Staying Connected With Friends?


There are many different themes that are resonating through the oil and gas industry at the moment: political implications on the stability of gas supply for Europe and beyond; significant demographic issues with the retirement of experienced people; technology themes of the “internet of things”; cloud computing and integrated operations (IO); and concerns over well integrity. This was highlighted in a recent interview with Rein Maatjes (Shell, retired) in Decom World, where he stated, “In my opinion, we should be seriously worried. The integrity status of a vast amount of wells are below what they should be, and that is a ticking time bomb waiting to happen.”

These themes are interrelated in that they focus on different aspects of operational strategy, asset integrity, overall equipment effectiveness and the whole concept of IO. Well integrity is underpinned by data analysis and this relates back to the Internet of Things, in a roundabout concept.

The Open Group is proposing an industry agnostic architecture that will enable communication between software applications, sensors, measurement and control elements, mobile devices and social networks. This is aimed at removing the proprietary nature of databases and closed applications and promoting the flow of data, analytics, information and workflows and driving toward supporting the Big Data initiative.

This poses the question of how we view assets and equipment within the oil and gas industry. Using social-media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook and others, we connect with friends, colleagues, business partners and networks we are interested in, but in a work environment, we typically work in very closed silos.

The IO in the oil and gas industry is gaining momentum and being rolled out by innovators of different sizes, but the fundamental concept of each company and its program is typically different. Some are focussed on remote operational visibility, others on data flow to match their workplace and still others on simply removing spreadsheets from their organization.

What would happen if the architecture were to reflect the nature of our social networks? Could we envisage an application structure where assets and data stores are available to be “friended” or “connected to” and then updates sent to interested and connected parties when data had been processed and turned into information? This would enable connected groups to comment, share learning and resolve issues collaboratively, without the requirement to review dashboards and complex analytics. How often do you get LinkedIn updates that contain information on an ex-colleague or a company of interest that you otherwise would have missed?

Asset integrity and well integrity are an extension of this concept. The application structure for well integrity monitoring can be modified to support this model – well integrity engineers could then connect to wells in their respective fields and, through mobile devices and cloud computing, determine issues and actions ahead of failure or well degradation. Collective learning could also be captured and built back into data processing rules, making the collective network smarter.

These concepts are all possible today but require that as organisations, we break down silo boundaries and functional group limits. Technology in a company invariably reflects the organisational structure and yet, on social media, we have all learned to connect, network and expand our horizons beyond our immediate horizon.

The question then is how does the Open Group approach get factored into any IO initiative? A far-reaching vision is needed to determine the end state and a lot of current IO projects replicate the integrated version of the current workflow. How do we capture the best of the available concepts and technology to drive innovation in this space? We have a set of disruptive technologies available to us; the question is, how do we put this to good use to solve the problems that are emerging? Increased production, operational efficiency, security of energy supply and institutionalised collective learning are all there to be had; we just need to adapt our thinking.

About the Author
Andy Coward is Senior Director, Business Solutions at P2 Energy Solutions.

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