Tackling the information and systems challenges of acquisitions

Asset Transfers can be complex from an information and technology perspective but can be the springboard for innovation, as well as delivering the expected productivity. The critical path is for the transfer of services agreement, safety case, readiness, and transition of operations. This article highlights the types of transfer, the issues we face, and Sword’s tried and tested approach to dealing with them.

The divestor may not have detailed plans of what to transfer or how to do it, and the acquiring organisation may have limited experience of transfers. The team at each end may be undertaking this work on top of their current jobs, with timescales that are often outside of their control. This creates demands that are stressful for key personnel and impacts their ability to quickly make critical decisions.

The impact on contracts and procurement is often underestimated. Limited time for tenders and approvals for expenditure, as well as a lack of expertise in the contract scope and novation, all need an appropriate strategy. Sword helps drive that efficiently as we coordinate a range of vendors, use specific templates from our procurement catalogue, understand the technical scopes, and can validate pricing. We understand the importance of the early identification of contracts that cannot transfer, or custom and out of date systems that will need replacing. Watch out for surprisingly long-lead time items such as radio licenses, network circuits, software customisation, and offshore deployment.

A changing landscape

The UKCS landscape is evolving. Supermajors are changing their portfolios and mid-tier organisations seek opportunities, but the most dynamic area is new entrants. Rising prices are increasing investor appetite, but this is likely to be balanced by the Energy Transition and ESG pressures.

The approaches to an asset transfer take account of the practical differences in systems maturity and capability between companies of varying scale. The challenges faced reflect the different types of transfer; from a non-operated asset, unmanned platform or subsea production system, to a major platform or FPSO. The timescales, and corresponding project and capex costs, can range from one or two months at one end of the scale, to six months or a year at the other.

Phased approach

The primary objective is always hit the transfer deadline. That creates the mindset of “move everything over ‘as is’, start using it, and then worry about the details later”. Transfer projects can involve dozens of systems and huge amounts of information, paper, tapes, samples, and other data. There is a clear need to maintain the Chain of Custody to govern how information changes hands. Not all systems are appropriate for Cloud technology, and that certainly won’t help with physical archives and samples. On-site systems take longer to deploy, and private datacentres can have short-term capacity limitations.

Don’t try and implement radical innovations unless you have proven methods and funding already in place. Post-transfer project fatigue can set in, creating a risk that the performance the new owner seeks will not be realised. Leadership and investors will expect increased performance so plan for it. Make sure corporate information, engineering and subsurface are all taken care of. This ensures you can apply your people and financial resources to make future modifications to your production assets and make the most of your reserves. Sword’s approach consists of 3 separate phases:

Closing thoughts

Sword has successfully completed many asset transfers and related services on behalf of a range of UKCS companies including NEO Energy and Serica Energy alongside the best-known Operators in the industry.

Contact Neale Stidolph (Sword Energy Sector, Information Management Lead), neale.stidolph@sword-group.com

Sword IT Solutions has embarked on an exciting new chapter with the creation of the Sword Energy Sector. This approach underlines the commitment to placing the needs of energy industry customers at the heart of the organisation, by bringing together Sword’s full breadth of domain experience, digital enablement, and managed service excellence. Building an Energy Sector is a natural next step for this business technology and data company, which has doubled in size over the last 5 years and has the ambition to double again by 2025.

Despite the past 12 months being recognised as the most challenging in recent memory, Sword has created 50 new roles in Energy while protecting existing jobs. Sword’s goal is to create at least 250 more positions within the Energy Sector in the next 3 years with continued investment in new talent, training, and skills development.

Sword’s Energy Sector has over 350 employees in locations across the UK, Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America. This global structure enables Sword to support customers of all sizes, maturity, and location, ranging from international blue-chip companies to local independents. Sword places critical importance on partnering with customers as ‘Trusted Advisors’ and applying an in-depth understanding of business needs. In doing so, Sword draws on extensive consulting and technical expertise to create a platform for future operations and innovation by delivering Digital, Data and Infrastructure Services.

Phil Brading, Sword Energy Sector Director, explains:

“We are shaping our business to make sure we are best placed to support the evolving needs of the energy industry. It’s important that we integrate our data and technology expertise from across the asset lifecycle to support our customers’ digital strategies and drive greater value. Our success is built upon listening to and working with our customers, and that ethos remains as fundamental as ever.”

Sword is delighted to announce the appointment of Helen Ratcliffe in the role of Technology Consulting Lead for the Energy Sector. Helen will be helping to build the next phase of Sword’s digital technology strategy to best meet customer demand for the next generation of specialist advice, projects and services.

