Co-creation and crowdsourcing in Oil and Gas software: paving the future for highly technical software.

The challenges faced by the Oil and Gas industry are enormous. The easy reservoirs have been found and are mostly depleted. Oil companies need to replace their reserves, hence they need to find new proven assets. Whatever is left to be found is well hidden, difficult to detect, difficult to identify, and extremely difficult to model and develop. Existing reservoirs that are currenlty being produced need to be handle with extreme care, ensuring that oil or gas recovery is maximized and production is optimized. Fortunately, a new class of reservoirs entered the picture a decade or so ago: unconventionals. Unconventional reservoirs are a class of reservoir type that fundamentally differs from classic reservoirs. Unconventional reservoirs are plenty and distributed across the globe. They have brought a new hope for asset replacement. In unconventional reservoirs, Oil or gas is trapped in very low porosity and very low permeability medium. The science for exploring and modeling these reservoirs is much less developed than that for conventional reservoirs. Producing these reservoirs require also new techniques such as fracking, expensive and resource intense. Optimization of these production techniques is of utmost importance.
Going forward we will increasingly be looking in more challenging environments, reservoir with only become most complex and the technology and science needed to successful exploit them with need to continue to grow at a rapid pace to keep up.
Software is pervasive across these wide spectrum of big challenges. There is no single person, group or company that can provide solutions to all these challenges. Collaboration is needed to converge to efficient solutions that solve the problems at hand. But collaboration is not enough. Efficient solutions need diversity of approach, different points of view that compete but also build upon each other making the end solution much more efficient and powerful.
Oil and gas professionals and experts who use software to address their challenges must work together to find solutions, but to be able to do it within the boundaries and policies of their organizations, a proper software solution is indispensible.
Since the introduction of computers in the geosciences world (oil and gas, exploration through production) back in the 70s and 80s, the standard software product used were single software packages that did something (or somethings) very well in the user’s opinion. Using this single, monolithic packages, the user had access to what he or she considered to be the best technology available. The IT departments loved it because there was a single infrastructure to maintain, and data managers enjoyed it due to the fact that there was one data storage to maintain. This single monolithic packages did not allow other players to come and deliver technology on top of them. They were close. As things got more and more complex towards the end of the 80s and through the 90s, single packages could not address all the needs of the geoscientists, so they opted for bringing in different packages. Each package, usually from a different vendor, will offer best in class technology according to the user’s criteria. This is a scenario that is frightening for IT and Data Managers. Usually each different product needs a different IT infrastructure and a different data management scheme. As for the single package, it was not possible to have 3rd parties developing technology on top of them. Closed systems.
But things kept getting more and more complex. To the point the industry realized that there was no way a single vendor or even a handful of large vendors, could deliver all the technology needed to solve the huge challenges faced. A different paradigm was needed. The new paradigm was a combination of software platform and extensibility. A platform could be defined as a major piece of software, as an operating system, an operating environment, or a database, under which various smaller application programs can be designed to run through an extensibility layer. Oil and gas companies, by means of using a platform with robust extensibility capabilities, can then consume technology from many 3rd party vendors, not only technologies produced by the platform vendor. This diversity of technologies give the oil and gas company a much larger spectrum of choices. Additionally, oil and gas companies can develop their own technology on top of the platform.
The combination of platform and extensibility brings the opportunity for new business models in oil and gas software. Small vendors, even a one man shop, can now produce differentiating technology and deliver it to large companies through the platform, provided the platform is open to anyone to deliver technology on top of it. Even more, several vendors can deliver solutions in the same space, which creates a healthy competition that naturally advances the quality of the solutions.
An open and extensible platform is a petri dish for innovation. By allowing small and big players alike to develop and deploy technology to such a demanding, difficult and mature industry as oil and gas, it naturally nurtures co-creation, because it enables anyone to participate in the improvement of the workflows that can be executed within the platform. Modules from different vendors can participate in a single workflow, adding value to the end user. A successful extensible platform for oil and gas will enable co-creation and crowdsourcing within a very conservative industry and will shape the future of how very complex challenges are addressed efficiently.

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About hbouzas

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Studied Physics at the University of Buenos Aires. Joined Schlumberger in February 1985 in Houston, Texas, and worked in several technical and managerial positions until 2000. From 2000 until 2008 held several management positions in Abingdon, UK; Calgary, Alberta and London, UK. Worked in the areas of Geophysical Exploration, Geological Modeling, Structural Modeling, Reservoir Modeling and Petroleum Economics and holds several patents. He is currently the Norway Technology Center Manager for Schlumberger Information Solutions and is based in Oslo and Stavanger. Main interest are software, technology, innovation, 3D visualization, design, human computer interaction, energy, environment.
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