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Saudi Aramco's Saeed Mubarak - reality different to PowerPoint

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

You can make great PowerPoint slides about how you are doing big data and analytics - but it ends up very different when you try it on real data, said Saeed Mubarak, intelligent fields Champion at Saudi Aramco, speaking at the ENGenious forum in Aberdeen.

Saeed Mubarak, intelligent fields Champion at Saudi Aramco, emphasised that the world of PowerPoint can be very different to reality, when it comes to analytics on real data.

Mr Mubarak says he has never seen a technology that 'fails by itself'. When technology implementations fail, it is always due to other elements - people and process - rather than technology.

Rather than talk about 'intelligent fields' it might be better to say that people are 'managing fields intelligently', he said.

There is no 'one size fits all' in digital technology, Mr Mubarak said. And just like with cooking, using the same ingredients doesn't always produce the same results. You have to make sure you pick the right technology, and make sure it is aligned with the strategic goals of the company, such as to maximise oil recovery, enable sustainability or minimise cost.

To consider how 'intelligent field' digital tools work in reality, consider a well which goes to 2km depth then branches into three laterals, with valves and gauges in each lateral, enabling flow to be opened or choked to varying levels. The valve is a 'sliding sleeve' type, powered by hydraulics from the surface.

There are multiphase flowmeters and pressure sensors on each lateral, sending data via a control system to company headquarters, finally to an engineer's desktop. You discover that if all valves are open, the entire well only produces water. The question is how the valves should best be set to maximise production.

You can't solve this problem just with a data scientist, because only a domain expert would understand what the data is actually saying, and have a sense of the confidence level at any point.

A domain expert can work with the data to understand that lateral A produces only water whatever the choke setting, Lateral B produces oil when partially open, and lateral C produces both oil and water, but at a more closed choke setting, will only produce oil.

Coming up with the right setting took at team a whole week, with people in the field and people at headquarters, taking into account an understanding of the completion, the rock, and the water injection and its sweep efficiency, Mr Mubarak said. It was not the data or the well which as 'intelligent' in this example.

The intelligent fields technologies are not particularly cheap - it can cost $100k to install a downhole gauge, and $1m to change it.

The technology itself is often the least value adding component. There is more value in the ability to optimise a system, and helping the people working on it to adapt to working in a new way.

Yet when people working in the field are asked where their expertise lies, they are far more likely to say they are expert in technology than say they are expert in change management.

Meanwhile the lack of tolerance to change, and other organisational challenges, are the reasons why the industry is not getting maximum value from digital oilfield.

For success, consistently good results, you need the right technology, work processes and business architecture, he said.

The 'business architecture' can include your mission, commitments, incentives, executive management, program portfolio management, decision on deployment. The work process activity includes elements such as your KPIs, metrics, goals, business readiness process, roles.

Mr Mubarak told a story to illustrate the importance of project 'ownership' in a company. A tiger can produce up to 7 cubs in one litter, whilst a sheep produces 1 -3 lambs in each birthing. The number of tigers in the world has reduced from 100,000 a hundred years ago, to only 4,000 now - whilst the number of sheep has shot up, more sheep than people in some countries. Why is this? The answer is that sheep have an owner, he said.

Similarly, in the world of oil and gas digital technology, any project needs to have an 'owner' in oder to grow, he said.

Mr Mubarak also illustrated the importance of vision and optimism in moving technology forward, by presenting a video (on YouTube at ).

Many of us like to see ourselves as pragmatists rather than visionaries, but a pragmatist will, after considering the options, often reach the same conclusion as a pessimist - that it is safer not to do something.

Associated Companies
» Aramco
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