Why Oil & Gas Professionals Should Utilize a Commenting Tool02/12/2019
In this article, we’ll discuss important benefits that efficient collaboration can bring to your field and back office teams – and your oil and gas company as a whole.
Good communication and collaboration between the field and back office simply drives better decision making. Many decisions that need to be made require multiple people from different disciplines to provide input into what action(s) needs to be taken. Rarely does just one person have the answer. Some common examples of the need for collaboration include:
- If a well has been shut-in, it may affect lease hold, which means the land team needs to be notified.
- If a well is not performing as expected and indicating the need for maintenance, a workover crew needs to be called in.
- If there are issues with run tickets from a specific purchaser that are holding up processing through revenue and payment.
Having multiple people from different disciplines together to diagnose an issue and understand what needs to be done next saves time and results in a more educated decision on what action(s) to take.
Another important reason for collaboration is prioritization. A field operator could be planning his day to do a workover or scheduled maintenance but someone else may have input because they’re planning work that effects the same asset, impacting the operator’s priority.
Who Faces Communications & Collaboration Challenges
Everyone should care about improved communication because it’s essential that the right people are talking about the right thing at the right time in order to maintain a high level of operational efficiency. Of course, the subject matter will vary based on participants, but the key is to not only communicate but collaborate.
For example, a Production Accountant in the back office may have hundreds, or even thousands, of run tickets (also known as trucked tickets) a month to reconcile and validate for accuracy. When he or she finds an issue, they must reach out to the field operator who captured that ticket in the first place. The standard methods of communication are calls, texts, and emails. If a Field Operator has the day off, communication may be put on hold, waiting for them until they return. It may even get passed off to the relief pumper or production tech in the field office, neither of whom have the right information or could possibly mistake the run ticket in question for a different ticket.
Since all of this is happening across multiple methods (emails, phone calls, texts) it takes time for these communications to go back and forth and, as often happens with multi-threaded communications, the context of the original question, or even which ticket is in question, may get lost.
Was it a problem with the tank? The hauler? An incorrect run ticket number? Because the communications are happening outside of a centralized tool, not tied to the specific transaction, this expands the opportunity for miscommunication, lost time, and efficiency.
When context-specific collaboration occurs within an application that maintains all requests and responses and is tied to the specific ticket (transaction) in question, nothing is lost – including the necessary support for future discussions and follow-up on the same question. Communication is centralized and ensures everyone is on the same page during discussions.
Another example involves an Engineer who may notice that a well’s overall test rates are significantly higher than the last few tests, or that the gas-to-oil ratio has diverged. These could be signals of a problem with the well or could simply be an error in data capture.
Questions that the engineers may need to verify include:
- Was it a good test?
- Did the operator run a full test, versus partial?
- Was one of the numbers fat-fingered (accidentally typed in)?
Again, the ability to ask questions and collaborate centrally across the various applications that make up a production data management solution enables more accurate and auditable communication. The history is associated with the well and the test, which is saved and can be used again so others can see if they have questions about what occurred.
Another scenario relates to route management. A Foreman may determine, based on trends in the SCADA, that the Field Operator assigned to that route needs to re-work his route for the day to stop at the affected well first. Using a collaboration tool, he can note which well it is, reference the anomaly in the data items, and alert the associated production engineer to monitor and refer to historical context.
In every field office, there is “watch list” of information that is shared each day, as well as from day-to-day, between all players who have ownership of the field assets. As part of handing off responsibilities to the next person responsible for running a route, important information is usually shared via a white board, sticky notes, or in a spreadsheet via a shared drive.
Another area of risk is related to turnover. When communication occurs in a traditional and isolated manner, the intellectual knowledge and history of the asset is lost through the natural turnover of employees or even retirement.
Many reporting tools allow annotation by adding notes on a graph, report, or document, but these represent a single point in time. With a static comment about a specific well on a specific day, you don’t have the ability to discuss and elaborate.
Similarly, many field data capture systems only allow one singular comment per day per well or piece of equipment. These, too, are static and not relatable or interconnected.
All the above are examples of how production operations teams operate today without a centralized area to store communications. They move between multiple modes of communications, leading to lost time following up and hunting for resolutions, as well as open themselves up to loss of context and vital information.
Benefits of a Robust Communication Function
A solution to the challenges outlined above is less of a historical marker but rather a set of solutions that can be actionable in the future. Commentary tools allow conversations, an historic record, and provide solutions to overcome problems of the past. They create a problem/solution library and become another extraordinarily valuable data stream to utilize.
There is also the added benefit of uniting the field and back office, all while ensuring they have alignment in how they efficiently operate their assets.
A collaboration tool “brings it all together” in the following ways:
- Context-Specific – associated not only with a well or equipment but also with volumes and related transactions
- Data is Visible to Everyone – all users can see the issue, history, and ongoing conversations
- Operate Live From the Field – even with zero internet access, data can be captured now and synced later; no information gaps or delays in information sharing
- No Data is Lost – communication is captured without any accidental loss
Collaborate in a New Way
Having a commenting tool enhances collaboration by providing a centralized system to record, track, search, and categorize information.
Categorizing conversations (blow-down events, compressor, plunger lift, weather, chemicals, etc.) allows users to assign categories that enable search by pulling together groups of information, groups of instructions, and groups of things to track. Any group of data that you find beneficial to improve the operations and efficiency of your organization.
Certain decisions require the input and approval of multiple stakeholders from various disciplines. Having a detailed record means many people can assess the situation concurrently. It also allows prioritization by showing each colleague what issues are occurring and what steps have been taking toward solving them.
Further, the data captured provides another data-rich stream that can be analyzed to further increase efficiency.
Not having a commenting tool causes data loss and issues in data completeness, accuracy, and history – all equating to inefficient operations, costing time and money. Emails and phone calls are not searchable, nor are they captured centrally. As employees change positions, organizations, or retire, valuable information goes with them causing serious financial loss to an organization.
Look for a commenting tool that is unique to your industry, provides collaborative data capture, and shares data that is context-specific, relatable, searchable, and categorizable – creating a knowledge library leverageable by all functional disciplines in an organization.
About The Author
Clara Fuge is vice president of product management at P2. With more than 20 years of experience providing software solutions to the energy industry, her expertise lies in upstream hydrocarbon accounting and production operations. Clara graduated with a degree in Economics from the University of Texas at Austin and is a member of several industry groups, including the American Petroleum Institute’s Committee on Production Measurement & Allocation. A self-proclaimed “allocations geek,” she is passionate about giving oil and gas companies the tools needed to report accurate well production. When she’s not working, Clara enjoys spending time with her husband and their three dogs.