Big Data’s Big Impact Coming to Oil and Gas

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Nav DhunayIn this special guest feature, Nav Dhunay, President & CEO at ambyint, presents a high-level view of how Big Data is poised to disrupt the oil & gas industry. With a hard-won collection of tech startup successes in his history, Nav Dhunay is a passionate advocate of the “fail fast, learn fast,” school of entrepreneurialism. Most notably amongst his past ventures, Canflix a technology designed to form the basis of the globally-recognized Netflix and NavNet, a pioneering, mobile-activated, control and home automation technology. Currently in his sights, the strategic and intelligence-powered optimization of the oil & gas industry via ambyint, Nav’s newly founded firm bringing the disruptive power of big data and the industrial IoT to the very heart of the oil patch.

Like any new frontier promising limitless potential and unrivaled riches to those who stake an early claim, Big Data, with its capacity to not only to change the world, but predict the future, has sparked the interest of the world’s leading minds.

At this moment, an estimated 4.9 billion sensors are connected to the internet and that number is expected to rocket to 38 to 50 billion in just five years. Big Data applications within healthcare are to reach $117 billion by 2020 and GE Digital estimates that the “industrial internet” – the B2B IoT – has the potential to add a jaw-dropping $15 Trillion to the global GDP by 2035.

Whilst connected, wearable technology has hit the mainstream, Big Data is also making its mark in industries where it has the potential to have a significant impact and tackle some of the biggest global issues. ‘Smart’ technology within medicine is beginning to refine and improve treatments and global health, saving billions of lives and dollars and the agricultural industry’s adoption of connected devices is reforming the way food producers are planting, growing and harvesting the world’s food supply. So what’s the next stop for the Big Data show? Oil and gas.

The global energy industry has experienced extreme volatility this year with the price of a barrel of oil dropping to an all-time low across North America, and predictions showing no sign of significant respite in the near future.

As a result, oil producers have been forced to rethink the future sustainability of their practices and find new ways of achieving the levels of efficiency needed to be competitive in the current market and profitable into the future. In order to find the clearest path towards future-proof oil production, many are now turning to technology for answers. Big Data and connected devices have been proclaimed as potentially compelling solutions to the market crisis, promising to maximize production, minimize downtime, streamline operational efficiency and mitigate production and equipment failures.

However, technology-based optimization of oil well performance is not something entirely new. Solutions which utilized some level of data analysis have existed for several years, yet, with significant installation costs, these products were aimed squarely at the top tier, high performing wells and were simply uneconomical to apply to the aging, less prolific wells which make up over 80% of the overall market.

Today, through the use of connected, pump-mounted sensors and secure wireless networks, essential data from inherently ‘chatty’ onsite machinery is able to be collected at a fraction of the cost it once did. Following analysis, the well performance data can be used to initiate autonomous micro-adjustments to each individual pump stroke, in order to maintain optimal production and efficiency. Captured data can also be used to predict the future. By tracking the wear on machinery, algorithms are able to to preempt possible equipment failure, alerting operators of pending disruption and thereby minimizing machine downtime and increasing site safety. Effectively, what is created is an autonomous, self driving well.

Data-driven intelligence can also be used to ensure wells are able to adapt to their environment, operating at peak intensity during times of lower energy cost and adjusting operations based on the known below-ground dynamics associated with specific drilling locations.

With the costs of hardware able to capture and transmit data decreasing, and the power of cloud-based computing leading to dramatic advances in data analysis, Big Data solutions are already having a growing impact on the business of oil production. Momentum in the development of data-led oil and gas technologies and adoption of these systems will undoubtedly continue to increase as the industry targets new and innovative ways to maintain sustainability and profitability in even the toughest market conditions.


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