The term digital oilfield (DOF) can be described as follows: a program that leverages technology to transform E&P processes. Notice that the emphasis is on the transformation of process, not the deployment of technology.
We have now ushered in the era of DOF 2.0 - a passage that is not marked by some remarkable new technology. Rather it is marked by the maturity of the concept itself, together with the ability to plan and execute the entire lifecycle of DOF solutions in a way that was not possible until recently. Because of this maturation of the concept and the complete lifecycle view, DOF 2.0 will be characterized by more rapid adoption of DOF solutions.
In its early days, DOF as a concept was so nebulous that early adopters had to spend a significant amount of time defining what it would mean to their company, and then build support in the business units where new tools and process would be deployed. Initial adoption was slow as even the most committed advocates were required to sort through the hype of competing vendor offerings, most of which were based on product-centric software approaches to production optimization.
Over the past couple of years, however, the DOF concept has matured in several important ways. While production optimization continues to be an important goal for DOF programs, next generation DOF solutions will be more integrated. Model-based, full-field optimization focused on increasing reservoir recovery is moving from abstraction to reality as we better understand how to integrate surface and sub-surface models.
Forward-thinking companies are also evaluating the use of creative visualization technologies as a basis for real-time modeling and simulation. While there is much work yet to be done, as an industry we have crossed a tipping point in the maturity of DOF-related solutions and the knowledge of how to successfully deploy them in order to add measurable business value.
Some consistent themes that have evolved in DOF programs are integration of siloed systems and data, collaboration between locations and disciplines, the use of real-time data for remote operations and decision support, development of model-based optimization, and using all of the above to manage the full lifecycle of an oil and gas asset.
The economic and commodity pricing environment has created challenges for operating company budgets, but we have seen most companies with existing programs at least hold their DOF spending flat. Many companies that are just starting to implement DOF programs are aggressively moving forward with their investment plans in spite of increasing competition for scarce budget dollars. This requires increased discipline in developing measurable and meaningful business value metrics. Knowing how to choose and baseline metrics and then build defensible measurement into the deployment plan is critical to maintaining credibility as you report your results to management.
Companies that are just starting programs are benefiting from the lessons learned from early adopters and are able to better define and justify their investment based on published case studies. Sharing experiences has proven valuable as companies define more comprehensive programs that subsequently require greater scrutiny of ROI.
In fact, the industry has benefitted enormously from some early adopters who have tirelessly promoted the value of the DOF concept in the industry. Industry associations (most notably the Society of Petroleum Engineers), service companies, consultants and other industry evangelists have helped us all immeasurably as they have collectively succeeded in taking the DOF concept into the mainstream.
Despite the challenging economic environment, DOF programs are evolving for the better. Practitioners generally have a better understanding of the DOF approach and the value it can bring to their company. Solutions and the whole DOF solution lifecycle are better developed and new, process-based support models are being put in place. The era of DOF 2.0 has arrived.
For more information please contact Bart Stafford on email@example.com or +1 713 835 3542
Bart Stafford leads the global Digital Oilfield Solution for SAIC. He has over 23 years of experience in the application of technology within the upstream oil and gas industry. His perspectives reflect extensive experience within production companies as well as consulting and software companies.