Helen has over 30 years of experience in the Energy industry, predominantly in Upstream Oil & Gas. She has a great track record of delivering technology-enabled, business transformation programmes that include Mobility, Big Data, Digital Oilfield, Integrated Operations, and Organisational Change Management.

Helen Ratcliffe, Technology Consulting Lead, said:

“I am excited to join Sword as we embark on the 2025 strategy. Each individual part of the Sword Group has been successful in it’s own right, but I believe the Energy Sector will be greater than the sum of its parts. I am keen to work with our existing clients and bring in new ones with whom we can partner to drive positive business outcomes for each.”

The focus from Phil, Helen, and the wider Sword leadership team, will be to expand upon Sword’s foundations to develop flexible new services that address the challenges the industry is facing. This means applying a data-driven approach that promotes the adoption of best practice, efficiency and new insight.

About Sword Energy

Sword delivers practical business support to our customers in Energy. Spanning Oil & Gas, the Energy Transition, and Renewables, we provide day to day operational support, digital solution deployment, transition projects, and technical consultancy. Our expertise runs from IT, business technology, and infrastructure, to subsurface, production, engineering and corporate data and information.

Sword IT Solutions is part of the international Sword Group, which, with over 2,000 domain experts, is active in more than 50 counties and specialises in software and services across a range of industries.

Today we’re shining the spotlight on recently appointed, Sector Technology Consulting Lead, Helen Ratcliffe who makes up an integral part of our Energy Sector leadership team.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey before joining Sword?

I have been really privileged in my career to work with some of the world’s largest Energy companies, IOCs, NOCs and some clients in the supply chain as well. I have experience in Pharmaceuticals and have provided services to a very large busy airport. My employers have ranged from large technology focused systems integrators to boutique consultancies. For the past 20 years I have focussed on Consulting; this has provided me the privilege of seeing many different organisations from the inside, helping me experience a wide view of their businesses. I have put my effort into a range of technical and business focussed initiatives, always with business outcomes for the client at the forefront.

Looking forward to the rest of this year, what big issues do you expect to help our customers address?

Digitalisation is on everyone’s mind, some organisations are advanced and have a great track record already, others are just embarking on the journey. Bringing together strong consultative skills, the fundamentals of data and information, deep domain and experience, I think we can help move the oil and gas industry forward.

Why did you choose to progress your career with Sword?

Sword have a great set of capabilities, skills and a strong track record over many years in Oil & Gas as well as Utilities and Public Sector.  Why wouldn’t I want to work with a company that couples that with a great growth record and values that I really believe in. Sword really care about client’s businesses, ensuring that our highly valued employees all contribute towards keeping things simple and doing the right thing by our customers.

You have joined Sword at an exciting time for the business, what services and specialties do Sword provide in your region to energy customers?

Sword delivers practical business support to our customers in Energy. Spanning Oil & Gas, the Energy Transition, and Renewables, we provide day to day operational support, digital solution deployment, transition projects, and technical consultancy. Our expertise runs from IT, business technology, and infrastructure, to subsurface, production, engineering and corporate data and information.

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to women thinking about their careers in the Energy Sector?

Over the past 35 years I have seen the Sector move, slowly at first and more rapidly over recent years to address diversity. The Energy sector has re-invented itself; it is no longer all about the heavy industry aspects often portrayed in media and film.  While this aspect is still a reality for key parts of the industry; science, technology, innovation, and business acumen have come into public focus. The Energy sector needs new talent and Women can play a major part.

What does the International Women’s Day 2021 slogan, #ChooseToChallenge mean for you in your work life?

Diversity of thinking in any team is very desirable. Don’t be afraid to share your thinking, sometimes people will agree with you, sometimes they will not. If you don’t give them the chance how will you know!    

Read on to learn more about careers with Sword or our Information Management solutions.

Find out more about International Woman’s Day 2021.

Sword is working with Serica Energy and the Datum360 Connected Data Software platform, using their combined expertise and technology to increase the integrity of engineering information for the Bruce asset, one of Serica’s UK Northern Sea assets.

On January 27th, Sword, Serica Energy and Datum360 delivered a 30-minute webinar, demonstrating how engineering and asset data can be leveraged and connected, day-to-day on a brownfield asset.

Find out more and watch the full 30-minute webinar by registering below.

When Serica Energy acquired the Bruce, Keith and Rhum assets in 2018, Sword was engaged to build the IT services they needed as a new North Sea operator.  Andrew James led the IT transition team and subsequently took on the role of Serica’s Information Services Manager, responsible for Sword’s small but perfectly formed managed services team.  In this article, Andrew explains what’s happened since 2018, as Serica enters its third year as operator of BKR, and how Sword is helping the company on its digital journey.

