Flexible storage – the smart step for oil & gas companies

As oil and gas (O&G) prices continue to fluctuate, being able to save money wherever possible has become even more essential – and for oil and gas companies, cost-effective data management has now come into play.

IT has now become relevant to the entire business and not merely a back office function or afterthought – IT is now central, and while in today’s technology-powered world we talk about Digital Transformation, the Digital Journey and the Internet of Things (IoT), all of these things comprise a collective journey, powered by unprecedented digital data growth.

Today’s US mobile users alone consume 1.8 GB of cellular data and up to 8.9 GB of Wi-Fi per month. Today’s cars have more processors and sensors than we ever envisaged. Other technologies like RFID and GPS enable unprecedented tracking in the logistics and retail industries. The more we dive into the digital world, the more data is generated. And it must all be stored somewhere, in the most efficient and practical way, while remaining flexible enough for our mobile way of living, working and operating.

Storage – always there, becoming more important

The fact is we have always needed data storage ever since we began using computers – but today we need it, and as a result of how much data we generate, more of it, more than ever.

In today’s O&G industry companies often need to utilize data in a new region where they have not operated before, which would typically require a data center there. Operating in a new region brings uncertainty, which can be for several reasons, and flexible storage can be used to mitigate some of the potential problems related to investing in infrastructure.

So this makes investing a lot of money in a data center before knowing how viable the site might be a major risk. So there is the challenge oil companies face – how to plan storage infrastructure in a dynamic, ever-changing environment and for an always-fluctuating amount of data?

Data in the oil and gas sector

The E&P sector is complex, and in a state of constant evolution. It has been subject to much consolidation and joint ventures (JVs) between International Oil Companies (IOCs) and National Oil Companies (NOCs). These JVs between NOCs and IOCs have become more common and have meant more shared leases of sites, more shared technology and consequently more data. A typical E&P data measurement from 30 years ago creates many orders of magnitude more data today – the result of the more precise, accurate tools available now. What used to take up a few megabytes in a logging suite today requires several gigabytes. We’ve gone from linear to array data. And it will only continue to increase.

The way forward is flexible storage

So what is the best storage solution for exploration and production (E&P) companies? Well, flexible storage can be used in several ways; for example, if a company wants to set up a new exploration field in a new territory, they don’t need to invest millions of dollars in a new or existing data center – they can use flexible storage to avoid big CAPEX and use the storage as they need, essentially on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Flexible storage also delivers great benefits to joint ventures (JVs). Where IOCs and NOCs are partnering on projects they need to share data in order to make more effective decisions that affect the project, whether financially, technologically or otherwise. JVs can mean several O&G entities teaming up together, needing to move data back and forth and sharing it between them.

So the location of the data becomes a factor – one of the parties would need to own a data center large enough to accommodate the data, but why should that one party incur all the expense and risk of that? They are likely only partners with the other JV members on a temporary basis. Flexible storage gives organizations the choice of pooling the data in a centralized location and sharing the cost. Having the data shared and available to all JV members enables better decision-making.

Keeping big data near online

Another benefit of the flexible storage model is that it allows data to be kept ‘near online’. Seismic survey data is important but can be huge in size – and it needs to be stored and accessible, but not at all times. Every few months or so E&P companies need to access the raw seismic data to do new calculations, but it needn’t be online at all times. Flexible storage enables this.

So what we’re talking about is a service model. E&P companies who deal with very dynamic data do not want to spend on costly data center infrastructure only to have it sat there not being used much of the time. They want to store data as cheaply and efficiently as possible, and they also want data accessible from any desktop or mobile workstation anywhere in the world – and flexible storage gives this to them.

Today oil and gas companies know that they need to pick the right provider to deliver this. Their precious, usually very sensitive, data must be managed by a company that can ensure security and confidentiality while still delivering the flexibility, mobility and service quality expected by global organizations operating in some of the most remote locations on earth, and at the same time, providing network access through VSAT, MPLS or fiber optics to these remote locations.

Martin Denari

Martin Denari has over 25 years’ international experience and executive leadership and today oversees the development of Orange’s communications and vertical-specific solutions for large exploration and production companies operating on an international scale in Orange core industries of oil, gas and mining. His background mixes international business with engineering, communications and information technology and includes more than 10 years’ experience in the oilfield industry throughout North and South America, Europe and South East Asia. He has a successful track record of initiating start-ups in multiple countries and in addition to his responsibilities at Orange, Martin is also a honorary professor at the School of Engineering and Information Technology on Management Principles at the University of Belgrano, Argentina.