Information Management in the Oil and Gas Industry

The Future of E&P Information Management

Data and information management is the lifeblood of the oil and gas industry.

Modern energy companies very rarely own the hydrocarbons they produce. Instead they form partnerships with various national bodies and governmental organisations that manage the mineral rights within state territories. These partnerships, taking the form of production sharing agreements, joint ventures or simple service contracts, allow energy companies to share in the profits of oil and gas production by providing their knowledge, expertise, financial capital, matériel and manpower in order to find and extract hydrocarbons.

In order to accomplish this, the energy company must be capable of utilising the vast amounts of data and information generated during the exploration and production (E&P) business cycle. This can encompass everything from decades-old hardcopy subsurface data to macro-economic analysis, detailed scientific studies, or the very latest developments in business information analytics and data science.

It’s no wonder then, that information management plays such a crucial role in the industry.

The Elements of E&P Information Management

So what constitutes information management in oil and gas? While information management practices can vary widely from business to business, there are a number of fundamental components which are common to the majority of E&P information management solutions. These can be briefly outlined as follows:

  • Data and Document Management Systems
    A Data or Document Management System is typically a digital repository used for data and document storage, retrieval and update operations. Based either onsite or in the Cloud, they facilitate easy access and support maintenance, archival, and analysis.
  • Content Management
    A Content Management System allows for the streamlined creation, editing, and publishing of content based on pre-defined templates and formats, metadata indices and other quality management criteria. This element plays a crucial role in managing the digital assets of an energy company.
  • Records Management
    Records Management oversees both physical and digital records within an organisation. It aligns with compliance needs, retention policies and access rights, thereby enabling energy companies to comply with both internal and external information rules, laws and guidelines.
  • Data Analytics & Business Intelligence (BI)
    With the advent of AI and Machine Learning, Data Analytics and BI are fast becoming key drivers in the continued success of hydrocarbon E&P ventures. Used in all parts of the business, from analogue field identification and subsurface interpretation to streamlining storage and customer delivery, Data Analysis and BI are now critical components of information management in the oil and gas industry.
  • Information Security
    Information Security ensures data privacy, confidentiality, and integrity. Employing a range of features such as encryption, firewalls, and intrusion detection systems, Information Security tools act as a safeguard against potential security breaches.
  • Workflow and Process Management
    The exploration and production lifecycle is a complex business process, typically involving thousands of employees, contractors and partners over a period of many years. Workflow and Process Management tools provide systematic control over these integrated processes. By delineating and monitoring workflows, these tools ensure tasks are performed by appropriate personnel at the right time, thus ensuring the efficient flow of information throughout the business lifecycle.
  • Knowledge Management
    Perhaps the most valuable asset that an energy company can bring to a partnership is its experience and expertise. In order to capture, organise, and retrieve organisational knowledge, information management systems must offer advanced tools and functionality to enable knowledge discovery, collaboration and sharing among team members.
  • Collaboration Tools
    Ranging from intranets to document version control software and video conferencing, Collaboration Tools are designed to enhance teamwork and communication within an organisation. These tools serve as conduits for seamless interpersonal and interdepartmental interactions.
  • Master Data Management
    This system ensures the uniformity and consistency of various data and information elements across an energy company. By defining standards and processes for data quality, and designing and deploying reference datasets and industry-specific taxonomies, Master Data Management plays a pivotal role in maintaining the integrity of data and information throughout the E&P value chain.
  • Data Integration Tools
    A modern, vertically integrated energy company encompasses all aspects of the hydrocarbon business process, from exploration, appraisal and production, to processing, storage, distribution and retail. Consequently, tools and processes which help to manage siloed information are paramount in providing an holistic view of data from disparate sources, while ensuring information accessibility and usability across the entire organisation.
  • Backup and Disaster Recovery Systems
    These solutions facilitate rapid data restoration after any form of loss or failure, minimising operational downtime and securing an energy company’s information assets.
  • Regulatory Compliance and Audit Tools
    Designed to keep organisations in line with various regulatory requirements and legislative energy acts, these tools aid in the meticulous tracking and reporting of compliance metrics and formal reporting. This process is often mandated at a governmental level.

E&P Information Management in Practice

So now we’ve reviewed the functions which constitute an Information Management solution in the oil and gas industry, next we’ll explore a few examples of where these functions may be deployed, and how information management plays a crucial role in the E&P lifecycle.

Finding the Hydrocarbons

Although physical hydrocarbon deposits are usually owned by nation states, it’s typically oil and gas companies that own the subsurface data and information that enable the eventual discovery of those fields.

This is due to the great majority of the world’s hydrocarbon provinces already being discovered ― hence, almost every new exploration phase begins with legacy data and information mining over the area of interest. Here, a significant amount of effort is expended to locate data, legacy reports and interpretation which may be decades old and stored in long-obsolete formats or isolated silos.

