Opinion

A Single Platform to Enable Last Mile Connectivity and Pump By Exception


Investments in technology are not just about being part of the digital revolution currently sweeping the planet; they are about making organizations more efficient and productive. If your investments in technology like SCADA are failing to deliver on your bottom line, there's something wrong. Proper implementation of new technologies must streamline oilfield processes, enabling last mile connectivity and empowering field workers to pump by exception.

Gone are the days of time-consuming, paper-based processes. These manual systems simply cannot compete with the efficiency and productivity gains offered by digitization. Lease operators and other field workers should no longer need to switch between multiple devices and applications for each of their activities. Be it SCADA automation alerts, work orders, production data entry inputs, plunger lifts, flow techs, or emergencies, the field worker must deal with everything through one platform. Every minute saved on these processes is a minute field workers can use to ensure the oil is flowing.

You can't forget that field personnel are on the frontline of oil and gas operations. By supporting their ability to make the best decisions at each junction, production companies can enact efficiencies that will filter back through the entire operation. Simply providing up-to-date information on production volumes, compliance, and other costs to field workers, whenever they need it, will give them the power to make the best decisions for the sake of the company as a whole. As more and more firms adopt these digitized processes, their effectiveness will become fundamental to success in the sector.

The Last Mile Matters

Every activity in the oilfield matters, but some activities have a greater impact on production than others. That's where artificial intelligence comes in, a system that can absorb all the information on every well, worker, regulation, and process to quickly determine the highest priority tasks. When applied, artificial intelligence not only prioritizes tasks but also unifies them by purpose. All of this brings about an effective last mile, which allows producers to pump by exception. 

Pump by exception did exist, but only as a business concept, consistently failing to take off as a repeatable process that connects the entire oilfield. Companies could never shake the antiquated, manual processes that held them back. Today, artificial intelligence, cloud, and mobile technologies combine to deliver a digitized and fully connected oilfield that truly pumps by exception.

Field workers shouldn't have to be held up by old-school route management, central dispatching, and complex web interface architectures that stunt productivity and growth. Now, technology can guide the right worker to the most urgent tasks, paving the way to routeless fields and unprecedented productivity.

However, the road to the digital oilfield is not always straightforward. Firms have to overcome a variety of obstacles, which involve adopting better technology and supporting adaptation. But oil and gas companies must overcome these barriers to unleash their true potential and pump by exception. Assuming this is something every oil and gas company aspires to do, here's how technology can tackle the barriers to pump by exception.

1.   Inefficient Route Management

The traditional approach to route management, completely manual and based entirely on the knowledge held by lease operators following the set routes, was once the best way to ensure the smooth operation of oilfields. Technology has now provided a better way, making traditional route management look highly inefficient in comparison. In order to gain from that efficiency, companies must adopt and build trust in technology to encourage operational teams to shake off the traditional approach. 

Forward-thinking producers have already begun taking advantage of mobile technologies and making field data capture more intuitive — but much more can be done. The more systems and back office personnel the field has to comply with, the less time the field gets to actually pump by exception. Mobile and cloud technologies can liberate them from routine, stone-carved routes and chasing multiple systems with seamless integration, making workflows simpler.

2.   Redefining The Central Dispatch Centers 

Central dispatch centers have long held a critical role within oilfield management. They gather data and coordinate almost every field activity, moving workers to where they are needed most. Considering the complex web of fragmented information they feed off, it has become impossible for central dispatch centers to work effectively.  

To get more covered in a day, more workers are added on the field, but still getting the right resource to the most critical task, without delay, is a tightrope walk through a maze of fragmented information. With artificial intelligence at work, this manual maneuvering can be replaced with automated intelligent task allocation, where every worker is matched to the right task at the right time.

3.    Back Office Complexity And Poor Usability

The production company's back office has become a complex world, one where field workers must interact with multiple, disparate systems throughout their day. enterprise asset management systems (EAMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and production accounting systems, and a multitude of others work in silos and take up an estimated two hours a day for field workers to navigate. Each requires different access and interface, each is spread out across multiple touch points, and each is unable to communicate with the others. This is the time that could be better spent ensuring that wells are producing at their maximum levels.

The intelligent platforms available today align all these systems into one simple interface, allowing workers to complete the same administrative tasks much more easily and in a fraction of the time. This helps oil and gas producers eliminate data silos and enable last mile connectivity, which effectively closes the feedback and resolution loop, bringing unprecedented efficiency to the oilfield. 

4.   The Pitfalls Of “Do it Yourself” IT

The traditional approach to IT has been to develop in-house teams that set up hardware and develop custom software for oilfield management. In this new technological era, however, in-house IT only adds complexity and cost to operations. They are learning and making their mistakes at their company's expense, creating delays and holding back productivity.

