What Is The Digital Oil Field?

As oil reserves become rarer and unsafer, we see how technology could be helping


Oil reserves are always running out, the more we use our cars the more we burn and the less we have for future generations. On top of this is the necessity to safeguard our environment from pollution.

This means that new ideas are needed to help us extract oil, whilst minimising environmental risks and optimising the safety of the people operating the machinery. These are difficult challenges, but people are attempting to solve these with digital oilfields.

The premise of these is simply utilising new technologies and data to create trackable and safe opportunities to extract oil.

Chevron have been one of the main companies to utilise this new approach, allowing them to track the state of their oilfields across the world in a single control room. It has meant that safety can be uniform across all of their platforms and performance can be monitored and accurately compared.

BP and Shell have also been using digital oilfield for a few years and have seen this increase their safety and productivity. Both companies have seen the price in both reputation and finances when safety protocols fail and adopting a more technological driven approach has allowed them to improve this.

It is increasingly important at a time when easily accessible oil reserves are hard to find and controversial measures such as ‘fracking’ are being used to extract oil. Therefore, it should be a top priority for oil companies looking to maximise profits.

However, this is not always the case. A survey carried out by BP found that 60% of oil executives asked believed that resistance to change represented the biggest obstacle to realising the full potential of the digital oil field. Oil and gas as an industry, is traditional and has tried to stick to the tried and tested strategies rather than attempting to adopt disruptive innovations.

Putting in sensors and analytics equipment to monitor the state of pipelines and drilling in real time has meant that oil companies can stay updated about the state of their operations in real-time, meaning that issues that may have previously taken days to fix, can be identified instantly, allowing these to be rectified within minutes.

Digital Oil Field makes for a safer and more efficient company and drilling site. Despite the initial problems that companies are finding with adoption, the reality is that even the most staunch sceptics are likely to be turned by the results.

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