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Turning data into business differentiation

World Pipelines,

Oil and gas is one of the most technologically advanced worlds due to the nature and value of the assets involved. The role of technology continuously evolves, with technologists looking to maximise the possibilities brought about by big data and the Internet of Things (IoT), seeking new ways of improving operations in the field and in business practices.

Whether it’s traditional downhole exploration, pipeline monitoring or more complex production methods such as hydraulic fracturing or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), oil and gas operators are constantly looking to streamline operations and develop new efficiencies that improve consistency and safety. Data has become key to achieving this objective.

The type of data produced from monitoring live operations in its rawest form has limited value. However, the ability to arrange, analyse and interpret this data into actionable insight to inform decision-making in real time is invaluable.

Whether it’s gaining an overview of an operation that enables production managers to make critical decisions as it is happening or uncovering trends based on data that has been collected over a longer period of time – big data has become a priority for oil majors.

The internet of things (IoT), broadly defined as the presence of smart objects, devices or ‘things’ in the physical environment that can exchange contextual information with each other over wired or wireless networks, is a huge contributor to a company’s data pool.

The oil and gas industry is awash with smart assets: pipelines, wells, drilling machinery, monitoring systems, security and surveillance devices, computers and support vehicles to name a few.

It is important for oil and gas companies adopting IoT solutions to understand the roadblocks to success. While current solutions attempt to address these challenges, it is important to understand the issues and their implications. The reliability, quality and ownership of data produced and processed is debatable – it’s not accumulating the data that is the issue, but making it work for you is another challenge.

Security is a bone of contention due to the potential value of the assets being connected and data being produced. The increased connectedness of all the objects in the oil and gas ecosystem means it needs to be strengthened for security and privacy. Collectively, the oil and gas industry should work towards agreeing security standards for the IoT if companies want to reap the benefits of IoT, M2M and big data.

Oil and gas assets are not always in locations that are easy to connect or secure. For example, pipelines can traverse huge areas of remote land with little connectivity infrastructure. IoT rollouts will gain momentum and operations will become increasingly reliant on the M2M communications within these internets, making robust connectivity and communications infrastructure mission-critical.

Taking a vendor-agnostic approach to IoT strategy is important for oil and gas companies looking for successful deployments.

Solutions components could include communications infrastructure, device hardware, software infrastructure, complex algorithms, analytics and security protocols, among others. The resulting challenges are easier to manage when multiple vendors with a range of expertise and technologies combine to deliver a single solution.

Succeeding with the IoT and big data will become a key area of differentiation for oil and gas majors that get it right. To do so, make data and communications central to the core business strategy and manage behavioural changes within the organisation. To deliver the necessary infrastructure to experience high returns on investment, develop an ecosystem of technology and consultancy partners with a range of technologies, expertise and value-add.

Written by Laxshmivarahan Ramasubramani & Reynolds Alex, Wipro Digital.

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