During Serica’s acquisition of Bruce, Keith and Rhum, IT services were built in readiness for cutover with the focus on satisfying essential business needs.  It was important that core services and business systems were available on “Day 1” to support key business functions and ensure operational continuity.  The principle of “Transition Now, Transformation Later” was observed during this phase.

With core IT systems in place following cutover, we entered a stabilisation phase when we made sure everything was working correctly, applied small fixes and enhancements, and introduced some new systems to improve ways of working.  A lot of this work was opportunistic or reactive, based on short term or tactical business needs.

Strategic Transformation

As we approach the end of the second year of IT operations, we are entering a more strategic, transformative phase when we will make more structural changes to how the company maximises value from digital solutions.  In doing so, we have two main aims:

  1. To make sure Serica is equipped with modern tools to help fulfil its business strategy and plans, enabling the company to use technology to work smarter, be safer, and maintain its position as a leading mid-tier E&P company in the UK North Sea.
  2. To ensure sustainability as the business evolves.  Serica is actively looking to expand its portfolio in the North Sea, through development and further asset acquisitions, and it is important that systems and services we operate are flexible and scalable to accommodate growth.

Digital Strategy

To take us forward, our digital strategy and roadmap will define improvements to be made on a rolling 3-year basis.  Recognising that a digital programme is not just about introducing new IT systems, this will embrace four elements:

Planning for the future

Digital is all about bringing these different elements together, working out how to use information, applications and technology to enhance business processes and achieve better performance.  To do this consistently across the organisation and make sure we don’t miss opportunities, it will be important for all of Serica’s business teams to be involved to some extent.   With this in mind, we have formed a Digital Steering Group including representatives from the IT function and all business disciplines.

The steps we have taken to date have allowed us to frame opportunities, explore benefits, agree our priorities, and deliver some quick wins.  First, we recognised that the data which is available in many systems can provide a good insight into business performance and help us to identify improvement opportunities.  We kicked off a project with three aims:

  1. Establish a central data hub to bring together data from different sources, giving us a single “source of the truth” for reporting and analytics.
  2. Develop standard business intelligence (BI) dashboards, refreshed automatically, to help business teams to understand key performance metrics for their processes and activities.
  3. Provide a self-service capability, allowing business users to interrogate the data and create their own bespoke reports.

As the data hub evolves, we will extend this to enable more advanced analytics capabilities.  It has already proven extremely valuable, and our dashboards based on Power BI are used by business teams on a daily basis.

Another theme we are pursuing is to put mobile technology into the hands of mobile workers, allowing them to access the information and digital tools they need without being tied to the office.  We’re beginning with a new tool to improve how we perform inspections of electrical equipment offshore – an important and resource-intensive activity – and we will move onto other uses cases in due course where we see opportunity to add value or work more efficiently, streamlining how we work across many areas through better collaboration and more direct access to tools and data.

Since data is so fundamental to digital solutions, we are also focusing on making sure enterprise data is well managed, with strong data governance controls defining where master data resides, how it is updated, how it is used, and how it can be accessed.  This will allow us to integrate key systems to a much greater extent – maintaining data quality and consistency across business “silos” – and develop digital workflows which are driven by processes and data.  An early priority has been improving our engineering data warehouse, allowing us to feed trustworthy data from there to other systems used for transactional business activities.

Although it is still early days, we have already seen potential benefits of enterprise data governance with our adoption of GDi Vision, an asset visualisation solution.  The core product allows us to perform virtual walkthroughs of the offshore asset based on geospatial and photographic data.  We are now looking at augmenting this with data from our engineering and maintenance systems, allowing engineers to plan work based on a digital twin, reducing the need for costly and time-consuming offshore surveys.

There are many exciting ideas and demands across the business, and our digital strategy and roadmap will help us to make sure we focus on the right opportunities, working hand-in-hand with business colleagues.  Digital solutions will play an important role in Serica’s future, enabling the company to safely reduce operating costs and generate value by innovating, and we are looking forward to helping to deliver those solutions.

To learn more about the original asset transition project, read the full Serica case study and for more on the considerations of IT and IM, Operations and Finance and Board on Asset Transition, please follow the links.  

Sword are delighted to announce the extension of our Services Agreement at bp and excited to introduce Douglas Frisby as our Business Unit Director for US operations, based in Houston, Texas. The agreement extends Sword Venture’s long-standing partnership with bp and will continue to ensure the provision of value-driven data and information management services to all bp locations. 

We look forward to this next phase of our work together, in particular the data challenge that supporting net carbon zero presents, and are thrilled that Douglas will join our Leadership Team to drive our simplified, standardised and insightful managed service approach in Houston. Starting his career as a Petroleum Engineer, Douglas has gained extensive energy industry experience, including leading bp subsurface technical teams across four continents, collaborating with the wells organization as the leader of bp’s Global New Well Delivery community and building capability as bp’s Director of Technical Development, Upstream Talent and Learning. Our Houston office will complement existing service provision delivered from our London, Aberdeen, Rijswijk, and Perth hubs. 

