Subsurface data is the bedrock of upstream oil and gas. The giant companies that set the tone for the industry (known as supermajors) rely heavily on huge amounts of data to make decisions on acquisition drilling and completion operations. But the exploration phase could take months, and the costs are high to acquire the tools, expertise and manpower needed to accurately determine the potential of oil and gas plays.

Before production even begins, millions of dollars are already spent on tests to identify the properties and characteristics of a reservoir and its potential productivity. With the industry now under huge pressure resulting from dwindling reserves and increasing complexity, these cost burdens and waiting periods could make or break a project.

Exploration and production (E&P) activities don’t end at collecting and interpreting subsurface data. The fate of the project still rests on how well the data is presented to decision makers and stakeholders. Legacy software just won’t cut it anymore, considering how complex supply chains are and how challenging it can be to secure capital investments. These challenges are on top of the volatility of oil and gas prices and demand, competition from renewables, and an ever-changing regulatory environment.

But for companies using cutting-edge analysis software and data visualization techniques, opportunities to stay competitive and profitable abound.

 

Mining Big Data in the Upstream Industry

Following the adoption of big data into upstream activities, reservoir analysis and laboratory tests now take much less time than they may have before. Data analysis technologies enable E&P companies to make highly accurate recommendations about where to drill.

The primary motivation behind predictive data analysis is to forecast the maximum yield of the reservoir and determine the resources companies will spend on achieving it. Companies that have embraced these platforms now enjoy more savings, increased productivity and better-optimized projects. 

 

Data Visualization Techniques

After obtaining data, the next big challenge is to make them sing. Geoscientists and reservoir engineers face the overwhelming task of creating business value from a vast pool of data gathered from exploration activities and third-party sources. Using the traditional route, it would take months of grueling work to populate a reservoir model with core analysis data. Errors and poor decisions made during this phase could have a ripple effect on the bottom line.

Thanks to new developments in reservoir analysis, turning real-time data into actionable information may now be just a walk in the park. Listed below are some of the many groundbreaking technologies transforming and accelerating oil and gas explorations.  These technologies allow for visual and harmonized presentation of oilfield data, speeding up the process.

Next-Gen Reservoir Modeling

At the forefront of digitizing reservoir analysis is Exa Corp’s DigitalROCK software. This robust piece of technology uses predictive computational software to accurately and efficiently assess the relative permeability of a reservoir’s output and rock formations. Running a few rock samples through an ultra-high resolution micro-CT scanner produces 3D images of the pore scale of the rock.

These images can generate a fluid flow simulation and digitally predict how the fluid mixture will flow through the rock, and how reservoir fluids will interact with the rock formation. The best part is that users can process the images and build the 3D digital model in just a few hours to a couple of days.

Visual Analytics

Immediate results are a requirement to speed up turnaround time and increase throughput in upstream projects. Visual analytics allow petroleum engineers to quickly analyze data at all stages of field development, create benchmarks and build models. Platforms like Kingdom eliminate the tedious and challenging task of calculating reservoir output trends and identifying resource allocations. The platform will do the job for you and get back to you with visual analysis of these calculations.

Poor data presentation is a key impediment to oil and gas engineers. Visual analytics help them overcome the issue in the form of flexible monitoring and graphing tools. Visual analytics software offers a rich user interface that lets engineers drill into data with a few mouse clicks. SAS tools are also valuable in harmonizing siloed data from disparate sources.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are next-generation technologies used in a variety of industries. And soon enough, these platforms will be useful to oil and gas companies as well. With AR, field engineers and researchers can get real-time, accurate information about the performance of machines and the conditions in which they operate on a round-the-clock basis.

AR-based applications make use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict the occurrence of anomalies while sensors monitor real-time vibration, pressure, sound, surface temperature and magnetic field. The key advantage of these systems is that scientists will know the state of each machine, fetch repair manuals from the OEM when the machine is faulty, and notify the OEM about maintenance schedules.

Companies at all phases of production and development can benefit from these tools through reduction of undesirable breakdowns and downtime. In the future, virtual oilfields will surely become a reality, which may reduce the number of workers sent to hostile or remote locations.

Drones

LiDAR-equipped drones are also taking flight in the oil and gas industry to map potential field sites and deliver data that geoscientists and reservoir engineers couldn’t reach before. Following their commercialization, drones have become useful tools for monitoring the environment (and even wildlife) surrounding the oil patch. A number of companies have also deployed patrol drones to detect pipeline leaks or hot spots; they’ve even used them to send small packages to workers in remote locations.

Drones are much cheaper and safer to operate than manned aircraft, and E&P companies are looking to integrate them for future expeditions. But the primary purpose of airborne imaging is to help the exploration community assess severe terrain across large areas of land. They can use that information to plan road access and pipeline design. LiDAR technologies are constantly upgrading to speed up the process of acquiring data and creating digital terrain models.

As the hydrocarbon industry confronts myriad demands and challenges, errors and downtime are removed from the equation. High-precision monitoring and rigorous testing have eclipsed traditional exploration methods. Measurable success means higher cash flow, and visual analytics is a welcome approach to keeping the oil and gas industry alive.

To find out more about how Sierra Pine Resources International can help with your decision making through data visualization, let us know what type of projects you’re working on and where your biggest pain points are at info@sprioilgas.com.