The world isn’t running out of oil and natural gas, it’s running out of easy supplies of it. For energy companies, including Chevron, this means drilling ever-deeper and in more remote locations for deposits of precious fossil fuels—all tasks that require advanced big data tools and technologies.
According to Paul Siegele, president of Energy Technology at Chevron, the data involved in oil and gas exploration is staggering. However, without the technologies his team provides, which includes distributed sensors, high-speed communications, massive data-mining operations and remote drilling operations data management, the tasks of finding and exploiting new natural resources would be nearly impossible.
According to Technology Review’s Jessica Leber, programs that invoke the “digital oilfield” approach to the new era of oil and gas will play a huge role in the future of energy companies. Leber says, “ The ones that are most successful at operating remotely and using data wisely will claim big rewards. Chevron cites industrywide estimates suggesting 8 percent higher production rates and 6 percent higher overall recovery from a ‘fully optimized’ digital oil field.”
As the Leber cites, despite advancing renewable technologies, the International Energy Agency projects that global oil demand will still be growing by 2035 as more people use cars. And, as extraction becomes more difficult, almost $20 trillion in investments will be needed to satisfy these future needs.
Chevron is currently deploying up to eight global "mission control" centers as part of its digital program. Each is focused on a particular goal, such as using real-time data to make collaborative decisions in drilling operations, or managing wells and imaging reservoirs for higher production yields. The purpose is to improve performance at more than 40 of its biggest energy developments. The company estimates that these centers will help it save $1 billion a year.
Chevron's internal IT traffic alone exceeds 1.5 terabytes a day. Leber says that to keep up with this and new digital oil field projects, software tools are being developed at big oil contracting companies, such as Halliburton and Schlumberger, and big IT providers including Microsoft and IBM.