FINANCE & ECONOMICS
Big Data and Possibilities in the Energy Sector
Stakeholders say the trends will drive planning, forecast and help to address risks in the sector. The possibilities are limitless.
Nigeria’s energy sector is grappling with a startling fact: big data, artificial intelligence (AI), innovation and mobile technology are mega trends that are re-shaping the world’s energy sector. Stakeholders say the trends will drive planning, forecast and help to address risks in the sector. The possibilities are limitless.
“As an independent player on fields that have been going for 20 years, 30 years, 40 years without deep pockets, where do you turn to? Big Data. You get creative at imagining what you can do with the data you get after it,” says Frank Edozie, immediate past Managing Director of Neconde at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), Nigeria conference with the theme “Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Mobile Technology: Changing the Future of the Energy Industry.”
The AI market in oil and gas is estimated to reach approximately $2.85 billion by 2022, growing by a compound annual rate of 12.66%, says Folasade Yemi-Esan, permanent secretary, Ministry of Petroleum Resources. “This growth is due to the adaptation to big data technology as AI requires big data for efficiency.”
“The biggest threat to big data, however, is operating in silos. Upstream firms may need data or insights generated from midstream or downstream units, and vice versa.”
In the area of exploration and appraisal, Effiong Okon, Executive Operations Director at Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, says technology has made it possible to obtain big data from sensors attached to equipment used during exploration and appraisal activities (seismic, wells), which would further help in improving subsurface mapping and new well delivery performance through micro-seismic 3D imaging.
“With the right technology, we can identify rock and fluid properties through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI); locate new oil fields through Wide Azimuth Towed Streamer (WATS) acquisition; and analyse big data through Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) for cost efficiency”, Okon added.
But big data potential will remain a dream without deployment. “What we have failed to do is use the data that is available to us to create a new future. We can change the energy landscape of Nigeria simply by doing more with the data that is available,” says Edozie.
The biggest threat to big data, however, is operating in silos. Upstream firms may need data or insights generated from midstream or downstream units, and vice versa.
The good news is that technology has become faster and cheaper over the past 10 years. Bayo Ojulari, Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEP-Co), says the cost of censors has dropped from $1.30 to 60 cents, while the cost of processing power has equally dipped 50 times alongside cost of Megabytes (MB) of cloud infrastructure which also dropped 20 times. He added that this exponential growth in technology, data and capability was enabling unprecedented transformation as well.
There are challenges, though. Big data in itself is a complex terrain. ‘‘Obvious challenges would come during its integration with existing business processes and methodologies as well as the uncertainties created by management of large and complex data by an industry only beginning to adopt it,” says Debo Fagbami, Chairman, SPE Nigeria Council.
“In addition, there would be the in-house talent gap as well as the complexities associated with migrating existing data into a big data structure suitable for use in the AI terrain,” Fagbami added.
“Data platforms exist that link large amounts of information to create robust decision support across a variety of industry operations to grow reserves, increase production, compete for market and take market position in renewable energy.”
As more organisations recognize the importance of big data as a means of achieving and entrenching competitive advantage, it creates an opportunity to better influence policy makers to take advantage of big data in moving Nigeria in the right direction.