs and the skilled workers available have made it essential that companies enable fewer people to do better work.
And here technology becomes important again. Beyond specific innovations in the types of hydrocarbon fuels created, a report by the management-consulting firm Booz & Company stated oil and gas industries would need to develop the “digital oil field” or “technology-centric solutions that allow companies to leverage limited resources.” Additionally, as the Obama administration and other governments have announced new regulations on the industry’s emissions of methane, accreditation with certain standards “is no longer just nice to have, but a necessity to ensure conformance and customer satisfaction.” But as described in the publication Oil and Gas Technology, “conforming to…standards is time-consuming, costly and technologically complex,” and to do this with limited workers seems all the more difficult.
How, then, can the industry ensure compliance while increasing productivity with a limited number of workers?
Building a New Model for Oil and Gas Production
In order to address the seemingly impossible, companies will need to digitize their oil fields through the use of modern digital tools, such as ELNs. These products can enable companies to capture data in real-time, and thus optimize “all parts of the oil and gas value chain,” as described in the report by Booz & Company. Specifically, ELNs can enable a company to do the following:
- Monitor facilities: By ensuring that managers promptly enter field data, responsible parties can track the progress of a site in real-time and identify problems before they become catastrophic challenges. Beyond challenges, ELNs also allow managers to rate the daily performance of workers after studying data inputs, thus ensuring the optimization of the company’s resources. This is especially important as oil and gas companies extend their operations to remote environments. Monitoring also applies to reducing equipment downtown, which can “equate to hundreds of thousands of lost dollars per day.” According to a report by National Instruments, “Ensuring that production machinery and other critical equipment downtown is minimized not only reduces operating and maintenance costs but also increases production revenue.”
- Ensure compliance: As mentioned, regulations dictating the allowable actions of oil and gas companies have increased and in order to avoid penalties, lab managers and management personnel will need to ensure that chemicals and other supplies are carefully tracked. Recently, four environmental groups studied the tracking reports of oil and gas exploration companies in Southern California and found that over 40 toxic chemicals had been used in operation near homes, schools and hospitals. And one could say that part of the negative reaction to industry fracking stems from people’s mistrust of the industry. Thus, ensuring careful compliance through the use of digital chemical inventory management will ensure compliance, maintain proper record keeping and increase corporate responsibility.
- Time-stamp protection: ELNs also enable managers to keep track of all documents, which can be secured, indexed and made immediately available. This supports the monitoring of facilities and compliance regulations, but also allows companies to protect their research and development efforts. As lab chemists and scientists develop cleaner and safer hydrocarbons, having a proper index of the process from idea conception to product development will ensure a company can protect its patents in the case that an individual leaves the firm.
By utilizing such tools as ELNs and digital chemical inventory management to facilitate the tasks mentioned above, the digital oil field can help “ease the competition for human resources” and simultaneously maximize and simplify the work done by available workers while increasing the revenue collected by oil and gas companies. Please visit our website to learn more about how the BIOVIA Notebook and BIOVIA CISPro can support your firm’s efforts in the oil and gas industry.