Expert production and capital planning solution providers, on the other hand, have learned from experience and offer tailor-made, proven, scalable products that optimize oilfield productivity. They offer quick installation and integration with current systems, with scalability and flexibility of cloud, minimizing capital outlay and vastly improving return on investment for their customers.

Overcoming Barriers To Pump By Exception

Call it smart technology, the Internet of Things (IoT), cyber-physical systems, or the Fourth Industrial Revolution, this new technological era is rapidly transforming every business sector. This is an age of intelligence, connectivity, and mobility — one where the people who can make the most impact on company objectives are given the information they need to complete tasks better and quicker. The time has come for oil and gas to join this revolution and reap the benefits of connectivity from the back office to the last mile — and here are four ways that can be done.  

1.   Match Resources To Tasks

Advanced, connected mobile devices have already brought about great changes in our society. Consider the impact that ride-sharing applications like Uber and Lyft have had on personal transport. The same technology that connects drivers to passengers in cities can be used to connect field workers with the equipment and events that need attention in the oilfield.

Utilizing the latest in artificial intelligence, these engines simultaneously assess workers' work record, job success, location in the field, and the criticality of an event, then match resources to the most important tasks based on priority, skills, and proximity. The result is a dynamic system that responds to changes in real time to ensure that the oilfield as a whole is operating at maximum productivity.

2.   Integrate Task Workflows And Work Orders Intelligently

Consumer retail giants like Amazon would not be possible without intelligently connected technology. Millions of orders for billions of items stored in facilities around the world make management too complex for the previous, more manual approaches. Oilfield management, in comparison, is relatively straightforward, but can still benefit significantly from integrating task workflows and work orders more intelligently.

Intelligent workflows streamline each activity in the oilfield by breaking them down to executable tasks, putting them all in one place, and connecting everyone in the field and office. The field worker can then access every task in one place, on his mobile phone, without interrupting the task at hand. Task status can be updated in real time, ensuring that the system and all stakeholders know what's happening, then follow-ups can be scheduled to ensure the loop is closed. The system keeps learning from the new data to realign the whole process for maximum productivity.

3.  Organize All SCADA Data In One Place

SCADA is an incredibly powerful system for the oil and gas sector, but most producers do not make the most of it. While the data SCADA provides is beneficial, the process of accessing data from multiple instrumentations requires several different platforms, making it cumbersome and time-consuming. When field workers juggle different systems, chase several competing alarms, followed by central dispatch phone calls, adoption drops and change in behavior plateaus.

Today, data is derived from an increasing number of sources, further elevating the problem. Synthesizing data from all SCADA and other Internet of Things systems in one platform has now become a necessity. Artificial Intelligence engines offer a solution; they bring all data under one usable platform and prioritize alerts to better support workers for their specific tasks around the oilfield. These systems also trigger alerts based on a predefined risk matrix or specific geofence to ensure better safety in instances of hazardous spills or leaks.  

4.  Scale With the Cloud 

The ever-increasing amounts of data and the unprecedented level of access required by these intelligent systems requires a different kind of data storage, one that scales and is accessible from anywhere at any time. The digital oilfield requires shifting through thousands of terabytes of data every second to produce clear insights for the field workers to go about their work in the most efficient manner. Only cloud-based storage can support these advanced systems to bring about this new age of productivity in the oilfield.

Cloud-based platforms store all data in one place and offer easy access to insights on any device, at any time. Oil and gas companies retain ownership of the data and have unhindered access to it for more informed decision-making. These highly secure platforms offer all the advantages of in-house storage plus many more, without the need for a large capital outlay, regular maintenance, and additional hardware to handle inevitable growth. The future of oilfield data storage is on the cloud.

The Value of a Single Platform

Gathering the data and providing access is not enough. To truly gain from the efficiency on offer, the oilfield must bring the data streams together in one intelligent platform. That not only means making all data more accessible but also more usable, by knowing what each field worker needs and making that data easy to reach.

The accuracy of artificial intelligence and the rigorous nature of machine learning consume terabytes of data to reveal the secrets of the oilfield to all stakeholders. Working seamlessly and automatically, with minimal manual intervention, a single, all-encompassing, intelligent platform unshackles field workers and resources to enable the oilfield to pump by exception.

About Shiva Rajagopalan

Shiva Rajagopalan is the Founder and CEO of Seven Lakes Technologies, a leading SaaS-based production and capital planning software provider for the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry. He is a technology enthusiast, passionate about the power of disruptive technologies such as mobility, cloud, big data and AI to create the oilfield of the future. An alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, he is the recipient of four Chevron Contractor Recognition Awards for professional and technical excellence.

 

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