Dr Carlos Damski, CEO, Genesis Petroleum Technologies, a drilling data management company based in Perth, has published a book “Drilling Data Vortex, where bits meet the bits” – about how to use data to get a better understanding of your drilling operations.

At a time when nearly every big business in the world is getting extremely advanced in its use of data for analysis and prediction, the drilling industry is starting to feel left behind. Drilling is still an environment where the person with 30 years experience tends to win the argument, even if the data shows there is a better way of doing it.

The data management techniques are not particularly difficult technically – for example, you can crunch the data to show how your company is improving over time, which factors in the well construction process have the most variability in them, or whether a certain well construction happened within a reasonably expected range or should be considered a ‘problem well’.

But what is proving much harder is actually having the data available which you can crunch.

Here, there are good and bad solutions, as Dr Damski explains. If you have a computerised system which will tell a driller at the end of a 12 hour shift that they can’t file a report because the computer does not accept the format of a certain piece of data, you’re likely to find that your system is not getting used. But you can appoint a dedicated data quality control organisation, with the role of checking data as it comes in and taking appropriate steps.

You don’t want to throw any data away, even the bad data, but you do want to keep a central database of data which everybody can trust.

The results of the analysis can be enormously valuable, if it enables you to make better financial predictions about the cost of drilling a certain well in advance, you can predict likely problems or areas worthy of particularly high attention, and get a good understanding of where your drilling team is learning how to do it better, and where they aren’t. The drilling sector has a lot of variability and unexpected events, and lots of scope for learning.

All of this raises an additional question – who is going to implement all of this stuff? There is still a big gap in the architecture of professions – with drilling engineers on one hand focussing on getting the drilling done, and the IT department on the other extreme often fixing problems and slow to respond to requests to provide data. There is a growing league of data managers but it does not seem to be filling the gap, in drilling at least.

This book does a good job of making the business case for more emphasis to be placed on this middle space.

Perhaps most important of all – this book is easy to read. So many oil and gas technical writers seem to believe that their priority is to be cutting edge technically, as though they are writing in a quasi-academic world where the most important thing is to say something new, or which sounds new, rather than to prioritise managing the mental load on the reader. The industry needs more books like this.