Digital transformation, data analytics, and machine learning—what do these industry watchwords have to do with the oil and gas industry? “Everything!” comments Paal Kibsgaard, chairman and CEO of Schlumberger [NYSE:SLB], the world’s biggest oilfield services company. Today, the exploration and production (E&P) industry finds itself in choppy waters with profitability and cash flow at unsustainable levels for most oil and gas operators. This has led to halting investments in exploration, aggressively curtailing development activity, and squeezing service industry prices. As the industry seeks to recover from this downturn, digital transformation has emerged as the panacea that can save oil and gas operators from the upheaval.

The question therefore arises, “What is holding them back from realizing this opportunity?” More than the technicalities, it is often the digital muddle that is deterring companies from achieving digital maturity. “Bringing change entails a new collaborative mindset, end-to-end systems knowledge, and redesigned business models that firmly establish and support new ways of working based on innovative technology and domain expertise,” mentions Kibsgaard. More importantly, the approach should push companies to embrace a long-term goal of transforming their core assets. “At Schlumberger, this is where our core competencies lie,” says Kibsgaard. Working in more than 83 countries, with a team of approximately 100,000 experts, Schlumberger offers the industry’s most comprehensive suite of leading-edge products and services for the E&P industry to thrive in a digitally-dominated world.

Over the years, Schlumberger has created numerous technology centers to keep up with the rapidly evolving world of technology and automation. In line with the company’s long history of working with research and engineering partners, Schlumberger’s innovation centers have formed strong relationships with an extensive network of leading digital technology companies, creating building blocks of expertise in areas such as cloud technology, data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, and automation. Through this ecosystem of extended knowledge, Schlumberger offers deeper access to the most advanced digital technologies and capabilities for oil and gas companies. “Together with our partners, we are developing avant-garde solutions that aim to redefine the traditional modes of operations in the oil and gas industry,” states Kibsgaard.

Bringing System-Level Optimization

When it comes to maximizing workflow efficiency and making informed decisions, ‘data’ is at the center of E&P development. Petrochemical experts working on exploration projects spend more than half of their time finding and preparing the data they need to make critical decisions. The subsequent data interpretation process is also time-consuming, and these interpretations drive important decisions for the reservoir’s development plan. However, according to Ashok Belani, executive VP of Schlumberger, “The oil and gas industry is yet to materialize the full potential of available data due to inefficient manual processes in place.” To add to that, most oil companies operate in silos, in various levels of isolation. Schlumberger’s digital enablement solution aids to integrate those fragments into one piece.
By understanding operational workflows unique to the company, and building greater connections between technical domains, Schlumberger puts “the right information, in the right hands, at the right time.”

When it comes to maximizing workflow efficiency and making informed decisions, ‘data’ is at the center of E&P development

The company achieves this through its DELFI cognitive E&P environment. As the first of its kind in the oil and gas industry, this secure, cloud-based environment harnesses data, scientific knowledge, and domain expertise to fundamentally change the industry’s way of thinking. The DELFI environment makes the applications and workflows accessible to every user. “Gone are the impenetrable silos, because in the DELFI environment, every stakeholder can build common workspaces for data, models, and interpretations while respecting proprietary information boundaries,” highlights Kibsgaard.

The DELFI environment leverages technologies such as data analytics, machine learning, high-performance computing (HPC), and the Internet of Things (IoT), to maximize operational efficiency and deliver optimized production at the lowest cost per barrel. In fact Kibsgaard notes that Schlumberger is one of the early adopters of HPC technology in the oil and gas industry. Today, Schlumberger has a state-of-the-art HPC infrastructure on the cloud that runs thousands of central processing unit and graphics processing unit nodes. “It is one of the largest cloud computer clusters of its kind in the oil and gas industry,” emphasizes Kibsgaard.

He also notes that when they launched DELFI cognitive E&P environment, the company also deployed an E&P data lake on the Google Cloud Platform, which includes more than 1,000 3D seismic surveys, five million wells, one million well logs, and 400 million production records from around the world. This data lake, containing information from different sources, makes it easier for users to discover, access, and use the data to their advantage.

Reduce Uncertainty, Accelerate Decision- Making

The first step in the E&P development process is to create a digital representation of what is hidden below the Earth’s surface. To accomplish that, measurements and data from multiple sources are combined to create a model of the subsurface. Experts from multiple domains—geology, geophysics, and petrophysics—use their knowledge to further refine the model. This initial combination of measurements and data, along with expert interpretation, are fundamental to some of the most critical decisions about the reservoir. This is where Schlumberger’s Petrel E&P software comes into play. The Petrel software, which is also available on the DELFI cognitive E&P environment, uses a shared-earth approach to enable standardized workflow from exploration to production. As a matter of fact, this software—introduced in 2003—has become the industry standard when it comes to managing the lifecycle of the E&P processes.

Leading-Edge Offshore Rig Technology

Not all oil is accessible on land or in shallow waters; some oil deposits are buried deep under the ocean floor.
Reaching these oil deposits is dangerous, but if done correctly, it can also be rewarding. If things go wrong, however, the results can be deadly both for the workers and the environment. Further, with high operations and infrastructure costs of deepwater environments, oil and gas companies are looking for offshore rig technology that is reliable and superior. Attending to these demands, Schlumberger provides offshore rig technology offerings across a broad range of oilfield operational domains. For instance, DRILCO, a segment of Schlumberger established to support new-built rigs and operations, offers an extensive selection of premium drilling tools, tubulars, and subs, along with inspection, machine shop, and hardbanding services to address the challenges of complex well designs. M-I SWACO, another Schlumberger segment, provides a suite of high-efficiency tools for wellbore clean-up operations. “With these high-tech tools and services, today, we are industry leaders in deepwater exploration and development services, with a proven record of successes in deepwater provinces such as the Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, West Africa, as well as emerging areas including India and Australia,” says Kibsgaard.

Minimizing Drilling Risks

The software and systems used to drill and complete a well are some of the most complex technologies in the world. Every well that is drilled comes with a unique set of challenges. Schlumberger aims to tackle these situations through their DrillPlan digital well construction planning solution. This cloud-native application aids to provide higher-quality drilling programs faster.

Kibsgaard goes on to elaborate DrillPlan’s interactive workflow. As new data is added to a new drilling plan, DrillPlan looks into the historical data to make amendments to the current plan based on prior experience. This iterative process also improves the planning efficiency because any changes made to the plan, such as recalculating the path that the well should follow, can be completed in minutes rather than days. The solution also monitors deviations from the original plan for continuous improvement. When domain experts make dynamic changes to the plan, the software immediately updates the shared-earth model, which also augments learning for the next well plan. Further, by automating repetitive tasks, DrillPlan allows domain experts to use their precious time to find new insights. “The result is a drilling program that maximizes accuracy, efficiency, and value while simultaneously minimizing risk,” summarizes Kibsgaard.

"We are industry leaders in deepwater exploration and development services, with a proven record of successes in deepwater provinces"

“Today, technology is the fulcrum on which the oilfield services industry turns,” says Kibsgaard. Riding on that bandwagon, Schlumberger is committed to building a cutting-edge portfolio of pore to pipeline products and services. Kibsgaard believes that Schlumberger’s leadership in onshore and offshore rig technology has enabled their customers to gain access to new reserves, increase reservoir recovery and production, and maximize the returns. Together with these technologies, Schlumberger’s new dimension in digital technology enablement unlocks a new horizon for the oil and gas companies.