Volume 24 Number 5


Editorial What do you say when the boss asks for your opinion?

Neil McNaughton recalls his own wrong answer along with a historical boardroom-driven technology fail. Pondering BP’s billion-dollar contract with Palantir and the rebranding of the SPE ‘information’ special section as ‘analytics’ he postulates that AI group think has taken-over the industry.

Back in the mid-1980s when I was a geophysicist, the boss sauntered into my office and asked, ‘Neil, what would you think of a digital geophone?’ At the time, seismic recording had already been digital for twenty years or so, but the analog-to-digital conversion took place in the recording truck. I was scratching my head trying to see the point in having all that fancy electronics distributed across the length of the spread in every single jug. What about the bandwidth, the conversion range, how many bits etc.? My answer was non-committal. Which of course was the wrong answer! The right answer, when the boss comes in proposing to make a major acquisition, whether it is for the manufacturer of a new geophone, or a purveyor of the latest digital technology for machine learning/artificial intelligence, is ‘Yes boss, that’s a great idea!’

Anyhow, the boss took no notice of my agonizing and went on to acquire the geophysical company (Input-Output). The digital geophone took another decade or two to see the light of day, so my skepticism was not completely misplaced. Today, you can even build your own digital geophone with a kit from Raspberry (Pi) Shake. But I digress.

Back in the day, deals like this were made on the golf course, struck with a handshake of colorful individuals who either possessed considerable financial means or who were capable of smooth-talking others into ponying-up their cash. But not all such ‘top-down’ deals, i.e. ones that suddenly appear in the boardroom, rather than from in-house specialists, are done on the golf course. A spectacular instance of a top-down deal was done in France in the 1970s when the then Elf Aquitaine’s top brass got into a huddle with leading French politicos and a scurrilous Italian ‘inventor’. The great ‘avions renifleurs*’ scandal began when Aldo Bonassoli managed to get the ear of France’s SDECE intelligence agency. This led to top secret tests of his ‘gravity wave’ device that was claimed to detect oil directly**. The tests were performed in the presence of Elf’s top brass, France’s president, Valerie Giscard d’Estaing was even involved, but without any of Elf’s geophysicists in attendance. In the end nothing came of the ‘technology’ but Elf and, one imagines, the French taxpayer were parted from a considerable sum.

I’m not party to how these deals are done today, but I am pretty sure that the ‘top-down’ approach to major decision-making is at least as prevalent today. In the field of computing it has been honed to a fine art as company bosses not only make deals buying startups and making bets on the next big thing, but they also boast about them.

A report in the Financial Times has it that the new CEO, Bernard Looney, wants BP to be ‘the leading digital upstream business’. As a part of this drive, the FT reveals that BP has ‘expanded its relationship with Palantir Technologies, the ’secretive’ Silicon Valley data-analysis company, with which it has a $1.2 billion 10-year contract for its data integration platform’. Palantir’s technology is at the heart of a ‘digital twin’ of BP’s global infrastructure, performing simulations to determine optimum routing for BP’s production and optimizing maintenance. Looney is quoted as saying that ‘immediate access to data is vital to attract the next generation of employees, it is the older hands that are having difficulties adjusting. […] The problem that we have is that people have been working a certain way and believe that answer that they’ve got is right. […] Anywhere in our system where there are tons of data. There is value that is being unrealized.’

Now I am not saying that Palantir is the next ‘avion renifleur’, but there are some uncomfortable parallels here. A secretive company with black-box technology***. A boss who disses in-house expertise. The promise of great benefits. What is new is the way that this staggeringly large investment in software is broadcast to all and sundry. In the early days of the digital oilfield, BP excitedly spoke of a ‘billion dollar’ bottom line addition. Now the boast is of a billion dollar software spend!

The paradigm of massive data lying around with unrealized value comes straight from the marketing material of the consultants and IT vendors. As a geophysicist, and an oldie, I feel almost personally responsible for this terrible state of affairs. But I am scratching my head to think of how the massive amount of seismic data ‘at rest’ could be usefully put to better use and exactly what value is unrealized. Most professionals have an approach that involves doing just the right amount of processing or other work. The new paradigm has it that you have never done enough. That black box is always ready to re-run some big data algorithm and come up with the next insight that was ‘invisible to the human eye’..

