A number of years ago, I delivered a speech to a global oil and gas conference in which I suggested that the energy exploration business was not much different from the pharmaceutical business. The analogy was built upon the idea that both industries invest years and millions (billions?) of dollars in pursuit of the next big discovery. The larger point I was attempting to convey was that both are really in the business of accumulating, analyzing, and applying huge amounts of data to allow them to place the most prospective bets with the greatest potential return. My bias at the time was that I wanted to sell them a massive data management system that would allow global project teams to work on opportunities around the clock with the new solution providing global, real-time, and ubiquitous access to the data.
Mobile enterprise solutions provide a tremendous initial benefit in the area of data collection. Most enterprises have a significant element of distributed activity and have increasingly become more virtual as technology has evolved. With mobile devices, workers operating in the field can create a materially more effective way to collect data and bring innumerable options for positively impacting operational and financial performance to their front doors.
The oil and gas industry has the potential to employ mobile data collection across its value chain to create process efficiency, cost reduction, and improved decision making. In a business where billion dollar projects are often the norm, the value proposition that mobile enterprise solutions can deliver can be compelling.
Across every function of integrated oil and gas companies – exploration, production, transportation, refining, distribution, retail, finance, accounting and marketing – the industry has been burdened by a level of paper form-intensity that is extraordinary. Today, in every situation where data is being gathered, from the wellhead to the pump, paper can be removed from the process using mobile technologies and apps.
Ultimately, as with most every industry and function, real time access to operational data delivers significant and measureable value that can only be realized using mobile technology. Paper forms create an activity/data/decision gap that can cost real time and money and, in extreme cases, determine whether an operation is profitable or not.
On an oil rig out in the Gulf of Mexico, there really never has been a place for paper forms and documentation. It is a frenetic, messy, intense environment where tens, and often, hundreds of millions of dollars are balancing on narrow windows for decision making. Tablet-based checklists and other forms make all the sense in the world in this environment. Rather than manually recording key data and information that must be keyed into a computer system at a later time, tablet-based operations and administrative apps allow real-time recording that is accessible across the corporation immediately.
Tablet-based apps can also workers to make accurate process calculations on the spot, improve project and overall risk management, and capture event and location-based data, such as photo evidence and GPS data, automatically. Tubular, drill bit, and drilling chemical inventories, to name just a few, can be checked in real-time, both on the rig and in warehouses onshore. Additionally, mobile enterprise apps can facilitate faster and more efficient maintenance operations that arise during the drilling process, reducing the cost of downtime in operations.
Exploration and production activities are very cost-intensive, global, and highly distributed by nature. Almost every element of the E & P value chain can be positively impacted through mobile technology and the enterprise apps that help simplify the complexity of the business.