You may have noticed this news item a week or so ago, talking about BP’s plans to introduce AI to seek drilling performance improvement.

It seems these plans are part of an effort to embrace new technologies, which Bob Dudley, BP’s chief executive, said last week were “rewriting the rule book for E&P”.

This set me thinking (again) about where are the E&P problems – the opportunities for performance improvement that could have such an effect?

I had a few ideas and here are some of them – not in order of importance but roughly in the order in which they occur in the value chain:

Using satellite- and air – borne sensors: there has been an explosion both in the number of vehicles flying around above us and in the bandwidth and resolution of the sensors they carry, Can we analyse these potentially huge data sets to reveal geological variation, map micro-seepage etc?  Make onshore exploration more successful……

Interpreting 3D and 4D seismic: huge data volumes – essentially we use such seismic to “do geology”. Geology is a rules-driven science; can a machine learn from previous interpretations and outcomes how to do this much better than humans?

Drilling: the point of the article about BP. Can a machine learn from the thousands of wells that have been drilled (in any one basin onshore USA; North Sea etc) how to optimise drilling performance? A useful performance metric is days/10k ft; is a focus on reducing Non Productive Time(NPT) the only key to performance improvement or are there others, for example the real-time adjustments that the BP article mentions?

Completions: again, from the thousands of wells drilled in any one basin or region, can a machine learn how to optimise/maximise IP (Initial Production)?

Preventative Maintenance: can we do as the airlines seem to do routinely and learn to predict equipment issues and failures before they actually happen? In turbines and compressors for example: I find it only slightly ironic that GE who sell such things are at the forefront of trying to sell software to tell us when they will break……

Actually, as a pointy-toed geoscientist I am underselling the impact that analytics could have on production operations, in fact on the whole of the engineering that that takes place between the well head and the storage facility. For a much better account, I refer you to Karl Jeffrey’s summary of a recent Finding Petroleum event on “Transforming offshore operations – with better use of data” which you can access by clicking on that title. There are so many things that could be done to improve efficiency, cut costs, prevent incidents, improve operational integrity, improve safety…….

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