Drilling Deeper With the Help of Predictive Analytics

“Buy land,” the American humorist Will Rogers once exclaimed. “They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”
That remark pretty much sums up why the oil & gas industry has been – and continues to be – one of the most important forces in the global economy. There’s a finite supply of the stuff and nobody is making any more of it. That’s why it’s vital for oil & gas enterprises to learn how to discover and extract what fossil fuels the planet has left.

Don’t get me wrong. We’re not going to run out of oil anytime soon. It’s just that getting to it is becoming more complex. And added complexity can mean added costs. The industry has always led the way in technological advancements. But now this sector needs to learn how other industries have transformed themselves. I’m specifically referring to the need for oil & gas enterprises to leverage Big Data technologies. That’s right: the same kinds of analytics and algorithms that make social media networks hum can help oil & gas companies find and drill for the lifeblood of the global economy. Adopting best-in-class IT software solutions leveraging Big Data can allow oil & gas companies to go “deeper than deep-water.” Plus, the entire way oilfields are managed can change because of the way companies can predict where they’ll find oil and how they’ll extract it.

Big Data. It’s what retailers use to get into the minds of their consumers and better tailor their merchandise. Indeed, oil & gas companies should take a page from the retail playbook. They should be parsing through enormous amounts of data generated by diverse sources. Just think of the potential. Workers in the field can receive real-time insights. Through predictive analytics, companies have the potential to improve drilling effectiveness, increase production, reduce losses, and ensure the effective maintenance of tools.

The drive for operational efficiency and the need to increase exploration and recovery rates have never been higher. Companies that crack the puzzle on how to leverage Big Data technologies will be the most streamlined and successful of all their peers. In fact, Big Data is a key investment priority for both large oil & gas operators and integrated field service companies. Today, a majority of oil & gas companies are pursuing Big Data analytics programs.

Big Data toolsets provide ways of processing a high volume (large data sets that cannot be handled in the traditional manner) and variety of data streaming at relatively high speeds. Doing so opens doors to exploring different kinds of data – structured and unstructured, and data from seismic operations, drilling, and production – and analyzing them effectively to increase oil production. Streaming data combined with historical data analysis can help oil & gas operators increase drilling efficiency and enable better monitoring. Such technology helps match patterns, execute algorithms, and process complex events to provide insights and alerts to make real-time decisions in the field.

What we’re witnessing is really exciting – the advancement of intelligent sensors and increased sophistication in well logging and down-hole instrumentation are leading to increased acquisition of data sets. The amount of data that’s streamed near real-time from the well site has multiplied exponentially in recent years. Modern instrumentation systems and sensors can report changes on a much finer basis. This trend is supported by significant advancements in high temperature and high-pressure down-hole electronics that allows drilling deeper with higher temperatures and in regions with steep geothermal gradients. Consequently, a large, mature oilfield can comprise hundreds of operating wells with each well streaming 25 or more real-time variables measured every few seconds. The analysis of these streams by applying complex analytics for predictive field management creates great opportunities.

Big Data also helps oil companies detect anomalous patterns in drilling that are better than what current report scans can provide. Predictive analytics mean that companies can forecast events with a high degree of accuracy. Alerts provide opportunities to focus on critical issues like equipment selection and drilling techniques based on the history of what has worked best on other wells in the area.

Who knew that the same technology that helps a Web retailer better connect with its customers can make the oil & gas industry a nimble player in the decades to come? The potential is enormous; we’re just scratching the proverbial surface of this unending well of possibilities.