The bMark Blog - June 2020
"Succeeding in the Information Revolution"
It is a ubiquitous and self-evident fact that the oil industry, like the rest of society, is in the midst of a modern day “Information Revolution”. This is being driven primarily by huge growths in data availability and computational speed; both challenging to comprehend in terms of scale.
Science magazine explored this topic in 2011 and made some enlightening estimates covering the growth in the early stages of the Information Revolution :
Data Storage: the world’s technological capacity to store information grew at a sustained compound annual growth rate of 25% between 1986 and 2007;
Data Computation: the world’s technological capacity to compute information with the help of human guided general-purpose computers grew at a sustained compound annual growth rate of 61% during the same period
Compound growth rates of 25% and 61% extrapolated over this period indicate that data storage in 2007 exceeded that extant in 1986 by a factor of 108x whilst the computational power available increased by a staggering 22,000x. Without doubt these values have now been dwarfed even further.
These multiples offer the oil industry a huge promise: if we can store more information and analyse it quicker and more intelligently, we can improve the quality and speed of business decisions by providing higher value at lower cost. This promise is no guarantee, however, as we cannot ignore another key element – the competencies of our human analysts and decision makers.
A similar Information Revolution occurred in the 15th Century, also offering great promise to the people of the time. The invention of the first mass-market printing press by Johannes Guttenberg around the year 1439 provided a staggering increase in the capability of medieval Europeans to store and transmit information. However, Guttenberg’s books were “launched” into a market where only 5 – 10% of the population had the competency required to make use of them . The competency to analyse the stored data (literacy), lagged the storage and transmission technology (a book) significantly. In fact literacy rates in Europe were still only at 30 – 50% some 200 years after the invention of the press . Those with the required competencies (aristocrats, clergy & the societal elite), were able to capitalise most heavily on their advantage in these intervening years, to the cost of the remainder of the market.
As we progress in our own, even faster paced, Information Revolution; it is worth bearing in mind the importance of minimising the gap between workforce competency and technological capability. Having said this, clearly it is not a practical solution to train all staff to the skill level of Data Scientists. Therefore, toolkits and workflows also need to be designed correctly to maximise the skills of the current workforce.
It may be worth asking some simple questions to check that the benefits of the Information Revolution are not bypassing your team:
Is your work still based exclusively on individual experience or private, small scale datasets?
Do team members have easy access to relevant data from outside of your organisation with which to validate assumptions, models & decisions?
Are advanced analytics (e.g. AI and machine learning) being used to spot patterns in your data and/or act as validation tools to check results stemming from models?
Data analytics has the power to drive better decisions and, with well designed tools, this power is now functionally deliverable at low cost and in a way that is accessible to the majority of professionals. This is why I have been so excited to be involved in building bMark™ – the first software specifically designed for the upstream oil & gas industry that combines global reservoir data access, in-built data analytics and predictive machine-learning-derived benchmarks in a manner that is accessible to all subsurface professionals, regardless of their data literacy.
I look forward to helping you succeed in your own journey through the revolution. Until next time.
Peter Clark is the Technical Director & Senior Reservoir Engineer at Belltree Ltd, creators of bMark™. He has a BEng in Petroleum Engineering with First Class Honours from the University of Adelaide, Australia and has been a member of the Energy Institute (UK) at the level of Chartered Petroleum Engineer since 2016. His 15 years of oil industry experience has focused on reservoir engineering, particularly on the effective application of new analogue data analysis techiques using large data sets. Peter is a Competent Person as defined in the London Stock Exchange, AIM Note for Mining, Oil and Gas Companies, June 2009.
Growth in Data Storage
Growth in Computation Power
Johannes Gutenberg – Founder of the 15th Century “Information Revolution”
Data Literacy took hundreds of years to catch up with technology in the last revolution – will we suffer the same fate?
Data Illiteracy Warning Signs:
Your decision making is based exclusively on individual experience or small scale datasets
Team members don’t have easy access to relevant internal & external data
Advanced analytics like Machine Learning & AI aren’t being used to augment your workforce
 Hilbert, M.; Lopez, P. (2011). “The World’s Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate, and Compute Information”. Science. 332 (6025): 60–5. Bibcode:2011Sci…332…60H. doi:10.1126/science.1200970. PMID 21310967, as quoted on Wikipedia.org 23/06/2020
 Image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johannes_Gutenberg#/media/File:Gutenberg.jpg, accessed 23/06/2020
 https://ourworldindata.org/literacy, accessed 23/06/2020