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Key to data management in oil and gas is stability

Ensuring quality data management and analytics comes from following best practices, proper commitment from your organization and sticking with the plan.

Data management in oil and gas has been crucial for decades, and organizations unwilling to adopt the best practices have fallen behind. With the pandemic, organizations across industries have sought changes to relieve the pressure, but at Ember Resources, a steady approach to data management is working well.

Ember Resources has followed data management best practices for numerous years and has maintained its course, despite the industry being affected by the pandemic. Lonnie Chin has worked as manager of data and information at Ember Resources for the last five years and has found that some consistency and commitment have been the best help in a world of uncertainty.

"There has been no change in these best practices over the last 25 years, and certainly nothing has changed in response to the current pandemic," Chin said. "You cannot be successful changing platforms every 12 to 18 months."

Dealing with data

Ember Resources operates over 12,000 coalbed methane wells in Alberta, Canada, with a staff of around 150 people. These wells tend to have low production rates and can be prone to flooding by water. This makes it imperative to constantly maintain them in order to extend their lifecycle.

"It has primarily been my role to implement a platform that enables us to aggregate data from across multiple systems within a SQL Server data warehouse, visualize the data through Esri's ArcGIS technology and then generate reports and perform analytics using Power BI," Chin said. "This data aggregation includes financial and production numbers to give us a complete view of the well across its lifecycle."

Advanced analytics can help Chin and his team identify wells that need maintenance or outright abandonment. These analytics can also automatically generate budgeting and approval forms to help speed up the process.

"This practical application of predictive and prescriptive analytics has enabled us to streamline critical operations workflows," Chin said.

Ember Resources owns the wells, facilities and pipelines that deliver the product to market, making it an integrated oil and gas company. The company is currently analyzing data collected from its compressors to predict potential failure.

"With time, we anticipate collecting the same data from our extensive network of pipelines and performing the same types of analysis," Chin said.

With the uncertainty created by the pandemic, Chin and Ember Resources were also in a good position to make adjustments outside of data management in oil and gas for just the business side. The data they have is available online, which made the ability to work from home instead of the office a viable option.

"When the decision was made to close the Calgary office in March, it only took a couple of days to ensure that everyone had access to the information and tools that they need to ensure business continuation," Chin said.

The impact of data management

Chin and Ember Resources must maintain their thousands of wells with a limited staff and found managing and analyzing data effectively are essential. This adoption of data management and analytics has been fully supported by senior management, and the impact can be measured in a few ways.

The job of gathering and taking care of data assets has never been easy. … When it comes to data, most humans are basically lazy, greedy and fearful; the desire is to protect data they have in silos and not share.
Lonnie ChinEmber Resources

"The ability to operate increasing numbers of wells without significantly increasing head count," Chin said. "In addition, the automation of workflows minimizes operational delays, while the analytics approach allowed us to target wells for major maintenance."

This is in place of the company's former approach, which was based on a defined schedule rather than determined need through data -- thus, saving time and money for the company. Data management has also enabled Ember Resources and Chin to take advantage of the times and remain agile.

"In the recent socioeconomic environment, there have been numerous opportunities to acquire assets from other companies and through government sales," Chin said. "The investment in data management and analytics has allowed Ember to respond more quickly and with more certainty to available opportunities, resulting in significant growth over the last few years."

Adopting data management

But the road has not been easy, and getting to the position Ember Resources is in today has taken significant work. Adopting data management in oil and gas can be a difficult task.

"The job of gathering and taking care of data assets has never been easy," Chin said. "When it comes to data, most humans are basically lazy, greedy and fearful; the desire is to protect data they have in silos and not share."

This makes finding the resources required to integrate and maintain the data properly basically impossible and thereby reduces its value. Chin and Ember understood that, if they were to get the most out of their data, availability must be treated as a priority.

"The challenge has more been in terms of provenance, i.e., where did the data come from and what has been done to that data in the meantime," Chin said. "Data quality has to be an important component of any effective data management system."

Finding the right system was key for Chin and Ember Resources, and they turned to Quorum Software. Through this partnership, they found consistency is the key to proper data management.

"Too many companies try to chase new, shiny technology without taking care of the fundamentals," Chin said. "There is an overwhelming choice in terms of available platforms; the best approach is to pick one that works and stick with it for an extended period of time."

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