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Gulf oil firms 'must' develop more sophisticated data strategies

Booz Allen Hamilton white paper recommends taking advantage of big data technologies

Gulf oil firms 'must' develop more sophisticated data strategies
The capture and analysis of big data will offer tangible benefits across the value chain, the paper said

By using big data technologies, oil and gas companies in the Middle East could increase oil well production by up to 8%, according to a white paper released by Booz Allen Hamilton.

The white paper added that oil and gas companies should be using the competitive advantage of big data to create operational efficiencies. The consultancy claimed that the GCC region's hydrocarbon industry must develop more sophisticated data strategies as it looks to mitigate an extended period of low oil prices.

"Less than one percent of the data currently available on a modern oil rig is currently being captured and analysed, meaning extractors and producers are leaving themselves increasingly vulnerable to low oil prices and a skills shortage," said Atif Kureishy, principal at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA.

"It's important that we are not only capturing as much data as we can, but that the industry is able to identify the people and systems equipped to make sense of that data to inform better decision making."

The study - designed to support and inform the transition to data driven model - suggests that rapid advancements in processes have until now supported reliable and complex, if expensive extraction. But in an age of increasingly volatile oil prices the capture and analysis of big data will offer tangible benefits across the value chain, the paper said. The report cites Chevron's i-fields project as successful model for a data-driven oil field. The project is set to save the company over $1bn annually, the paper claimed.

The research also found that data-driven oil fields can help defend the industry from a looming skills gap by automating processes and socialising institutional knowledge through management systems. The paper references a study, which found that 75% of international oil companies felt staffing challenges were responsible for project development delays. The study also said that 59% of companies said the skills gap was a reason for greater industry risk taking.

In the Middle East, 50% of the region's skilled oil and gas professionals are expected to retire within the next five to seven years, Booz Allen Hamilton said.

"The oil and gas industry is a pillar of economic development in the Middle East region - particularly the GCC, and a primary source of employment and state spending," said Atif Kureishy, principal at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA.

"Securing the industry's viability in a way that is sustainable and resilient to external factors such as falling prices and a shortfall in human capital will rely on technology and analytics.

The report did, however, note that, while big benefits can be gleaned from emerging technologies such as big data, digitisation does present a growing security challenge - solutions to which must be integrated into a holistic data driven approach to oil field management, the consultancy said.

The paper describes the oil and gas industry as being ‘particularly at risk to cyber-attack' given its critical nature to economic and social security, and as companies look to migrate to more integrated, digital systems, the attack area increases together with the organisation's vulnerability.

"The industry finds itself at the intersection of a crisis in which a glut in global supply and a systemic shortfall in talent have intercepted each other - threatening the short-term success of operations. But greater yet, is the sustained and evolving cyber threat from hacktivist criminals motivated by high stakes and low defenses," said Dr Mahir Nayfeh, senior vice president, Technology and Analytics, at Booz Allen Hamilton MENA.

"Devising strategies that allow organisations to maximise operations without compromising intellectual property will be about finding a defense in depth cyber security model that balances technology deployment to support data capture, with the analytical intelligence to interpret and understand what the data is telling you."

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