Regulators Discuss Real-time Data for Monitoring Oil Wells

By Jill Feblowitz, IDC Energy Industry Insights Community |  Business, Analytics

At a Platt's Energy Podium Event, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEM) Director Michael Bromwich broached the idea of giving access to federal regulators to real-time data from off shore rigs to mitigate future situations like Macondo. Having access to real-time data could reduce the number of on-site inspectors required to monitor drilling operations. Of course, this would mean that regulators would need to staff up on experts to interpret the data -- a tall order given that the oil industry is experiencing a labor shortage in this area. Whether or not real-time data is streamed to regulators, oil companies would be wise to consider analytics applied to real-time data collection for drilling, completions and production operations.

There are already companies that are benefiting from sending streaming data to real-time operations centers. Shell is noted for its global deployment of real-time operating centers. The centers bring together the disciplines like geology and geophysics, petro-physics, reservoir engineering and production technology to view data from multiple sources, including down-hole sensors and drill head sensors, using tools like 3-D visualization.

Ironically, real-time data was available to operators of the Deepwater Horizon. According to BP's Deepwater Horizon Accident Investigation Report, September, 2010, "Indications of an influx with an increase in drill pipe pressure are discernable in real-time data from approximately 40 minutes before the rig crew took action to control the well. The rig crew did not recognize the influx and did not act to control the well until hydrocarbons had passed through the BOP and into the riser." This seems to indicate that collecting real-time data is not analogous with being able to do effective monitoring, but requires the right analytics, traceability of real-time data sources, and recommended actions.

Having a real-time analytics orientation certainly supports monitoring of health, safety and the environment. This investment makes sense as well in reducing non-productive time of assets and/or workforce, even with the price of oil where it is today. Your thoughts?

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