Data and Resourcing Challenges in the Oil and Gas Sector

16 April 2024 — E&P - Tina Roberts

Data and Resourcing Challenges in the Oil and Gas Sector

Within the oil and gas sector, digital transformation and advancements in data have enabled companies to make better business decisions, optimise costs, and drive increased value across the lifetime of their assets. However, digitalisation and data alone will not bring the desired results. It is also essential to have the correct skills and expertise to ensure the processes and methodologies assigned to manage and interpret data are fully optimised.

Tina Roberts, Data Services Lead at E&P Consulting, looks at some of the most common data challenges facing the Subsurface and Wells team and what the sector is doing to improve processes and performance.

Throughout my career, I have seen first-hand the various data problems facing Subsurface and Wells' teams, from inherent data quality issues to internal resourcing challenges. One of the most common problems we see is the processing and management of vast and expanding quantities of data that have been acquired over time. Often, this is in disparate formats and distributed, loaded, and duplicated repeatedly among different databases during a project's lifecycle.

When it comes to data management, I believe that data accuracy is the first and most critical component of the data quality framework. We rely on clean, consistent, and accessible information to provide a solid foundation for data-led insights. Without this, we risk the consequences of poorly informed decisions. Nonetheless, with technology advancing at speed and a relentless appetite for data, the temptation is to keep populating new data stores without considering their accuracy state.

While data clean-up initiatives may be undertaken once a project is completed, the results often require ongoing maintenance, which can become neglected. What we have seen in the industry is the same process repeated with the same data silo or database, and often the same low-quality data.

The protracted absence of a centralised, integrated, subsurface system of record over many years is highly problematic, and by settling on a system largely without relational integrity, the data management process is considerably more difficult. Every organisation needs a robust data management strategy directly linked to its overall business goals. And that data strategy shouldn’t just be a set of slides with an idea; it needs to be a roadmap with clearly defined tactical deliverables.

Overcoming data and resourcing challenges

E&P Consulting has undertaken many projects to assist companies in driving their data strategy, helping them to identify business objectives, create sustainable data processes, build a robust and knowledgeable team, and execute the plan. We know first-hand that the role a data manager plays is crucial. Domain data managers should manage the data types generated in the oil and gas lifecycle to maintain data integrity. When we put a team of consultants together, we ensure they have the expert skills to deliver on this.

With an increasing focus on AI and data science and using scientific methods, processes, and algorithms to extract knowledge and insights from data, one of the first tasks that should be performed when doing data analytics is to ensure that the data you are analysing is accurate.

There is now a greater push for the use of data engineers to perform many roles around the collection, integration, and interrogation of data. Whilst the ability to employ these skills aids data management, it should not be seen as a replacement for a domain-skilled data manager but as an enabler to accelerate certain functions.

The insights that we draw from data are only as good as the data itself, so it’s no surprise that analytics professionals spend an estimated 80% of their time preparing data for analysis. From our experience working with many oil and gas majors, we know that data irregularity issues are not new or unique to a single company; they are universal. What is new, however, is the many efficient and accurate ways that the sector is tackling the issue. New technologies, advances in AI and machine learning, and other data analysis techniques are becoming increasingly relied upon.

Addressing the data challenge with collaboration

To address some of these challenges, a cross-industry collaboration has been established with the objective of mitigating the many problematic issues arising from storing, organising, migrating, and accessing subsurface data. The OSDU™ Data Platform, developed by The Open Group OSDU™ Forum, uses Open-Source software to enable unlimited flexibility in the use of data between applications and domains. While the OSDU™ Data Platform is addressing several of the most common data management issues for the sector, time and digital expertise are still required to take full advantage of this. However, the necessary skilled resource may be limited or even absent entirely in some companies.

This resourcing challenge has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the fluctuations in oil and gas prices and the impact of geopolitical events. Some operators have been forced to review expenditures, including adapting projects, changing existing business models, and revising staffing levels. Over time, we have seen the impact that this is having across the sector, with data management staff levels being reduced, either through cost-cutting strategies, mergers and acquisitions, or refocusing investment in software and digital tools to perform data tasks. Teams are now significantly leaner, often only having time to do functional work.

However, as a sector that is rapidly advancing with digital transformation, we cannot underestimate the value of people to effectively manage, interpret, and communicate vital data insights for decision-making over the lifecycle of an asset. Deploying experienced, skilled subsurface petroleum data managers and geotechnologists in this area enables companies to achieve high-quality data and more accurate decision-making. Effective communicators who can articulate clearly across all organisational and technical levels are essential and can expedite any quality improvement to clean and transform data.

The role of people in effective data management

While OSDU™ is a potentially complete solution for efficiently storing, managing, and publishing raw and edited data in one integrated system, ensuring that data input is total, accurate, reliable, and accessible is more important than ever. Achieving this goal requires the right people with the right expertise. Only then can we be confident that we will deliver the right results and accurate returns.

At E&P Consulting, our Data Services Team is committed to providing expert data services, information management solutions and support, helping customers reduce costs and increase efficiency by effectively managing their data assets. 



Tina Roberts - Data Services Lead, E&P Consulting

Tina Roberts is responsible for leading the Data Services team within E&P Consulting’s Oil and Gas business, and for developing and promoting E&P services to clients in these areas.