WGLC ’17: Digital reinvention in store for oil and gas sector—industry urged to drive change

By Alex Endress, News Editor, World Oil on 11/2/2017

HOUSTON -- The oil and gas industry is still catching up with the consumer tech industry, when it comes to advancements in digital technologies. However, as digitalization becomes more ubiquitous in the average person’s everyday life—through devices like smartphones, self-driving cars and homes with digitally-connected appliances—the potential for innovation continues to grow in the E&P industry. “Data is moving to the cloud—that is a given, so the responsibility is on all of us to learn, and to attract the right talent,” said Ashok Belani, executive V.P. of technology at Schlumberger, while speaking at the Women’s Global Leadership Conference (WGLC) in Energy, on Nov. 2 in downtown Houston.

Belani explained that, largely, most people use more advanced digital technology in their personal lives, than in their professional lives. That’s because companies that are specialists in the digital field, like Google, Microsoft and Apple, have the expertise and infrastructure needed to manage exabytes of data on an ongoing basis. “We live in an interconnected world, where everyone is walking around with a cell phone that is connected to every other person, and billions of devices are connected and talking to each other all the time… Our world has moved on and moved past the industry,” he said. “None of us leverage this technology in the office (for our jobs), because most offices don’t have the means to manage such large quantities of data in a way that would allow the data to connect and interact.”

In the future, companies like Schlumberger will work from within a “digital technology ecosystem” that allows users to customize interfaces with all necessary information to complete daily operations. “No longer is the machine something with pages and icons to go to, clicking and logging into different programs,” Belani said. “Instead, if you are the driller, for example, you will be sitting in a console while everything that is going on in the company data center and on the cloud is being processed and served up to you, as needed. Hardware on the rig will be designed for integration and automation, and that is what is coming down the road in the near-future, as the drilling process is reinvented.”

For instance, digital systems will be able to recognize equipment, such as mud pumps— including the age, model, and installation date—and thus predict how it will function when operating in specific drilling conditions. He pointed out that Schlumberger’s services—DrillPlan and DrillOps—are already changing the drilling process in this manner, to “help fundamentally redesign workflows.” These systems are enabling digital well construction, Belani said. The engineering of a given well is created from the previous wells that were drilled in the area—combining data from thousands of different well designs.

Belani urged leaders in the oil and gas industry to be conscious of such innovations, and to encourage organizations to accept new technology. “Fundamentally, all of us need to get excited about the idea, and if we get excited, everything else will follow.”

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