While traditional methods still have their place, the inclusion of digital oil field technology makes a huge difference in productivity, cost, and quality.

Digital Oilfield-Boss MagazineLike other fields, the oil and gas industries have changed. Many of those changes have to do with the use of technology to enhance older methods of locating and processing fossil fuels. Some of those changes go even further. This is where the concept of the digital oil field comes into play.

Understanding the Concept
Once considered a term to describe how an oil company would use a combination of hardware and software to streamline exploration or production, a digital oil field covers more ground than simply making older processes a little better. Today, the concept has to do with every step of the operation, up to and including the delivery of the product to buyers. Rather than being an enhancement to what has gone before, the idea of the digital oilfield redefines what is done as well as how it is done.

Finding New Sources of Fossil Fuels
A primary example of how digital technology is changing the industry has to do with the location of new sources for fossil fuels. Oil and gas companies are constantly on the lookout for new sites that can replace older ones. The technology speeds up the process of finding and evaluating those fields.

David Eyton of British Petroleum puts it this way: “Digital has been a massive enabler for our business. Seismic has been the subject of better and better computing, analogue traces going digital representing the march forward of computing power. It would be fair to say that when we began that journey, we did not imagine the time and cost savings we make right now.”

In other words, the use of the technology makes it easier to determine quickly if a site will supply enough product to make the cost of hauling in equipment viable. If not, then the same technology is already in use elsewhere evaluating other sites. In terms of allocating equipment and labour, the digital oilfield saves oil and gas companies money every day.

Real Time Flow of Information
One of the ways that the digital oilfield has changed things is how information flows from offshore rigs to onshore points of contact. In the past, data collected at the rig was collated, organized, and then forwarded to onshore sites. Now the data is delivered in real time using online streaming. This allows for a quicker analysis of the data. As a result, the onshore contacts can provide feedback and direction without any delays.

What does this mean in terms of productivity? Delays in communication meant time lost at the rig. With those delays eliminated, the task of
getting on with tapping into the oil supply and moving forward with the harvesting process translates into more barrels per day produced. That means more product to fill pending customer orders in a shorter period of time.

What the Future Holds
While some oil and gas companies are utilising the digital oil field effectively, the industry is noted for being slow to change. Those who are slow to make use of the digital methods developed over the last quarter-century are still relying heavily on older and more costly approaches to finding new fuel sources. The fact is until those other companies embrace the idea of using digital methods to enhance what they are already doing, the ability to
compete in a progressively more competitive market will diminish.

The current approaches to the digital oil field did not emerge overnight. They developed over a score of years and were refined as technology continued to make sharing data faster and easier. Since digital technology continues to improve, expect the oil field of today to undergo even more changes in the next decade.

The bottom line is technology has forever changed the way new fuel fields are located. With the need for energy always increasing, locating and tapping into those fields will remain a priority. Those who make the most of current approaches will now be poised to profit from those advances. Those who remain timid in the use of digital technology will only fall further behind.