Oil ITJ interview—Tony Edwards, chair of Intelligent Energy

Tony Edwards (BG) who was Chair of the 2008 Intelligent Energy Conference took issue with our April 2008 editorial categorizing the tradeshow as a ‘beauty contest’ and contrasting it with the supposedly more workmanlike PNEC data integration conference. Edwards believes that the digital oilfield is less about technology than about people and process.

Edwards—I think that your editorial missed a key point about Intelligent Energy (IE) 2008. The digital oilfield approach emphasizes the integration of people, process and technology to change the way we work. The digital oilfield (DOF) approach mirrors a similar evolution of thinking that has already taken place in the HSSE arena. This was initially addressed with standards and technology—but early failures led to the introduction of process and more people-related solutions. Technology is the enabler but not necessarily the key to success. DOF projects have shown that the integration of the work processes and the team that run them is the critical factor in a successful outcome. If you integrate the people by having a multidiscipline approach to a value adding process such as production optimization, you can overcome the fact the there is imperfect data and system integration.

OITJ—But how can this happen if you haven’t solved the underlying data issues that PNEC shows are still prevalent?

Edwards—Of course the technology is important and the smoother the data and system integration the easier it is, but the DOF approach centers on the people and process that add value even if the data is incomplete. In short, we are often in a position in E&P of having incomplete data and yet we still have to make a decision. What’s key are the processes we can set up—and how we organize to take these value adding decisions whilst minimizing the risk of the impact of those decisions.

OITJ—So we missed the point of IE2008?

Edwards—I think so. One day of IE2008 was devoted to integration through people and processes. One of my favorite books on the topic is James Surowiecki’s ‘The Wisdom of Crowds*.’ This describes just how better decisions can be arrived at through collaboration—even with partial information. In my days at BP we made great use of these techniques—which also interrelate with game theory. DOF projects have shown that giving very simple data in real time to petroleum engineers working remotely from the operational site can make a big difference in understanding a well’s performance.

OITJ—So data is not the big issue?

Edwards—Sometimes an IT or Technology led approach has been taken where the project is deemed a technical success but in fact adds little or no value. This is usually because the process work flow has not been updated and the people working them resist the change, work as they have always done and no value is added. But once the ‘people’ issues have been addressed, improvements to data can ‘turbo charge’ the whole process. Data certainly is an issue. But as Chevron CTO Don Paul suggested at the 2008 Houston Digital Energy event, some data issues have proved rather intractable. Hence the need for a different approach.

OITJ—One of the IE2008 success stories and flagship DOF projects is the Norwegian Integrated Operations initiative. This surely is a technology-driven initiative with the development of a whole range of IT initiatives and standards.

Edwards—Not at all! Integrated Operations is primarily a people and process approach emphasizing collaboration as above. This, like other successful DOF projects, is an organizational and transformational program rather than an IT project. Taking this approach put the emphasis on moving the people to a new way of working that is enabled by the technology. Often it is the simple technologies that have the biggest impact, e.g. video conferencing (VC). Having ‘always on’ VC between onshore and offshore allows the teams to build trust. This results in the teams including each other more readily in the decision making process. You have one team instead of two. Being able to see the same data at the same time is also key but it is the change in the team’s behavior that really adds the value.

* www.oilit.com/links/0807_6

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