DENVER—Lower for longer crude prices have transformed the oil and gas industry as streamlining and efficiencies forced by the downturn stick. At a recent breakfast hosted by venture capital investor Altira Group LLC, the topic was Big Data’s cornerstone role in Shale 2.0.
Since 1997, Altira has invested more than $1 billion with partners in more than 50 companies. Today it is partnering with four large E&Ps as it puts its sixth fund to work. The independents are customers of the portfolio companies as well as investors in the fund.
Dirk McDermott, Altira managing partner, said in his introduction that “Big Data is no longer a big cliché.”
The industry has accepted the new norm of lower commodity prices and that generating healthy returns will depend on optimizing net recovery and individual well performance, said Sean Ebert, Altira partner. The new manufacturing mindset requires that the industry shift from a siloed business approach to that of an interconnected, intelligent oil field.
“We need integrated insights to optimize decision making, with technology underpinning the value chain,” Ebert said. Companies must make decisions in real time while leveraging Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve predictive analytics over a well’s lifecycle.
Scott Crist, CEO of portfolio company Infrastructure Networks (IN), said the oil field must continue evolving with the Internet of Things. IN has developed broadband coverage over the Bakken, Permian and Eagle Ford and is rapidly expanding. “It’s the first end-to-end, standards-based, dedicated, wireless network able to support the full spectrum of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT),” he said. The company’s 4G-LTE network covers 70% to 80% of producing assets in the U.S. with data managed through the cloud.
The network opens up communication between operations centers and exploration sites, well pads, pipelines, the workforce and more.
Keynote speaker Mark Slaughter, whose career included a lengthy stint with Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) before he headed up RigNet Inc. (NASDAQ: RNET) which went public in 2010, is now advising venture capital groups like Altira and investing in the digital oil field. He noted that research from GE Oil & Gas found that only about 5% of all oil and gas assets are connected, and much of the data collected isn’t used.
Although the oil and gas industry demonstrated its talent for innovation in engineering the shale revolution, cultural issues are slowing its adopting of Big Data, he said. Factors include the great crew change that began during the boom, lagging personnel skill development, dated business processes and failure to convey the value proposition offered by Big Data. Responsibility for technology innovation has fallen to the service companies, but they have been hampered by huge cutbacks.
Slaughter outlined the promise of the digital oilfield in the areas of cybersecurity, virtual/augmented reality, AI and blockchain (the public digital ledger). In 10 years, he said, smart analytics will allow operators to produce the most economic barrel of oil or Mcf of gas by pulling levers related to geology, land, geosteering, completion design and more.