Energy companies need to integrate new functions in order to better utilize data, says this expert
Houston, home to one of Cognite's U.S. headquarters, is the energy capital of the world. But while many oil and gas industry players and partners come together here, much of the data they use — or want to employ — remains siloed.
There's no lack of data. Connected devices are a wellspring of enterprise resource planning data, depth-based trajectories, piping and instrumentation diagrams, and sensor values. But incompatible operational data systems, poor data infrastructure, and restricted data access prevent organizations from easily combining data to solve problems and create solutions.
We understand these challenges because we work alongside some of the biggest operators, OEMs and engineering companies in the oil and gas business. Lundin Petroleum, Aker Energy OMV, and Aker BP are among our customers, for example.
Flexible, open application programming interfaces can address the challenges noted above. APIs enable users to search, filter and do computations on data without downloading full data sets. And they abstract the complexity of underlying storage formats.
As a result, data scientists and process engineers can access data in an efficient manner, spending more time on their use cases and less effort contending with technical details. Using APIs, organizations can more easily combine their own internal data. APIs also simplify the process of using data from industry partners and other sources.
Most companies have slightly different work processes. But common API standards can help a company combine software services and platforms from others in a way that matches its own business logic and internal processes. That can allow the company to differentiate itself from competitors by employing services from the best suppliers to create innovative solutions.
Standardizing APIs across the oil and gas industry would open the door to a community of developers, which could create custom applications and connect existing market solutions. Then more new and exciting applications and services would reach the market faster.
To ensure adoption and success of such a standardization effort, the APIs would need to be well crafted and intuitive to use. These APIs would have to include the business logic required to perform the operations to empower users. In addition, APIs would need to define and allow for the sharing of desired information objects in a consistent way.
Best practices in defining common APIs for sharing data within the industry include:
- Introducing APIs iteratively, driven by concrete use cases with business value
- Ensuring all services using the API provide relevant output and insights in a structured machine-readable format, enabling ingestion into the API to ensure continuous enrichment of the data set
- Making all data searchable
- Preventing underlying technology from being exposed through the APIs to ensure continuous optimization and allow companies to implement their technology of choice
- Supporting all external data sharing through an open, well-documented and well-versioned API, using the OpenAPI standard
If oil and gas industry operators define APIs, suppliers will embrace them. That will "grease" the value chain, allowing it to move with less friction and waste.
Operations and maintenance are a natural place for API harmonization to start. Standardized APIs also can enable operators to aggregate and use environmental, equipment and systems, health and safety, and other data. That will accelerate digital transformation in oil and gas and enable companies to leverage innovative solutions coming from the ecosystem, reduce waste, and improve operations, making production more sustainable.
Francois Laborie is the general manager of Cognite North Americas.