Dinosaurs will be left behind: Tertzakian

From CBC News

New data in the oil industry is shaping the way the companies work — so drastically that the data has become almost as important as the oil itself.

New uses for data collected by drillers was one of the main topics at the Bennett Jones Lake Louise Business Forum, which started last Thursday and went into Sunday.

Peter Tertzakian, and economist and executive director of the Arc Energy Research Institute in Calgary, said data has always been a part of oil and gas — but companies are looking at new ways of collecting and using it.

“Data has had a long relationship with the industry, all the way from gathering seismic information to being able to map out the subsurface,” Tertzakian told CBC’s Radio Active Tuesday.

Another step change coming

“But we’re about to undergo another step change.”

The dramatic change, Tertzakian said, will be companies using data gathered from low-cost sensors, which can help detect rock formation patterns underground.

“The ultimate goal, of course, is to be able to drill a safer, better, more productive well that is more environmentally compliant and also able to compete on the world stage,” he said.

Tertzakian said the last time the oil and gas industry went through such a major change was in the 1990s, when there were two key changes: 3D mapping of what’s underneath the surface and the ability to steer a drill bit while drilling.

Turning to Silicon Valley

Both the changes were key in drilling safer and more successfully. The next big change, which Tertzakian called once-in-a-generation, will help further that goal.

“Now, we’re going to layer on top of that the intelligence of pattern recognition,” Tertzakian said.

Companies that are collecting data from their wells are looking at companies from Silicon Valley to help them make sense of it. The Bennett Jones conference brought the two industries — oil and gas and data collection and extrapolation — together under one roof.

But other companies are looking locally, too.

“We have a lot of this expertise, even here, to be able to handle just the sheer amount of new digital data that is coming from the subsurface,” Tertzakian said.

Oil and gas companies are also using new data-gathering techniques on the type of material they are extracting oil from, in hopes they can be competitive in the world market.

The companies are looking for “good rocks” — rocks that have good quantities of oil and gas while also being easily extractable — to compete in the global market.

“That is almost a requirement these days, to be able to compete in this low-price environment,” he said. “The information about rocks is of tremendous value.”

But, as is the case in most industries, there will be some companies, or “dinosaurs,” that will fall behind in data collecting, Tertzakian said.

“There are [dinosaurs], but that’s not exclusive to oil and gas,” he said. “Some organizations are more adept to adapting to change than others.”


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