​Overcoming the many barriers to digital oilfield technology implementation

Adapting to the digitization of the oilfield offers many efficiency gains and cost-cutting opportunities to those companies that are on the forefront of implementation. But many barriers to adoption—from technological to budgetary to cultural—stand in the way.

In today’s challenging oil and gas price environment, adoption of Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things associated technologies is more vital than ever. As part of its continuing coverage of the digital oilfield and its impact on the Canadian oil and gas industry, JWN Energy will host an Inspired Conversation on Dec. 6 to delve more deeply into the transition to the digital oilfield with event partner Schneider Electric.

As a prelude to the event, JWN asked Elias Panasuik, business development and offer manager for oil and gas with Schneider Electric Software, to elaborate on some of the strategies to overcome barriers to the digital oilfield.

Q: Are there cultural or workforce availability barriers hampering adoption of digital oilfield solutions?

A: There are three key pillars to any corporate change when it comes to digital solutions: people, process and technology. No matter how great a piece of technology is, or the capability of a system to deliver value, if processes have not been created and people have not been trained to manage this change, the initiative will fall short. Too often, we see clients implement technology solutions without the “buy in” of the business, thereby leaving workflows to chance. These systems ultimately decay, and the potential value is lost.

Q: Does the collection and merging of data from disparate sources/vendors present a challenge to oil and gas companies?

A: Oil and gas companies collect and aggregate data from a huge variety of sources. This includes field data collection from SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition), plant control networks, financial data, maintenance and reliability information, market data, crude assays and laboratory data. The sheer volume and inconsistency of the data sources means aggregation is typically done in excel, workflows are emails and phone calls, and analysis is always in the rearview mirror. A proper data strategy includes a disciplined approach to building data models, so the information is robust, manageable and can serve multiple user groups in real-time.

Q: Does the size of the company have much bearing on the challenges of adoption they face? Is it better to take on digital solutions in-house or to contract out the services?

A: Every company is different in terms of internal skill sets and capability. However, one consistent trend that we have observed is simply bandwidth issues. There is so much to do on a day to day basis for IS, engineering, finance and operations that to take on a large data project is often limited by the people and resources of the company. As such, having a consultant team retained to help with strategic development and implementation can save tremendous amounts of time and money during the execution phase.

Q: With ever increasing volumes of data being collected, is it becoming more challenging to best put the information to work?

A: At present, the sheer volume of data has its own unique challenge: when we consider the processing power that is required to analyze and extract value from the data, IT administrators will be challenged to maintain systems to support this process. “Infrastructure as a service” offerings from vendors such as Microsoft with their Azure platform have addressed this ongoing requirement by outsourcing the physical and underlying data infrastructure in an inherently cyber-secure manner. Delivering data in context is an ongoing challenge that exists today and will increase in complexity in the future. Companies will need to have a disciplined approach, as well as flexible, easy-to-integrate tools to provide data in context to different user groups so these individuals don’t get lost in a sea of information.

For more information about JWN Energy’s Inspiried Conversation,Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things: How to future-enable your enterprise in today's challenging environment, and how to register, click here.

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