Sword’s services deliver daily operational support, digital project expertise, and data-centric solutions to bp across the exploration and appraisal, development, production and engineering, abandonment, energy transition and corporate domains.

Phil Brading, Sword’s Business Unit Director, says “We are tremendously proud to both welcome Douglas and renew our agreement with bp at this pivotal moment in our industry. The combined influence of digital and the energy transition is having a profound impact on the way our customers do business and we are here to support that change.

Dave Bruce, CEO, Sword UK, says “On behalf of everyone in the Sword Group, I would like to thank our Venture team for this significant achievement. The extension of our Services agreement with bp is fantastic news and has only been possible as a result of the hard work and dedication shown by our delivery teams over many years. The renewal of this agreement and the opening of our office in Houston is an exciting time for us and demonstrates our continued commitment to delivering quality global services to the Energy sector.

We talked to Neale Stidolph, Head of Information Management and Energy Transition at Sword, about the considerations for IT and information management (IM) when kicking off an oil and gas asset transition project.  

What are the key IT and IM considerations you would advise a potential buyer looking to acquire an asset on the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS)? 

“People often say, “we’ll take all the information” and set up the systems to use it, that should be quick. Information is often buried in many systems, so the challenge is in getting clear definitions and being able to separate and extract that information. Being able to show you have all the right critical information is a key part of making the safety case and getting regulatory approval to operate the assets.” 

How complex is it to extract the data and information on a particular asset out of the owner organisations’ clutches? 

“Many applications are old and highly customised, or bespoke. Setting up new systems can be quite rapid but getting the data in the right form and making it useful takes time. There can be permission issues, with multiple data handovers and that all needs to be properly controlled between seller/buyer and any intermediaries – which is where we specialise.” 

How long would you anticipate needing to transition the IT and IM on an asset from one owner to another? 

“The nature of the assets is key. Small unmanned platforms could be done in a few months, but large onshore facilities or multiple major offshore assets could take a year. Some transition activities can continue post-transfer of operatorship, and many can run in parallel. We always work out the critical path, define long-lead items or systems and work around the buyer/seller timetable.”

What tasks tend to surprise new owners in terms of timescales when project planning asset transitions? 

“It can be the non-technical challenges, such as contracts & procurement, with novations, bids and license transfers all extending the timeline. Asset transfers will usually involve dozens of systems, about 50-80 for the last two projects. That requires lots of vendor co-ordination, which we can smooth out.” 

“Approvals to act from buyer/seller management are crucial, and there will be many decisions to be taken during the transfer process. The nature of the information can be very broad, from emails to databases, archive boxes, core samples, old magnetic tapes, etc.” 

“You may start by working the way the previous owner did, so that is a common initial goal. However, as a buyer you are likely to want to change over time to work in your own way and do things differently.” 

Do Sword ever act on behalf of the buyer and seller of an asset, and does that lead to any conflict of interest?

“It helps if we handle transfer activities for both buyer and seller as it makes the communication and data handover issues more efficient. This worked very well on the most recent transfer of GP3 and associated assets & licenses from Total E&P UK to Neo Energy.” 

“The conflict of interest aspect tends not to be a problem since we are achieving the same objective for all parties and have a clear and documented processes for managing the transfer, with an audit trail of activities and approvals.”

What opportunities for change do you see new asset owners embrace?

“Having overcome the first hurdle, acquiring the assets and putting in place the data and systems the real work begins! New owners will initially focus on running things safely, maintaining production and checking on things like maintenance backlogs.” 

“The future strategy will depend on the projected life of asset or field. Ways to extend the life will be very important and seeking to increase recoverable hydrocarbons so the challenge is in two parts, run production as smart as you can and looking at the subsurface to possibly reinterpret old data, new seismic work and drilling.”

“Where we can help most is in making the right information available more easily, so that it provides solid decision support in those areas. Reducing cost through fewer people offshore, simpler and slicker work processes and making engineering management of change easier – as this may include energy transition such as offshore wind & platform electrification or the potential for CCUS and Hydrogen production.”

Can you give us any examples of cost savings that you have seen new owners of assets achieve by changing the structure of the IT and/or IM approach?

“Yes, such as the trials of robotics for inspections and integrating drones into the client’s data systems. We have also seen improvements through increased safety, by making sure all asset information is ‘as-built’ and ‘as-operated’.”

“The back office processes have also been improved so that business administration is less burdensome. There is usually potential for more consolidation of systems, so that you need fewer applications and their associated support and license costs.”

In a nutshell, the notion that it’s possible to ‘lift and shift’ the IT and IM from one asset to another is sadly only a myth. The reality is that it’s worth investing in a realistic, integrated project plan to make the most of the change in structure. Changing an asset’s ownership gives opportunities to migrate only the relevant information into a new home, and streamline technology requirements that set up the asset for new ownership and growth well into the future.

“A successful asset transfer needs to consider not just the information that you think you need now, but the information which may be of high value later. This includes design information that could make decommissioning easier and old well data such as cement bonding logs – as they may be needed for CCUS. Make sure you don’t lose things of potential future value. Also know that the seller may not give you everything, as it is a complex task – we can help you identify the typical blind spots from many previous projects of this type.”

For more information, please read more on our business technology solutions and stay tuned for a new case study on our recent work with Neo Energy when purchasing an asset package from Total earlier this year.

Despite all the hard work of the last 25+ years, we still face enormous challenges in Oil & Gas data management. Recently, the focus has shifted from managing structured data repositories to the enormous volumes of ‘dark data’ that most of our clients still have in their digital vaults. 

Gareth Smith, Head of Consulting at Sword Venture, explains that this shift is driven by the need to feed large volumes of high-quality data into analytics and data science-driven processes; growing regulatory pressure to report data; and the need to ensure safe, efficient operations (especially for the many assets that have swapped hands). However, most of this data is locked away in collections of documents and legacy proprietary formats, is nearly always poorly indexed and is often not machine readable. We have seen a surge in requests to help our clients do something about this. 

Most of these Oil & Gas data management projects break down in to three core challenges:

  1. Find It: Trawl through large volumes of files and understand what we have.
  2. Sort It: Classify, tag, de-duplicate, make it machine readable.
  3. Use It: Search for valuable content and extract it into a form that can be used in ‘traditional’ E&P (exploration & production) applications and data-driven analytics. 

Crucially, this has to be done without years of manual effort. It needs a different approach, using highly automated data science and analytics solutions to tackle these core challenges at scale and pace. 

1. Find It

The first step is to build a pipeline that can ingest, store, process and extract/index data at scale. Unless our clients have the required compute resources to hand, we make use of the major public cloud platforms, e.g. AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Azure (by Microsoft), to provide the tools and processing power to tackle this challenge. A re-usable, cost-optimised and efficient data processing architecture based on cloud infrastructure reduces the costs and overhead to the client and allows us to move quickly through this stage of the process.

2. Sort It

The next step is to clean up the data, understand what we have and identify the data that has some value to us. This is where we apply data science and analytics to automate and massively speed up what once was a laborious, labour intensive process. For example, we have developed a model using a machine learning algorithm, or neural network to predict the classification of a given document based on its text content, contained images and structure. Accuracy levels are often in excess of 95%. We combine this with analytics-driven clean-up and cloud-based optical character recognition (OCR) to create a repository of well structured, machine readable content ready for further analysis and processing.

3. Use It

The ‘Find’ and ‘Sort’ stages are just a means to an end; the goal is to extract value from data by putting it to work. We use a combination of machine and deep learning to identify and classify specific data within a document or text and extract that data in a machine readable format.​ For example, identifying deviation survey data (essential to all well interpretation) within documents and scanned images, extracting and making available to engineers. ​

We are working on the use of natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning techniques to draw meaning out of documents in order to generate greater insight.​ For example, to automatically recognise the findings and outcomes of final reports for thousands of wells, reducing the requirement for manual analysis.

Beyond the Core Challenges: Insight & Intelligence

Our goal going forward is to develop and deploy techniques such as deep learning and data engineering to synthesise large amounts of information and provide recommendations to assist human decision makers.​ For example, assisting with decisions on where to target exploration investment or how best to configure engineering parameters to reduce failure rates and maximise uptime.​ We recognise the value of combining data and knowledge to create unbiased predictive reasoning tools to support complex decision scenarios.

The combination of on-demand cloud computing and advanced data science and analytics techniques is revolutionising the way we manage data and extract value. We can tackle data at scale and pace, reduce manual effort and automate processes in a way that just wasn’t possible even a few years ago. 

To find out more about how we can help you with your data management challenges, read on about our data and information management solutions here.

Gareth Smith, Head of Consulting at Sword Venture, delves into the detail of data management as an agile approach versus the more traditional waterfall project delivery commonly adopted in the UK Oil & Gas industry.

Oil & Gas: An Industry Struggling to Change

I sat in a fascinating session run by the Society of Petroleum Data Managers (SPDM), where Dan Brown, Executive Director at Common Data Access (CDA), talked about the challenges we face digitalising the Oil & Gas industry in the UK. Despite the many billions of IT spend over the years, apparently we still sit at the bottom of most ‘digital maturity’ league tables. One of the key questions raised was are we ‘agile’ enough in the way we work to reach the goal of delivering a digitalised basin on the UKCS? Does the long-term, physical asset management mindset of our industry, more aligned to manufacturing, lend itself to an agile approach?

Constantly Evolving 

I’ve discussed in the past about the rapid changes we’re seeing in Oil & Gas data management (DM); in particular the ability to apply new data analytics and data science techniques to address data management challenges at scale and speed. These approaches are more akin to science-based R&D or software development than the people-heavy, process-driven approaches of old. We are constantly finding and applying new tools and techniques to improve delivery and derive more value. The toolset is literally changing day-by-day as the underlying toolsets and algorithms improve and expand. The good news is this lends itself perfectly to an agile approach. In fact, it’s probably the only way you can do it. 

Our Clients Say They Want Agile ….

Nearly all our clients are talking about agile. Some have already reengineered their internal IT and DM project delivery processes to take advantage of an agile approach, where the focus on an early realisation of value, continuous delivery and a mindset that accepts and embraces change. However, this is a massive shift in mindset from the days of 18-month+ project and budgeting lifecycles and waterfall project management that the industry has worked with for decades.

Many Fear the Leap

Many others say they want agile and all that it might deliver but can’t get over the line when it comes to the detail. An agile mindset requires an acceptance that the outcome is unknown. You can’t define the absolute time, effort and cost for an agile project. You can’t define a GANTT view of the project before you start. You work one sprint at a time towards your goal, focusing on continual value delivery and learning and adapting as you go. It also requires the continual involvement of the client, with day-to-day feedback guiding the work. As the client, you must retain ownership of the solution, not farm it out and hope that in 6 months’ time you have something of value back.

You try and narrow down the ‘cone of uncertainty’ as you progress through an agile project. You are always delivering value but there is always the chance you won’t do everything you set out to at the start, unless to decide to extend the project. You might argue that’s also the case with traditional project approaches, but it is baked in to agile. Change and uncertainty are core elements of the approach.

So, Are You Ready?

When it comes down to it, many say they want agile but really still want the (supposed) certainty of a waterfall approach to a project: a detailed scope & spec, a nice GANTT chart with lots of defined milestones and fixed estimates of cost, time and final deliverables. 

Helping the UK Oil & Gas Industry deliver a digitised basin is going to take a conscious leap of faith to trust the relevance of an Agile approach to addressing the challenges in our industry. Read more about Sword’s data and information management solutions here.

Location intelligence is a key compnent of the solutions delivered to Sword clients. GIS Specialist Iwona Jakubowska shares her technical insights from the annual conference by Esri, an international supplier of geographic information system (GIS) software. 

A Virtual Conference at Scale

This year’s Esri User Conference was unlike any other. Billed as an immersive, fully virtual event, it gathered thousands of GIS users from all over the world. Over 80,000 users from 180 countries registered for the event that took place between 13th and 16th July 2020. 

The event was designed to enable users to actively participate in the live sessions via chats, as well as watch pre-recorded sessions on demand. Esri has since made all of the sessions available online.

There were also some challenges, mainly around search/filter functionality (finding a proper session) and obviously time difference, as the event was hosted in Redlands, CA and watched live all around the world.

ESRI’s president Jack Dangermond led the plenary session, highlighting great Esri’s achievements in the field of Covid 19 response as well as many useful GIS implementations and solutions for various industries, like GIS integration with enterprise systems, including Microsoft Office, ETL (extract, transform and load) workflows, CAD (computer-aided design) and BIM (building information modelling). He announced a new education programme partnering with the National Geographic Society. Esri continues working with the UN on their Sustainable Development Goals.

Jack also announced new features and improvement to the Esri platform. He put a lot of emphasis on deep learning and AI (artificial intelligence) techniques available in the Esri platform.

The plenary session is available on the Esri Conference website

The following developments in particular caught my attention:

New Online Map Viewer

The new online Map Viewer was built on the latest JS (JavaScript) technology and it allows many new options of data visualisation, labelling and charting. Enhanced, more intuitive user interface makes it easier to create beautiful and meaningful maps. Cartographic blending is a new addition to the web map viewer to show the terrain texture for better understanding of the landscape.

ArcGIS Experience Builder

ArcGIS Experience Builder is an application that allows users to create multi-page web applications using both 2D and 3D data. A great selection of tools and widgets enhances the look and feel, so that applications can be customised to a higher level. Users can now create new multipage, complex sites, which wasn’t possible before. Experience Builder is now available in ArcGIS Online (AGOL) and is soon coming to ArcGIS Enterprise.

Esri Notebook

Esri Notebooks are now available across the platform, from AGOL, through Enterprise to Desktop. There has been a Notebooks manager and admin API (application planning interface) added recently, that enables to create a custom template for your Notebooks. Multiple charts options are now available as well as a scheduler for automated tasks.

Python API enables administrators, publishers, analysts and data scientists to script and automate their workflows. All Python functionality is available through ArcGIS Notebooks. The ArcGIS Pro Python environment can also be extended with open-source libraries.

ArcGIS Analytics for IoT

ArcGIS Analytics for IoT (internet of things) is a new real-time and big data processing and analysis capability in ArcGIS Online platform (an extension). It enables users to ingest, store, visualise and analyse data from IoT sensors. It allows to connect to almost any type of streaming data, perform real-time analytics and processing on the streaming data, and automatically disseminate information. It also enables users to design analytic models to process high-volume historical data in order to gain insights into patterns, trends, and anomalies in the big data.

In Esri terms: ArcGIS Analytics for IoT = (GeoEvent + GeoAnalytics) in the cloud

3D Voxel layer

Voxel layer is a new data type introduced in the latest ArcGIS Pro release (2.5). Voxels are 3-dimentional cubes that can store various information. They allow you to visualise and explore multidimensional phenomena. You can now can easily create a cross section and slice through the voxel volume to investigate the distribution of the values in your data. Using transparency, you can focus on the most important information. You can also add fourth dimension, time, for better understanding the given phenomena (e.g. temperature). This video from Esri gives a great overview. 

Summary

The conference brought together a host of insights into developments of Esri’s products and solutions and we’re really looking forward to bringing the benefits of these developments to Sword clients.

For more information about our information and data management please read more here.

Following on from Sword’s deep-dive into unlocking digitalisation value via our top 10 information and data management themes in Oil and Gas, Neale Stidolph, Head of Information Management & Energy Transition Lead, revisits these themes to consider the implications of Energy Transition. 

Energy Transition is picking up speed and there are major investments being made, in a new landscape of operating companies, suppliers, regulators and many intersections and crossovers with the current Oil & Gas sector. There is an opportunity to take advantage of information and data for better business performance, and avoid delays, cost overruns, regulatory impact and to make best use of existing skills.

Digitalisation needs data, needs data management

There are new streams of data from sensors and applications, with a need to closely monitor greenhouse gas emissions. New collaborations are emerging, for example the Seagreen windfarm project. Connecting companies from different sectors is greatly helped by making information and data readily available and in a form that all parties can trust and know how to use.

Asset transfers and the crucial role of data

Just as decommissioning is a crucial factor when taking on an existing production asset, so is the status and trending of emissions. Plans can then be made for Energy Transition such as electrification through floating wind, wave systems or connecting into emerging renewable energy hubs. Good data will help make the case to the regulator when taking on additional assets.

Governance is making a comeback

Emissions goals are being set at increasing levels of detail, and this needs to be easily rolled up to see company performance all the way up to national emissions levels. Legislation is defining the macro targets and changes to carbon taxation are likely, as the UK is below other levels such as CO2 tax in Norway. Good data on CO2 output and trends at a granular level will help plan what can be captured and stored. The Oil & Gas Climate Initiative has a new CO2 storage resource catalogue that shows locations and potential capacity.

Stuck at the ‘proof of concept’ (PoC) chasm

As Energy Transition is in flux people are working on many aspects, however joining that up more collaboratively across the industry would help save time and money. Work on emissions dashboards and reporting is something that suits a group initiative. Currently offshore wind seems to be very much about individual projects, all tied back to shore. The emerging strategy is about a grander plan that would form regional offshore hubs and international connectors, as a backbone for enabling many more projects to move ahead. It seems similar in terms of information and data, as a clearer framework that helps everyone from suppliers to regulators makes life simpler. This approach has been applied successfully by the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) and the National Data Repository (NDR), the new version of which is likely to include Energy Transition considerations next year.

Dropping down the digitalisation hype curve

Yes, there’s still lots of digitalisation hype around. The Energy Transition twist is that folk seem to be more open as it is new and less familiar. The questions are familiar enough. Companies need to know where they stand, see how they’re trending, make plans and monitor their effectiveness – which are all information and data driven. Hype is reduced if there are good sets of requirements emerging which people can get involved with and adopt. That’s how the Oil & Gas UK IM Forum is proceeding, to assess the current state, gather views and see what the OGTC, OGA and trade organisations in renewables are doing. There are dozens of trade groups which makes the landscape complex, hence best to navigate that intelligently via a group like the IM Forum. That will help avoid duplicated effort or ideological conflict. It looks like this work will link up well with the Open Subsurface Data Universe (OSDU) and their emerging New Energy charter.

Oil & Gas core business: hydrocarbons or tech?

In our last article we spoke about core Oil & Gas activities such as exploration and production and how that can be at odds with an entrepreneurial start-up IT approach to digitalisation. Those forces are still very much in play, but Energy Transition brings new angles to consider. Operators may choose to buy-in renewable power for offshore facility electrification, but some may acquire more capabilities of their own. How hands-on Operators decide to be is going to be interesting, to see how they will adapt.

Net Zero sentiment and “oil shaming”

The last few months have brought multiple impacts of the pandemic, oil demand collapse and resulting fall in Oil & Gas prices. Many conference calls and webinars have looked at the likely impact, will this hit the Energy Transition pause button? Will investors rush away from Oil & Gas? It seems not. That’s not to say it will be easy or that there will be winners and losers. The industry is necessary and contributes to cleaner energy through gas and hydrogen, and can capture and store huge amounts of CO2. This helps tremendously, accelerating plans by making best use of existing facilities. The new skills needed for Energy Transition could offset many potential job losses. This creates a more positive feel that will actually get things done.

The search for talent

Some skills will adapt, such as subsurface specialists working on reservoir suitability and long-term management for CO2 storage. New types of equipment will need to be designed, deployed, monitored and maintained, making best use of existing skills in those areas. We recently presented to the Society of Petroleum Data Managers on this topic, to help raise awareness so that people can consider how they can enhance their skills.

Collaboration is key

Having mentioned the OGA’s NDR it is also worth adding the changes going on in the ΩSDU, and their ‘New Energy Charter’ under development. Ensuring that these, along with data transfers standards all fit nicely together would be great. Best not to rush forward without taking a moment to see what is out there and how it is changing.

Innovation

Many companies are involved in amazing projects such as Acorn, Northern Lights, and PosHYdon. It’s an exciting time to see the practical progress towards clean energy, see how our working lives are changing too, reducing dependence on travelling for work. We’re fortunate that smarter ways to work with information and data were put in place so that many people are now not dependent on being in offices. This digital revolution will play a key part in bringing about Energy Transition.

Read part 1 and part 2 of this article on EnergyVoice or read more about Sword’s data and information management solutions here.

We turn the Sword Spotlight on Sam Omidi, who recently joined the Energy team as a Data Scientist. Here he talks us through a little background and reflections on his first few months with Sword.

“I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned is that I’m not a fake data scientist among real ones. They call them unicorns for a reason. I can now say with confidence that I can code and I do know software development lifecycle and statistics. Without these skills, life as a data scientist would be difficult and one would struggle a lot. In general, people have their strengths and experience in one or two things and are weaker at others. I now believe a data scientist needs to know more than just a couple of things. They need to know how to handle out-of-memory errors, data structures, and expectation maximization or where heteroscedasticity is coming from.

“I switched into a focus on data science and machine learning during my final year project in my bachelor degree by working on a data mining project and social network analysis. This interest truly materialised when I got Masters in Data Science.

“I joined Sword three months ago as I found the team very passionate about their work. Also, the projects they are working on are very unique and exciting.

“I got heavily involved in my first week with designing a data pipeline and evaluating various novelty detection algorithm, along with my lead. It has been absolutely fantastic seeing myself hitting the ground running from the start and feeling part of the team immediately.

“Additionally, in the subsequent projects I had a chance to boost my knowledge about neural networks and focus my research on them, developing more in-depth understanding.

“A typical day for me starts around 8:00am, when I catch up on my social media accounts related to machine learning and data science. I switch into work projects around 8:30am and finish around 5:00pm with a break for lunch. About 40% of my time is spent on research and development, with a strong focus in mathematics to be able to understand what is actually happening under the hood of every algorithm that might be a good candidate for our project. The work involves anything from developing and testing new algorithms to writing mathematical proofs to simplify data problems. 

“Another 30% of my time is spent on research about best coding practice in data science, which often identifies problems related to data capture, data pipelines or specific implementation of an algorithm with needed modifications. This is probably one of the most crucial aspects of the job. As a data scientist, it is important to communicate with a wide range of stakeholders, so it helps simplify my explanations of machine learning algorithms to a layman's level.

“The other 20% of my time is meeting with my colleagues. We discuss the projects and support each other on our tasks.

“Each project is unique, and I try to let the project and its initial findings guide me to next steps. I mainly use Python and Azure platforms for projects, though R, and SAS are occasionally helpful with specific packages or R&D requests. I can usually recycle the code, but each problem has its own assumptions and data limitations with respect to the mathematics. 

“Overall, it has been a great start and I am looking forward to what the future will hold for me and the team.

Read on to learn more about careers with Sword or our Information Management solutions.

Data science
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram