Many of us effortlessly fill our cars with tanks of gas without thinking about how difficult the process of finding and processing natural resources actually is. Yet, the reality is that innovative technology has shaped the oil and gas industry in unique ways, distinguishing it from many other sectors such as public sector or finance. NetApp’s Peter Ferri, Global Energy Industry Director, shares his perspective on how data is shaping one of the most important industries around the world today.


What is the business reality for the oil and gas sector today? Why do energy companies face unique challenges from other industries?


PF: Quite simply, costs from downtime in the oil and gas industry can run up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per day. That’s expensive. Technology and access to meaningful data are critical to avoid such a significant impact to a company’s bottom line.


All industries have various differentiators but for the oil and gas industry, we are talking about substantial investments and a very complex environment. The big “elephant” in the room is the reduction of price and costs of oil, which puts pressure on oil and gas companies to keep cash flow going.


Even before this downturn there was a growing focus on driving down costs, and now it has only intensified. Driving operational efficiency is a big focus, but it can be challenging to achieve when a business spans across countries – let alone continents. Regulatory concerns further complicate this business as well.


You mentioned that technology and data are critical to achieve success in the oil and gas industry, can you elaborate?


PF: The most important asset for any oil and gas company is data. With a seemingly limitless demand for energy and harder-to-find resources today, oil companies are tasked with exploring more challenging areas to exploit deeper or unconventional deposits like shale. Given these sets of challenges, data has become a precious commodity for oil and gas companies. With data, energy that was inaccessible before can now be within reach.


Most of us in our everyday lives don’t realize this, but data in this sector goes well beyond credit card transactions at the pump or the global management of oil prices. Oil companies are trying to develop and exploit what they can’t physically see or touch, at depths of hundreds to thousands of meters. The collection and modeling of data is necessary to improve decision-making, and geoscientists need to access this data when and where they want it. This is no small task.


How is data used in the field in this industry?


PF: Oil and gas exploration focuses on the acquisition and correct interpretation of seismic and other geological data used to identify oil and gas prospects and to make accurate drilling and production decisions.


Production operations focus on recovering the maximum amount of hydrocarbons from the deposit in the most cost-effective manner. In both cases, massive amounts of data are critical to the decision-making processes that lead to explorative drilling or field operation optimization to improve existing recovery rates.


Essentially, teams in the field, operating in remote locations around the world, have to make decisions about what to do next. Do they keep drilling, change direction, or stop? They have to do this while often being miles away from where they are actually drilling. This may sound extremely difficult, but I believe that people who work at oil and gas companies are like modern-day explorers with data as their compass.


What’s an example of a specific need that technology addresses for this industry today?


PF: The data workflows that upstream oil and gas depend-on evolve due to the rapid growth in dataset size and the need to integrate diverse data types to accurately understand the earth. Moving data to visualization technology is difficult when you consider organizational boundaries and domains, or even international country borders and unique data sovereignty regulations. There is a need to improve collaboration, but there’s also a need to make sure that sensitive data is not exposed.


The exploration interpretation process can spawn multiple large-scale versions of data, which is often shared among several asset teams. This means that data managers incur additional overhead, higher management costs, and increased risk to data to support these processes.


Even the most robust and highly resourced static systems can be cumbersome and inflexible when handling multiple scenarios with extremely large data sets like regional surveys. As a result, many organizations have decimated their seismic data to a small percentage of the original size, and these limitations can seriously hamper success, which means ineffective processes or wasted time.


Until recently, remote data visualization solutions have been complicated to deploy and manage and haven’t provided the quality or responsiveness needed.


How is NetApp helping oil and gas companies succeed?


PF: The needs of the dynamic oil and gas enterprise inevitably change-often quickly and dramatically-requiring unprecedented flexibility. If this isn’t taken into consideration at the planning stage, this can cause disruption and increase management overhead and risk, ultimately leading to downtime. The cost and complexity of designing, implementing, and managing technology infrastructures to meet these needs can be substantial.


NetApp collaborated with our Oil and Gas partners Cisco, Citrix, and NVIDIA to deliver an integrated solution that’s fast and easy to deploy. It is designed to enhance collaboration and accelerate decision-making by providing a mobile workforce to visualize the latest subsurface data in 3D-wherever they happen to be: local, or in a remote office. It keeps valuable datasets secure inside the datacenter, while extending 3D visualization to geoscientists and engineers around the world.


Weather a company deploys the integrated solution, NetApp clustered Data ONTAP®, or a NetApp FAS storage system, NetApp customers like Apache are experiencing the fastest performance, scalability and reliability they need while keeping costs down. Apache tells us that NetApp clustered Data ONTAP® enables their geoscientists to access the data needed to make “highly accurate” decisions on where to drill for oil and gas resources.


NetApp products and solutions are increasing the productivity of oil and gas companies by providing fast access to data and applications that enable organizations to make informed decisions and avoid up to hundreds of thousands of dollars per day in downtime costs.


Where can people find NetApp this week at EAGE in Madrid, Spain?


PF: A team from NetApp, Cisco, Citrix and NVIDIA will be together in booth 401 at EAGE. There will be a live demonstration of remote visualization with the integrated solution-FlexPod Datacenter with Citrix XenDesktop and NVIDIA GRID. Attendees will have the opportunity to talk to the experts, schedule a one on one, and enter for a chance to win an NVIDIA Shield tablet, courtesy of NVIDIA. We hope folks will join us in Madrid!

NetApp Staff