Tapping the Power of Big Data for the Oil and Gas Industry

Big Data Solutions Executive

The petroleum industry is no stranger to large volumes of data. Operating in arguably the original sensor-based industry, oil and gas companies have for decades used tens of thousands of data-collecting sensors installed in subsurface wells and surface facilities to provide continuous, real-time monitoring of assets and environmental conditions. These companies closely monitor the performance of their operational assets. They also conduct advanced physics-based modeling and simulation to support operational and business analytics and optimization.

Today, organizations are capturing a greater volume and variety of data, at a faster velocity, than ever before. In addition to sensor data, this big data includes large volumes of semi-structured and unstructured data—ranging from high-frequency drilling and production measurements to daily, written operations logs—that quickly add terabytes of new data. It also contains a massive collection of business data, such as internal financial results, and news on energy and petroleum competitors bidding on leases and making major capital investments. Those organizations accumulate petabytes of such information with the goal of using it to improve performance and increase their competitive edge.


With the right technology solutions, these companies can move beyond traditional real-time monitoring to more agile real-time prediction. By rapidly analyzing incoming technical and business data—and applying that information to complex models in real time—they can generate tactical insights that help increase drilling and production performance while preventing problems. By quickly searching and analyzing a large volume and variety of competitive intelligence, such as news about mergers, acquisitions or new investments, they can substantially improve strategic decision making.

Big data can help companies develop the “digital oilfield”— integrated operations that unite operational technology (OT) with information technology (IT) to improve decision making and enhance operational and business performance. Adding empirical analytics to existing physics-based analytics can take the industry to a new level of business improvement.

To capitalize on these opportunities, many oil and gas companies will need to adopt new IT solutions designed to address the specific challenges of big data. They need technology that can collect, manage and analyze large and rapidly growing volumes of data, such as the petabytes of production data generated by oilfield sensors. In addition, they need solutions that can analyze a wide variety of data types—including numerical data streaming in from drilling-rig sensors and unstructured data from logs, micro-seismic and other sources. New solutions must help integrate business data with technical data (see Figure 2 below), bringing together multiple OT systems and IT systems. They must enable searches of big data repositories to help companies quickly identify and visualize information among vast quantities of structured and unstructured data, and deliver results to support time-sensitive processes.


The IBM big data platform offers a comprehensive array of capabilities for addressing the tremendous volume, variety, velocity and veracity of big data. With IBM solutions, oil and gas companies can analyze data streaming in from sensors and use insights to refine models, prevent and address problems and boost production. They can optimize operations for specific business goals. And they can mine a wide variety of data sources to enhance competitive decision making. The IBM big data platform helps organizations build a foundation that supports a digital oilfield designed to enhance efficiency, improve safety and maximize business performance.

Learn how big data and analytics can help the oil and gas industry: