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 We understand the importance of the early identification of contracts that cannot transfer, or custom and out of date systems that will need replacing.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.

Today we’re shining the spotlight on Neil Constantine, who leads our Asia Pacific business, based in Perth.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before joining Sword Venture?

I have been fortunate in my career to work roles and projects taking me to many parts of the world. Before joining Sword Venture, I was working for an oil and gas operator in Denmark co-ordinating data and information management services across their HQ and regional offices. It is this combination of technical work and scale that excites me and led to me to take up the role in Sword Venture where I could work with multiple clients across a diverse region.

What services do Sword provide in your region to energy customers?

We help operators and regulators maximise their return on investment in data and technology. We perform current state assessments and define change programmes and governance models that build data and information capability aligned to business objectives. We undertake projects including data conditioning, applications rationalisation and EDMS migrations using proprietary data analytics techniques to deliver fast, accurate and scalable results. Not least, we continue our 30-year track record of applications support and data and information loading services across exploration, development and production activities with Sword Venture staff working onsite or from our Perth Technical Centre.

What kind of projects do you work on and what does a typical day entail for you at Sword?

I can start the day at 7am on the phone to Houston, New Zealand or east coast Australia, and finish by talking to the UK at 10pm. Much of my focus is building Sword Venture’s global network and using our broad discipline coverage to benefit our clients with access to diverse skills and experience and to provide growth and learning opportunities for our staff.

Alongside this I am still ‘hands on’ with many of our technical projects, with one recent example being mapping the data model for a seismic metadata migration from a relational database to SharePoint, and another the building of a governance and delivery model to support a global data service squad for an IOC.

This global reach has long days, but I balance this with morning surf lessons for my daughter at the beach and lunch time runs around Kings Park just a few minutes from our office!

You regularly present at conferences representing Sword Venture. Tell us about a recent presentation and what the audience were keen to hear?

Everyone in our industry knows these are challenging times with an unprecedented combination of regulatory, environmental and commodity price pressures. This drives conversation around what re-skilling is needed to ensure we remain relevant in the Energy Transition. I frequently present on the role that data analytics and data engineering must play in building efficiency in today’s oil and gas industry and how this capability relates to growth areas including renewables and CCUS. 

Looking to the new year, what big issues do you expect to help our customers address?

It is hard to have a conversation without mentioning Digital Transformation! What is interesting is that we are working up the Hype Curve with real value to be achieved now from new technologies and capabilities. In 2021 we will continue to work with clients to help balance legacy technology and application spend with on-demand and flexible access to broad capability.

Secondly, there are still large volumes of legacy data and information that need attention. This is amplified by recent cuts in exploration activity and increasing regulatory limitation to where we can explore and produce causing us to take a revised look at existing assets and data. Whilst we have tools and compute to squeeze these data more extensively than ever before, interpretation outcomes are still constrained by the condition and uncertainty of the input data. I hate to keep banging this drum, but it’s true!

Can you tell us about a successful outcome on a customer project that made you feel proud?

It is a cliched answer, but I can’t choose one! When I moved to Australia six years ago our business was focussed on the provision of operational support on a long-term T&M basis. We would put individual staff into client offices and they would do great work. But in the last few years, our clients’ needs have moved from service to projects, requiring specific skills delivered on a defined timeframe by largely self-managed teams. We have pivoted our approach and added new technology and delivery skills to complement our domain experience. Each project has its unique challenges but we’ve built a broad portfolio of proprietary capability that we deploy to guarantee successful project outcomes and keep us all proud of what we deliver.

What would you say to someone considering a role with us in your region?

Do it. You will learn more working with Sword colleagues and clients from the Middle East, across Asia and through Australia and New Zealand than you will in any other company. There are plenty of new customers and markets for us to go after and it would be great to have you help us achieve this!

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

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.

Today we’re shining the spotlight on Craig Fitch, Application Support Analyst who is part of our Sword Resolve Applications Team, based in Aberdeen.

Tell us a bit about yourself and what you did before joining Sword?

I have worked across various IT disciplines for over 10 years now, building strong problem solving, communications, technical and team building skills. Before joining Sword’s Resolve team in September 2020, I worked as a senior system engineer in the energy and infrastructure market.

Prior to that, I worked for nearly 8 years for a family-owned business who provide safety and competency support for hazardous industries around the world. As an Application Support Executive, I worked as a key member of a small team and enjoyed supporting, training and developing their software products to continually help meet customer demand.

My hobbies include time with the family, walking, hiking and regularly going to the gym (when they are open). I’m also a lover of music, cinema and occasionally turning on the Playstation.

You joined Sword Resolve’s Applications Team during lockdown, how did you find the onboarding process and starting a new position working from home?

I’ve been working as part of the Resolve Application Support team on one of our major oil operator contracts since I joined. Starting a new role remotely has actually been fairly challenge free; I was introduced to the team who very quickly took me under their wings and showed me the ropes. I was picking up tasks and learning on the job within days of starting, and I truly couldn’t have asked for a more supportive group of people. Any questions I’ve had are answered quickly and they have been extremely proactive in showing me different aspects of the job and how to use the tools available to us. This has all been done over Microsoft Teams using calls, chat and screen sharing.

What challenges have you faced while working remotely and how have you overcome them?

The most challenging aspects of working remotely haven’t come from the job itself, it’s more the typical problems everyone is facing during the pandemic and lockdown; home schooling children, everyone being inside and feeling like you are staring at the same four walls each day.

To overcome these challenges my partner and I create timetables for the kids for their schoolwork and make sure to get out for walks whenever possible.

Regular calls with colleagues for catch ups to talk about work and other things such as hobbies and interests help massively. Checking in on one another too really helps, so if someone isn’t saying much on a call or throughout the day, it doesn’t take much to send them a personal message and make sure they are ok.

Why did you choose to progress your career with Sword?

I was fortunate that when the job offer came through from Sword, I had also received offers from other companies, however Sword was ahead of the pack in my view. The conversations I had during the interview process gave me a good picture of the Sword culture, showing the friendly and professional type of business Sword is and the types of customers we interact with.

Having been here for only a few months I’m already having conversations about how I can increase my knowledge, and how I can help to support the Resolve team by building on some of my prior experience.

What would you say to someone considering a role at Sword?

Sword has an outstanding onboarding process where you feel supported and part of the team very quickly, at no point have I felt overwhelmed or that I didn’t know who to speak to for support.

From what I have seen so far and from conversations with others within Sword, whether you are new to IT or an IT professional, Sword have the experience to help you to learn your new role quickly and provide plenty of support. They are also very aware that times are tough for people and are flexible to employee needs.

Read on to learn more about careers with Sword, our Resolve IT service desk and managed IT services or for more information on Sword Resolve’s business cases.

Sword Venture is delighted to announce a collaborative partnership with the Oil & Gas Authority (OGA) for the delivery of Data Services that improve the quality and completeness of UKCS data held by the OGA, as part of their Digital Energy Platform.

Following a competitive tender process, Sword has been successfully awarded a contract and looks forward to beginning work to deliver responsive Data Services to the OGA. Sword has provided continuous and dedicated service support to our industry for over 30 years. We will bring to bear our domain and technology expertise to drive more value from the nation’s data asset.

We look forward to working with the OGA to implement innovative approaches to solving technical data challenges, that will accelerate the continual improvement of those data held in the NDR, WONS and other controlled systems, supporting the OGA in achieving their data goals as part of their Digital Strategy.

Phil Brading, Sword Energy Sector Director, said:

“Sword are delighted to have been selected to partner with the OGA in helping to sustain the data foundations that underpin UKCS activity and digital strategy. We look forward to starting on the data quality and completeness improvements that support the OGA’s role as regulator, influencer, and promoter across our industry.”

David Lecore, Oil and Gas Authority, Information and Samples Compliance Manager, said:

“Good quality data is crucial to achieving the twin goals of maximising economic recovery and reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. We are confident that the services provided will improve the quality of the data available on our Digital Energy Platform, which is of such importance to the petrotechnical, data science and academic communities.”

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 Professional Services focus on the Modern Workplace, Cloud Platform, Digital Services, and Data & AI. Our practice lead in Data & AI, Lise Parker spoke at the women in technology world series online festival in November.

“I enjoy attending conferences not only to gain some new insight but to meet people and learn how they approach new concepts and technology. This has not been so easy this year, so we have had to try a bit harder. I have found some of the virtual conferences to be valuable and have been able to communicate with people from all over the world that I might not have been able to otherwise. Having recently presented at the Women in Technology International Conference I would like to share some insight.”

To find out more and listen to her presentation please watch the video below:

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.

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