The future of geophysics could reside in the clouds.
Or, well, the cloud, to be exact.
Service companies and geophysical technology providers have signed multiple agreements with data firms in 2020, paving the way for enhanced data applications, faster data access and improved operations.
Potential benefits range from advanced, real-time reservoir monitoring to better control and coordination of downhole geophysical tools. And the key is the cloud.
“Building a digital core and scaling quickly across a business is only possible with a strong foundation in the cloud,” said Julie Sweet, chief executive officer for Accenture, a professional services company.
“The energy industry is transforming,” noted Paul Cormier, president and chief executive officer of open-source software provider Red Hat.
Today, cutting-edge use of the cloud in geophysics goes beyond data access and data applications to communicating with technology in the Internet of Things. That has extended the reach of the cloud beyond Big Data to monitoring and communicating with geophysical tools – and, in some cases, even real-time feedback command of those tools.
These are currently the biggest or most influential players in cloud storage and computing for the oil and gas industry:
- Microsoft Azure
- Amazon Web Service
- IBM/Red Hat
- Google Cloud Platform
- Alibaba Cloud
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise
In September, Schlumberger announced a major collaboration with IBM and Red Hat. That initiative will provide global access to Schlumberger’s applications and cloud-based environment through IBM’s hybrid cloud technology, it reported. IBM acquired Red Hat in a $34 billion deal last year.
Earlier this year, Halliburton announced it will complete its move to cloud-based digital platforms by 2022, and said it had entered into a five-year strategic agreement with Microsoft Azure and Accenture.
The agreement includes Improving Halliburton’s data analytics capability with machine learning and artificial intelligence, and speeding up introduction of new technology and applications.
In July, CGG GeoSoftware reported it had deployed its suite of proprietary geoscience software solutions on the Alibaba Cloud platform. The CGG applications also run on the Azure and AWS cloud platforms, it said.
What is ‘Cloud Computing’?
Essentially, cloud computing involves the delivery of different data services through the Internet. Those resources include off-site data storage and access, which are usually thought of as “the cloud,” as well as access to data applications and other software, communications and networking tools.
A “hybrid cloud” infrastructure includes a cloud managed by the user, or a private cloud, and at least one public cloud managed by a third party. Typically, proprietary software is used to enable communication between or among services.
Schlumberger reported its collaborative development with IBM and Red Hat would focus on private, hybrid or multi-cloud deployment of the DELFI cognitive E&P environment and delivery of the first hybrid-cloud implementation of the oil industry’s OSDU open-data platform.
The Open Group, a global consortium of more than 750 technology and industry organizations, develops open, vendor-neutral technology standards and certifications.
OSDU is its Open Subsurface Data Universe Forum, coordinating oil and gas companies, cloud services companies, technology providers, suppliers of oil and gas applications, academia and other standards organizations.
Those groups are working together to develop an open, standards-based data platform that will encompass exploration, development and well data.
In July, UK research and data provider GlobalData issued its theme report, “Cloud Computing in Oil & Gas.” Today, computing power delivered through cloud platforms routinely supports intelligent management of physical assets and other technologies for the oil and gas industry, it noted.
GlobalData cited BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and Total as industry leaders in cloud use. It also identified several specialist cloud-solution providers for the oil industry, including AVEVA, Cegal, Emerson, Halliburton, Microsoft Azure, Pivvot and Schlumberger.
“The cloud enables companies to remotely monitor and maintain wells, fields and production units. The data can be analyzed in the cloud in order to determine when assets require maintenance, limiting unexpected outages and making better decisions as to when to intervene,” said Ella Benson Easton, oil and gas analyst at GlobalData.
Services offered by cloud providers include software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS).
Up to 2020, cloud access to software and applications represented the strongest growing part of the business. SaaS was expected to account for more than 50 percent of global cloud services revenue for the energy sector over the next four years, GlobalData reported.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on energy demand unhinged analysts’ projections.
Estimated at $4.9 billion in 2019, the global oil and gas cloud applications market was predicted to surpass $10 billion by 2025, but those projections have been tamped down.
Expected Growth for Geophysics
Still, analysts anticipate significant future growth in cloud use for geophysics by oil and gas companies, for several reasons:
• Cost Efficiency
Contemporary geophysics involves enormous amounts of data, not only seismic data but other types of generated and captured data, as well. Many companies can reduce expenses by contracting with a cloud supplier for data storage and access, applications availability and in-cloud processing.
Cost savings can come from shared storage equipment and software, reduced IT investment and staffing expenses, lower in-house maintenance and upgrade costs, and other efficiencies.
Information “latency” refers to delays in accessing and using data and other information, responding to user actions or instructions, or simply the time it takes data to travel from one designated point to another. Oil and gas operations require very low data latency.
Cloud use can reduce latency for the energy industry through improved data organization and access. And reductions in a company’s latency threshold typically result in much-increased levels of productivity.
Oil and gas companies often need to scale their data storage levels and access capabilities up or down in response to project requirements. Cloud computing provides much more flexible scalability than built-in, in-house capabilities. Also, cloud use allows energy companies to quickly ramp up data capacity when needed.
Another issue, data security, was at first considered a drawback to cloud use. Companies feared the potential exposure of proprietary data in a shared storage environment.
In a twist, cloud service providers have turned that concern on its head, arguing that their data protection precautions far exceed in-house security levels. They claim there’s not only flexibility but also safety in the clouds.