The AI revolution in its latest manifestation is old enough now for us to expect to have seen some great results. Here at Oil IT Journal we have been tracking progress in the AI field over the last few years. What we see is continued enthusiasm for trying stuff, especially the stuff that is more or less freely available from Google and Microsoft. The results? Well, we have seen proofs of concept that show image recognition of scanned logs and NLP on document retrieval that are interesting. But accuracy is usually quite low, often in the 60-70% range. This means that AI is applied in special circumstances like a data room where there is a need for quick, rough and ready results.

I’m just back from the Calgary SPE ATCE and am in the process of unpacking my notes and looking through some presentations. I will report back in a future issue on the state of play in upstream AI. But so far, nothing staggering revolutionary to report. What did come over loud and clear from the ATCE is the group think that has it that the AI revolution is already mainstream. To reflect this apparently obvious ‘fact’, the SPE Special Section for ‘Management and Information’ has been split into two disciplines. While splitting out ‘Management’ makes sense (it was always puzzling to group this with ‘information’ and not very managers seemed to be onboard), the rebranding of ‘information’ as ‘data science and engineering analytics’ seems to be an acknowledgement that all that old-world scientific computing stuff is out of the window.

* Wikipedia: The Great Oil Sniffer Hoax.

** Bonassoli’s device is one of many scams/inventions that your average geophysicist is confronted with during their career.

*** Some put it even less politely.

Headlines

Accenture’s requiem for the digital refinery

Survey finds falling gains from digital technology despite increasing investment. Has digital been oversold?

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A Digital Factory in Paris

Total aims for $1.5 billion ‘value’ per year by 2025

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Review: Reproducibility and Replicability in Science

The 250 page report from the National Academies Press investigates the reproducibility of scientific experiments and publications citing a, eminent geophysicist as father of the reproducibility movement and new boosts to reproducibility from Docker, the cloud and the Jupyter notebook.

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A look at evolving downhole communications technology and the ’start of the digital age'!

Oil IT Journal investigates options for communications between the drillbit and the surface. We look at Halliburton’s latest QuickPulse, the evolving NOV IntelliServ wired drill pipe and the new kids on the block, AkerBP and TDE Group with the Powerline Drill String.

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US baseline oil and gas production to decline 35% in 2019

AI-based study by IHS Markit delivers well-by-well production forecast for one million North American wells.

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The Open Group, IT4IT, Shell and … OSDU

An Open Group blog reprises Shell’s deployment of its IT4IT reference architecture. IT4IT covers digital transformation and the move to the cloud. Just like the Open subsurface data universe!

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Open Industrial Digital Ecosystem Summit

NIST-hosted event hears from Mimosa and OAGi luminaries. Highlights include OIIE, the open industrial interoperability ecosystem , BP’s interoperability story (too many oil and gas standards!), Industrial ontologies foundry and ‘OAGIS Lite’.

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Energy transition outlook 2019, oil and gas

DNV GL’s crystal ball sees oil demand peaking in the mid 2020s as gas takes over as the world’s main energy source. A peek into the digital future of oil and gas sees further de-manning supported by robotics and AI. 3D printing, drilling automation, wired drill pipe and wearables will also come to the mainstream. Maybe!

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Software, hadware short takes

Achilles’ Oil and Gas Europe. Aker Solutions’ Intelligent Subsea. Brüel & Kjær Vibro’s VC-8000. Bentley Nevada Orbit 60. Brady Inspection Timer. CGG HampsonRussell/Jason. DNV GL Sesam Insight. EasyCopy EasyCore 2.0. Elysium InfiPoints V 6.0. Emerson/Paradigm. EY Digital Energy Enablement Platform. Geophysical Insights Paradise. Halliburton Landmark DecisionSpace 365. Pegasus Vertex MudManager/cement displacement JIP. Quest Global Eagle 2.0. Siemens Teamcenter. Sphera IRM 4.0. Software AG TrendMiner. Universal mCloud AssetCare. Weatherford ForeSite.

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NETL’s Offshore Risk Modeling suite

New spill modeling tool leverages terabytes of Energy Data eXchange historical data to ‘evaluate and reduce’ risk of spills.

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GBC IIoT and digital solutions in oil and gas 2019, Amsterdam

McKinsey: LEAN, Lighthouses and the digital transformation. BHGE: BP Pharos’ Post-Its. ENI: No more PoCs! Equinor: Omnia/Azure ‘deliver more than expectations’. OMV Petrom trials Teradata. Bloomberg ‘lack of astonishing results to date’. BP: how to fix digital underperformance. Linde: remote ops and the digital cylinder. Shell: PI at heart of transformation. Schneider Electric: predictive maintenance tops digital agenda. Askelos faster FEA. Startup pitches.

