Can Saving Costs Cost You?

In my last blog post I mentioned performance improvement. It’s a buzzword that frequently appears when researching software systems for the oil and gas industry, but what exactly does it mean? To me, Performance Improvement is a blanket term for a range of important issues, ranging from operational efficiency, to automation, and data integration. However, the…

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Oil and Gas Price Factors

I recently attended a conference, hosted by KPMG in London, concerning the current state of play with low oil price and its effects on the world’s oil and gas investment markets. It was an interesting meeting with about 150 people in the audience, and a panel of four speakers. In the following post I summarise the presentations, how its not all doom and gloom and some tips for surviving the current situation. 

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PRODML and Energistics: Current Status

At our regular Hydrocarbon Allocation (HA) Forum in Aberdeen yesterday, we had a terrific “state of the union” presentation by Laurence Ormerod, Consultant and Project Manager for the PRODML standard. By the way, if you don’t attend our HA Forums then you might want to check out our website for details, and sign up for our mailshots. They are intended to be deliberately free from sales messages, and are generally held in Aberdeen at breakfast or lunchtime.

Laurence provided a really good summary of the history of standards development for production data.

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Collaborative Learning in Distributed Environments

I have been reading about other uses of cloud based and mobile technologies and I came across some examples of adaptive learning, which I thought were really interesting. Initially I heard about them from the beloved Radio 4. The two examples I wanted to discuss both come from education and rely on mass adoption by a large remote and distributed community. I suppose you could say they are business to consumer, although that label feels odd for education.

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Conferences and meaningless PowerPoint usage

An article on open source tools to “make your presentations pop” intrigued me initially, then bemused me, then annoyed me. Ignoring for a moment the desirability or otherwise of having presentations that “pop”, the bemusement came from the realisation that the entire focus of the article was on creating effects and transitions, and absolutely nothing about content. The annoyance began when I realised that several of the oil and gas conferences I’ve attended recently have implicitly taken the same approach, focussing on presentation over content.

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Stop the projects, I want to get off

People often ask me how our cloud service for production data management, production reporting and production allocation is different from traditional solutions. This is a hard question to answer, as I want to describe the distinct values of my product and company without seeming to denigrate the competition.

In addition, it’s really hard to provide quantitative information. We think an EnergySys solution is hands-down the fastest, most cost-effective and most configurable choice for customers, but this is largely based on anecdotal evidence. It’s rare for two companies to have delivered systems for the same assets under the same conditions, though we do have a fair amount of experience of replacing competitor systems, so an exact comparison is difficult.

However, during the course of a discussion with a company looking to replace a competitor system I realised that part of the answer lay in the conversation we were having. This user kept talking about projects. Projects to implement new assets. Projects to add new fields or wells. Projects to upgrade the basic software. Everything was a project. And projects required substantial time, money and resources, even just to get a basic upgrade of the software done. In fact, for this user an upgrade cost almost as much as the original project implementation! EnergySys isn’t like that. 

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Constant Service Improvement

As many of you know, we have recently refreshed large parts of our production service infrastructure. Parts of the existing hardware, while still running well, had reached three years of age, which represents the point where we deem the ROI on renewal to be about right. In a cloud based service the ROI is made immediately more attractive because the cost is shared between all the consumers of the service.

Also, there have also been a lot of advances in three years for hardware.

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How we can fix standards efforts in oil and gas

I’ve spoken at several conferences about the failures in standards efforts in oil and gas, and I’ve commented on the reasons for these failures. I’ve also highlighted the key characteristics of successful standards efforts in other industries. In the short version, this boils down to my well-worn aphorism “adoption beats perfection”. The longer version is contained in the seminal paper by Hanseth and Lyytinen (“Theorizing about the Design of Information Infrastructures: Design Kernel Theories and Principles”, 2004) which, despite its title, contains material that is relevant for all standards efforts. They identify five design principles:

  1. Design initially for usefulness
  2. Draw upon existing installed base
  3. Expand installed base by persuasive tactics to gain momentum
  4. Make it simple
  5. Modularize by building separately key functions of each infrastructure, use layering, and gateways

A cursory glance at the standards documentation from bodies like Energistics and PPDM demonstrate a failure to adhere to some, if not all, of these principles.

This has led me to consider the goals of standardisation in oil and gas, and what might help with their adoption.

I can see three obvious scenarios where standards could be useful. There are probably more, but let’s start with these three.

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