While this process varies depending on the exploration company in question, the data mining phase generally includes the following steps:

  • Search and Indexing
    This step involves trawling existing digital repositories, shared drives, archived maps and models, physical media stores, legacy interpretation projects, geoscientific studies and published reports for information associated with the area of interest. As naming conventions of information items and assets are often modified or ignored over their lifetimes (for example, an exploration well may be recorded using various aliases in different digital repositories), much effort is required to ensure that a unique dataset is passed on to the next stage in the data mining initiative. To this end, a single master index of deduplicated information is typically created to identify and locate all relevant information items for further processing.
  • Migration and Centralisation
    Once a unique index has been created, the data and information is migrated to the interpretation environment. This step normally includes the digitation and vectorisation of hardcopy data and reports, together with the restoration, reformatting and loading of data and information to centralised digital repositories and interpretation projects.
  • Quality Improvement
    The next step in the process is to ensure the centralised data and information meets the current corporate quality standards. Here, legacy data items and interpretation may be reviewed or renamed, and digital information retagged with relevant metadata to facilitate search, discovery and usage during the project life cycle.
  • Augmentation
    Lastly, alongside the mining of historic subsurface data and information, third party data acquisition from specialist providers or governmental repositories is not unusual when embarking upon a new exploration project. 

Operational Information Management

From a day-to-day perspective, Information Management is critical to the smooth running of an E&P operation.

The discovery, development and production of a hydrocarbon field is a complex, multi-disciplinary endeavour that involves the interaction of many specialised roles and departments. Working hand-in-hand with business partners, suppliers, contractors, customers and regulatory bodies, a modern, data-intensive E&P company can produce hundreds of terabytes of information each year.

In order to deal with this tsunami of data and information, oil companies deploy many advanced information management strategies, some of which are outlined below:

Team Collaboration

In the multidisciplinary landscape common to E&P companies, cohesive team collaboration is critical. Advanced platforms enable geoscientists, business leaders, analysts and engineers to work together, regardless of geographical location or time zone. Shared workspaces and communication tools ensure that all team members have access to the real-time information they need, fostering agile and informed decision-making.

Lessons Learned and Knowledge Management

With the large capital expenditure required to develop hydrocarbon deposits, the E&P sector often involves high-risk operations where decision making based on past experience is crucial. Modern knowledge management systems capture lessons learned and best practices, making this collective wisdom easily searchable for team members. This facilitates continuous improvement and helps avoid the repetition of costly mistakes.

Tagging of Operational Reports

Whether conducting a drilling campaign or monitoring the performance of a reservoir, operational reporting ensures that key decision makers have the very latest information to hand. It is critical, therefore, that this information flows as smoothly as possible. To this end, E&P companies deploy rigorously maintained quality control systems, naming conventions and descriptive metadata solutions which ensure that operational reporting is findable, well maintained and easily utilised.

Regulatory Reporting

Regulatory reporting in the oil industry involves the submission of operational, financial, environmental, and safety-related data and reports to regulatory authorities at various stages in the lifecycle of a hydrocarbon field. Compliance with these regulations is mandatory, and essential for maintaining the licences to find and produce hydrocarbons granted to E&P companies by the regulatory body.

Below are some key aspects of information management in regulatory reporting:

Exploration and Production Reporting

These are submitted at various stages of the E&P process and may include geological evaluations, semi-structured seismic data, operation drilling reports, and reservoir surveillance information. On submission, the reports are tagged with appropriate metadata to ensure that customers of the regulatory body are able to find and use the information at a later date.

Environmental Reports

Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) reports, Baseline Environmental Surveys, and regular monitoring reports are required to track the environmental consequences of oil and gas operations. This includes data on emissions, waste disposal, water usage, and any accidental spills or releases.

Financial and Commercial Reports

Many authorities require detailed financial reporting, which may include revenue figures, expenditures, and profits, to ensure proper taxation and financial transparency.

Resource Reserve Reports

These are submitted to establish the amounts of proven, probable, and possible reserves, often based on internationally recognised standards like the Petroleum Resources Management System (PRMS).

The Future of E&P Information Management

As with most industries, the global digital revolution is transforming information management in the E&P sector.  Advanced technologies such as Edge Computing, the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G connectivity have brought real time operational information directly into the office, while the advent of Machine Learning and AI is expanding the boundaries of data science and analytics.

Further to this, in an industry prone to forming isolated data siloes, next-generation information management platforms now provide seamless interoperability and connectivity across business functions, while intelligent Search tools and NLP-based interfaces ensure that an oil company’s critical information is always to hand.

Flare Solutions has pioneered the introduction of AI-powered Information Management software in the oil and gas industry for over two decades. Our award-winning technology, supported by the industry’s most comprehensive suite of business taxonomies, is tailor-made to ensure that energy companies receive the maximum benefit from their information assets.

If you would like to know more about information management in the oil and gas industry, get in touch today and we’ll be happy to talk.

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