Understanding the Digital Oilfield

digital oilfieldUnderstanding the Digital Oilfield

It is inevitable that oilfields of the future will go digital. Already, we rely on the Internet and email for communication, drones for exploration, and automation to keep tasks safe. The question is, what will digitization mean for oilfield workers in the coming decade?

Plenty of oilfield support equipment can be digitized, providing oilfield workers real-time access to key hydrocarbon assets, field data, and trends.

Fiber optic pressure and temperature gauges enable sustained down-hole profiling with steady information flows. With a stream of 360-degree data from the field, a single well can generate more than 200 DVDs worth of data a day. Analyzing and harnessing that data is the work of digital petroleum engineers.


Going digital means saying goodbye to hand-made charts and Excel spreadsheets. Instead, data sets from the field can be integrated with engineering models in order to show information clearly. With digital integration, tools that IT workers have had for years can be applied to understanding how the oil field is functioning and where problems might sprout (before anything goes wrong). Live visualizations work in up to 4 dimensions, that is, sharing 3-dimensional perspective as they change in time.

Real-Time Drilling Decision Making

Live data streams from drilling sites can be harnessed to make better real world decisions. Already, the Real-Time Drilling Optimization Center makes use of this principle to offer constant surveillance of drilling sites by engineering experts. On schedules matching crews on rigs, drilling experts offer oilfield support by identifying key problems, signs, and data trends to improve safety and efficiency in the field. Similar decision-making support centers for production, reservoirs, and various drilling and extraction processes are already in the works worldwide.

Production Surveillance

Digital oilfield technologies aren’t limited to data streams and decision making. Independent advanced alarm systems can also be a key tool for oilfield management. With production surveillance equipment, it becomes possible to optimize parts of the supply chain to prevent bottlenecks and road blocks. This helps optimize the entire production system.

Remote Communications

Remote communications through cellular and internet networks are already a standby of oilfield production. However, to fully maximize the potential of the digital oilfield, redundant communications networks are important. As the oilfield and decision-making data become more and more linked, it becomes more vital that no link in the communication chain is broken down. Wired networks can be protected with tools like Turbo Ring or Turbo Chain, while wireless networks should have two independent channels.

Integration for Greater Field Efficiency

The digital oilfield is a highly integrated decision making space. Integrated operations is the formal name for work processes in oilfield extraction and information technology working together. Effective integrated operations are the key to the success of a digital oilfield. The ability to work with a wide variety of individuals with varying areas of expertise is absolutely necessary for the success of new surveillance and decision making models.

For this reason, streamlining integrated operations is a key phase of building a digital oilfield environment. Decision making trees will likely need to be re-evaluated to reflect new streams of data and expertise. It’s a lot of work, but greater integration means greater efficiency in the field.

Relying Too Much on Technology

As technology becomes more integrated with oil field production and distribution – both upstream and downstream, that critical infrastructure becomes an easy target for threatening attacks. Oil companies must set up processes, people and policies that will prevent system-wide failures and defend against potential attacks. The best step for prevention is preparation and training. Having a team of trained professionals who can monitor and provide protection from any breach will be essential to maintain a smoothly running operation.

Although there may be risks to digitizing oilfield operations, the benefits are many, including increased ROI, improved decision-making, and the ability to enable optimal business results and value. As oilfield engineers have access to timely information, the executive teams can focus on generating business value.