Anadarko’s Walker: Industry poised to capitalize on ‘terabytes’ of unused data

Alex Endress, World Oil

As the oil and gas industry continues to invent new ways to unlock resources mechanically—in increasingly harder-to-reach reservoirs—so too is it formulating new data-driven imaging techniques, allowing companies to visualize reserves that were previously hidden.

Such types of emerging data technologies will change fundamentally how the upstream industry explores for hydrocarbons, Anadarko CEO Al Walker said at the Association of International Petroleum Negotiators’ International Petroleum Summit on May 17 in Houston. “All of us will be using and employing techniques that we had not thought about five years ago,” Walker said, remarking that the E&P companies still have quite a bit of catching up to do with other industries, such as the tech industry. “I don’t know how far our industry is behind Amazon, but I would bet we’re not only months behind, but unmeasured years, in terms of development. As we catch up to the Amazons of the world and use our resources to develop new technologies, it will be pretty impressive.”

Citing one example of how the industry is catching up, Walker referenced BP’s recent 200-MMbbl discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, which was enabled by a proprietary algorithm developed for the company’s seismic imaging operations. “A young data scientist had figured out how to look at their seismic through a different algorithm and was able to image a reservoir that they were not able to see at all, previously,” he said.

Anadarko is also refining its own data analytics operations, within the company’s Advanced Analytics and Emerging Technologies segment, Walker noted. “We’re trying to use the think-tank environment to come up with new ways to do some things more efficiently, more effectively, sometimes quicker and faster, and then we are also thinking about the longer cycle of disruptive technologies that completely change the way in which we think about our business… Ten or 15 years ago, you could not have had an Anadarko, or any of the independents really, doing that kind of work, because you couldn’t have invested in the mainframe CPU to run all of the simulations.”

However, what was previously thought of as cost-prohibitive, is now becoming a business necessity for growth-minded companies, he said. “I think for international exploration, it could be particularly exciting.” As other large E&P companies continue to invest in new ways of putting Big Data to use, such as supermajors Shell and Exxon Mobil, it’s apparent that Walker is right in his assessment that companies will need robust data science organizations to remain competitive in the future.

“We have terabytes of data related to seismic, (and) we might, on a really good day, use 5% of that,” Walker remarked. “So, if we ever could develop an algorithm that could allow our data scientists to look at our seismic data and be able to not just interpret the data, but to be predictive of hydrocarbons, we would be an entirely new industry, with whole new places around the world were we could think about exploring.”

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Alex Endress

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