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Folks, facts, orgs …

Ambyint, B. Riley Financial, Universal mCloud, Compressor Engineering, Energy Web Foundation, GSE Systems, Harbo, Hicor Technologies, Infrastructure Networks, MSi, MVP Holdings, Noble Corp., National Science Foundation, Opto 22, PAS Global, Pason Systems, Twenty20 Solutions, Prairie Field Services, ProStar Geocorp, Quintana Energy Services, Quorum Software, Petro.ai, Center for Petrochemical Energy and Technology, Society of Exploration Geophysicists, StormGeo, Total, Western Midstream Partners, Williams Industrial Services, Marcellus Shale Energy and Environment Lab, Moore Industries,

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Done deals …

Aucerna/Micotan. RigData/DrillingInfo/Enverus. Eagle Automation/Texas Energy Control Products. Emerson/KnowledgeNet. Engage Mobilize. ENGlobal. Hatch/Upside Engineering. Helmerich & Payne/DrillScan. Interface Fluidics. Lasser/TGS-NOPEC. Matrox. Siemens/PSE. Quorum/OGsys. SeekOps. TechnipFMC. Teledyne/3M. Total Safety/S&S. Siemens’ negative-yield bonds.

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Upstream Intelligence Data Driven Drilling & Production Conference, Houston

Anadarko DPAT drilling automation. Total D-WIS drilling interop proposal. Anadarko diffusive time-of-flight. Repsol’s EarthSpy, the answer to ‘plummeting’ upstream profitability. LNS Research defines the digital twin. Red Hat OpenShift Energy Commons. More on OSDU. EarthPeel seamless geoscience in the cloud.

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Cyber security round-up

Barracuda Networks and SCADAFence team. NIST CCoE on energy asset cyber security. NIST on IoT cyber sec. NIST on mitigating software vulnerabilities. WindRiver Opto22 and the URGENT/11 scada flaw. Schneider Electric and ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance. Siemens on cybersecurity in the cold!

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Sales, partnerships, deployments

Amalto and FIS Global. Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute. AspenTech. BHGE and C3.ai. Blue Marble and MangoMap. dGB and TetraSeis. FPT Corporation. KBC and AVGI. Luna Innovations. Matrox and VuWall. Projetech and SRO Solutions. Quantum and RS Energy Group. SeekOps and Impossible Aerospace. E-matica and Seeq. Siemens and Fraunhofer. Schlumberger and Microsoft. Schlumberger and IHS Markit. Schlumberger and Tibco. Schlumberger and Chevron. SkyX and Aerial Project Analytics. TechnipFMC and DNV GL. TGS and Quantico. Quorum Software. UTSI International and Sensewaves. Wellbore Integrity and OFS Portal. AFTI WatchDog.

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Standards stuff

CFIHOS V 1.4. D-WIS drilling interoperability. IIC and OGC collaborate. GeoTIFF V1.1. IOGP guide to P6/11 seismic binning. Open Industry 4.0. PPDM progress on 3.10. XBRL OIM for JSON and CSV. UK Data Exploration License. ‘Pint’, computing with units.

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World’s largest industrial ontology

International description logics workshop hears from Aibel on the massive materials master data ontology behind Johan Sverdrup drilling platform. DNV GL on obstacles to semantic deployment. NORSOK Z-T data revamp JIP.

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Review: The Open Group’s Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge Standard

With The Open Group’s increasing penetration into upstream IT (OSDU, OPAF) the Digital Practitioner Body of Knowledge Standard is a timely compendium of TOG’s output. The 520 Page publication addresses the interface between IT and academia and attempts to formalize the sometimes rather nebulous concepts that confront the digital practitioner.

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Digital technology in refining

France’s Evolen trade body hears from Total on its early detection center for rotating equipment monitoring. Valourec announced Digital Pipes. Alpha Maintenance: shutdown and turnaround the poor relation of digital operations.

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On data warehouses, data lakes and tandems

Boston Consulting Group bloggers offer advice on the merits of various data platforms.

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Twin digital twins

Kongsberg and Shell sign digital twin deal for Nyhamna gas facility. DNV GL proposes a ‘probabilistic digital twin’

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EITI Paris (OECD) 18-19 June 2019

Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative meet hears from Oxfam on auditing oil and gas projects. Open Data and disclosure by default. Mapping and database technology for transparency. UK’s EITI candidacy. Transparency and the energy transition.

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