How does software development improve upstream, midstream, and downstream operations for oil & gas companies? Learn here how technological solutions can help companies be more efficient.
In the last decades, technology has played a very important role in the modernization of large companies, not only providing automation where there was none before but also improving processes and reducing costs.
Today, companies from many different sectors are betting on replacing manual processes with software in order to improve their existing systems.
For any company whose core business is not technology, software development also plays an important role in the way it conducts its business.
This is particularly true in the Oil & Gas industry, where a large number of domains coexist and join forces in pursuit of a common goal — domains as diverse as upstream and downstream, as well as HR, processes, environment, finance, transportation, etc.
This article presents my vision of how technology, particularly software development, drives Oil & Gas companies, based on our experience working for more than 20 years with companies in Argentina, Brazil, the United States, and Canada.
Data security is a very important issue considered in all types of industries, even more so in this post-pandemic era in which malicious attacks have multiplied in both the public and private sectors.
Companies seek to safeguard their sensitive data in many different ways and with many different strategies, but our experience tells us that no one is safe from malicious intrusion and/or loss of important data.
Nowadays, we must put special focus on data security, not only through technological security mechanisms such as antivirus, malware detection, firewalls, etc. but also by training personnel so that they do not become victims of fraud such as phishing or vishing.
It is also essential to have data redundancy mechanisms so that information can always be recovered or reconstructed, even if the media is inaccessible. There should also be disaster recovery infrastructure and procedures in place.
The latter is particularly important in the Oil & Gas industry, where a shutdown of plants, wells, and transportation, among others, can be very expensive.
The oil industry is divided into three main sectors: upstream, midstream, and downstream. The upstream is also known as the exploration and production sector (wells, plants, storage tanks, etc.).
All these places have a common denominator — the focus on people’s safety, especially when dealing with polluting and flammable materials.
Every year, companies in the sector invest a lot of money in the safety of their personnel, either through more modern equipment and/or machinery or through training and technological tools.
Today, the most common interference of technology in the area of personal safety has to do with sources of storage, dissemination, and material request specifically prepared for this purpose, such as training material, safe work procedures, user manuals, good practices, etc. These can come in text, audio, and video format and are accessible to everyone all the time and everywhere thanks to technological platforms designed for this purpose.
Going further, we can think of innovative risk detection mechanisms in which technology can be of great help. For example, real-time sensors can be used to monitor and trigger alarms for values that may be dangerous for people. Other examples are biometric scanners that validate authorized entry to sensitive sectors and scanners that evaluate the proper use of security equipment, such as detecting whether personnel are wearing the regulated clothing for a specific task.
In an industry that moves so much currency, such as Oil & Gas, processes can always be adjusted to make them more efficient in their execution, thereby saving time and materials. Every small adjustment can result in big savings for companies.
At the same time, these companies are totally crossed by lots of software applications that collect information and store it in their own or shared repositories. All this information can be of enormous value to a data mining and exploitation system where countless conclusions could be drawn.
The development of data engineering allows us to have many tools that make it easier than a decade ago to sweep all the company’s information and find bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and problems and then work on the most relevant findings, remeasure, and look for places to adjust.
Drilling is the most critical process for Oil and Gas companies, and the adoption of improper techniques can lead to a major financial disaster. Therefore, these Oil and Gas companies are looking for smart solutions that can increase productivity and reduce the associated risks.
The integration of artificial intelligence and sensors can help improve the design and execution of the drilling process. In addition, data collected through different experiments can be useful to control measurements, perform fast drilling, and make the right decisions.
Any company that works with expensive machinery implements preventive maintenance processes with the main objective of avoiding corrective maintenance, which is more costly and can cause production stoppages.
Keeping track of times, mileage, working hours, or any other variable that requires time to do a preventive maintenance task, making manuals and procedures available for the task, tracking materials and spare parts used, calculating costs of these inputs, and scheduling the next activity for each of the machines that a company of this type may have is something that, undoubtedly, would be very difficult to do without a suitable software tool. For this purpose, there are many maintenance management solutions on the market.
Chemical analysis processes
Oil & Gas companies essentially work with materials extracted from the environment, but these materials do not reach the company’s hands in a clean ready-to-be-transported, and marketed manner.
There are countless unwanted materials that are mixed with the target material and must be removed. This removal can also include an environmentally friendly disposal process for these unwanted materials. That is, companies cannot (or should not) affect the surrounding ecosystem by improving the quality of their target material.
These activities are carried out through chemical analysis processes, which involve cycles of material extraction, laboratory tests, obtaining certain parameters, defining the necessary corrective actions to achieve the desired objective, and so on until the desired values are obtained and the material is ready for transportation and marketing.
It is essential to have a software tool that allows you to carry out all this process, its actions, and results, even when working in very different environments, such as the company plant and the laboratory.
Available information repositories
The companies in this sector are generally very large and have thousands of employees, sometimes combined with employees of third-party companies that collaborate on specific activities. But whether they are on their own or not, these companies involve thousands of people in their activities, with very diverse roles that are distributed throughout the territory.
In all cases, there are processes, procedures, good practices, manuals, training material, and safety recommendations, among others, which vary according to the role, activity, and even the geographical location.
In addition, these large companies generate hundreds of documents per day, many of which must be safeguarded and available for easy access.
Once again, all this is very difficult to achieve without relying on software systems designed for this purpose, such as content managers.
We live in very competitive times, even more so in the Oil & Gas industry where outside players, such as renewable energy companies, are emerging.
As we have already seen, technological tools range from the indispensable to the ideal and can provide solutions of all kinds and also help companies to be more efficient and face the competition with better weapons.
At Hexacta, we have been working for more than 20 years with Oil & Gas companies throughout the continent, and we have the know-how to help you make the use of technology efficient and effective to improve your business.
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