Mar 12, 2015

How Big Data Can Benefit Upstream Oil & Gas Companies

Posted by Steve Sponseller

What’s the saying? One of the keys to success is seeing challenges as opportunities? Practically overnight, the upstream Oil & Gas Industry has faced the challenge of having the value of their product roughly cut in half. Not only are they dealing with less revenue coming in, but their company valuation took a hit too.

The opportunity for these companies is to look for ways iStock_000015532015Largeto be more efficient in their operations. Improved efficiency and higher performance of assets translates to increased profitability, which can help take the sting out of the current market value of the product and best position the company for excellence once the price of oil rebounds.

Big Data and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) are being implemented as solutions by companies to achieve these improved efficiencies. The tools that are required to realize this promise must provide the ability to collect, index, and analyze data in real-time to ultimately improve the company’s decision-making capabilities across the entire enterprise.

The computational power of today’s systems provide amazing data indexing (ever think about what makes Google’s search engine so accurate?) as well as analytical and modeling programs with visualization abilities that provide insight into a process that was never before achievable. When used properly, these tools can predict an outcome well before it happens, allowing for appropriate action to be taken that favorably changes the outcome. For example, the recent ARC Advisory Group report “IIoT Strategies in Upstream Oil & Gas” provides an example of an offshore company replacing a suspect seal on a water injection pump prior to failure—which saved the company $7.5M in unplanned downtime.

Sound great? It sure does to the C-level executives of these companies and to the market analysts they speak to. But there is one capability I purposely glossed over in the previous paragraph—data collection. Many of these powerful Big Data applications came from the IT world, where typical data collection has involved ingesting log files from IT-type systems that were relatively easy to acquire. This is not the case with industrial data in upstream oil and gas operations. These operations are often remote with several different types of sensors, controllers, RTUs, and flow computers that house the data needed by these applications. Some of the equipment in the field is ancient—a result of the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage and wasn’t designed to share data well. Communications to these remote sites are often limited, relying on wireless telemetry systems like radio, cellular, and satellite that have limited bandwidth and sometimes high latency.

To make matters worse, there are often multiple companies involved in an operation, each with its own equipment, systems, and what we call “siloed data.” This obviously adds complexity in obtaining and moving the required data into the Big Data applications that need it—especially with the security concerns of today.

Luckily, new technology is emerging that alleviates the challenge of data collection. For example, our KEPServerEX® communications platform supports over 150 communication drivers for data collection and uses the OPC UA standard to link to SCADA, HMI, and other automation systems. It can now simultaneously forward this information via the Industrial Data Forwarder for Splunk Plug-In to Big Data technology from Splunk® (the industry-leading platform for collecting and indexing machine data) for optimized searching, monitoring, alerting, analyzing, and reporting. KEPServerEX enables Splunk® Enterprise and Splunk Cloud™ to securely and reliably collect, forward, and store information from meters and sensors for problem identification and statistical analysis.

I invite you to read my colleague Erik Dellinger's latest blog post, “Streaming Real-Time SCADA Data into Splunk.” In it, he describes the benefits of integrating industrial machine data into business and operational intelligence strategy.

Read the Streaming Real-Time SCADA Data Blog Post