Remember those big, expensive immersive visualization facilities that became increasingly commonplace beginning in the late 1990s?
They were considered to be the ultimate cool venue for collaborative teams of geoscientists and others to assemble to interact with one another and the data and to share knowledge.
Today, many oil and gas companies continue to use advanced collaborative environments (CEs) of varying types to support multidisciplinary work sessions, make decisions in real time and gain access to external expertise.
A recent industry survey on the future of collaboration in the oil and gas industry documented that people not only want to collaborate, many companies want to know how to make it happen, according to Darrel Fanguy, Houston CTC manager and global practice manager of oil and gas at survey-sponsor Cyviz.
Fanguy emphasized that collaboration is even more advantageous during tough times owing to increased cutbacks on travel in addition to the usual restrictions on visiting certain locales in the world.
“A collaborative environment allows you to conduct meetings at a desk or sitting in a conference room in Houston talking to one of the collaboration rooms wherever they are,” Fanguy said. “The CE kind of addresses some of those issues that popped up with the way the economy is.
“Collaboration is a tool that’s always been there,” he said, “and the collaborative environment could be a definition of what you want to make it do.
“It could be a conference room with video cameras, one of the big visualization environments and everything in between,” Fanguy noted. “So when I talk about collaboration, I talk about getting people connected using technology and technical tools available today that are easy to use – even for those who have to learn it on their own.”
The Price Is Right
In contrast to the early days of CEs, advances in technology are enabling folks to indulge in this activity on the cheap – relatively speaking – without the need for oversized upscale real estate with a hefty price tag.
In fact, technology has improved to the point that a collaborative environment with furniture, servers, clusters and more can be put together for as little as $80,000, according to Fanguy. This differs markedly from the few million bucks often shelled out for the somewhat grandiose facilities that kicked off this trend.
Today, the CE offers an added benefit for the oil industry that is losing vast amounts of knowledge when its experienced professionals opt to retire.
New recruits are coming in with exceptional technical expertise but little knowledge of the industry overall, not to mention where the reserves are, what the Gulf of Mexico is all about, etc.
There’s a need to transfer knowledge quickly, and a CE can serve as the ideal vehicle. After all, if people are going to retire, they’re not going to want to go to Angola or offshore or wherever.
“The student can sit in the collaborative environment, and the experts can be at home and Skype their way into a room,” Fanguy said. “A lot of tools can be downloaded from the Web, and you can buy one of those little $39.95 cameras and the experts can talk to the students in the CE.
“You can connect both the students and the experts to the rig,” he said. “You have cameras on the rig, sensors coming from the rig – you’ve got real time drilling going on, real time monitoring, and now you have all three locations connected.”
Seeing Is Believing?
Today’s young people don’t have the practical knowledge on the oil and gas side, Fanguy said, “but they expect the technology because they getit. They think something like video-conferencing is the norm.
“If you bring them into a big company and put them in an open cubicle environment they’ll freak out,” Fanguy asserted. “They’ll expect something like a collaboration room with a lot of technology.”
This could go a long way to attract those potential job candidates who harbor the idea that working in the oil and gas industry means they’ll spend many of their days in grimy overalls and hard hats.
“It’s all so high tech today,” Fanguy noted. “The drilling foreman is in the office in Houston talking to the rig every morning, and the guy doing the geosteering is in the office or on the rig but in a control room.
“How you find oil is basically to bring people into a room environment and do interpretations and all on 3-D graphics,” he said. “It blows these kids’ minds when they see it.
“It all comes down to collaboration and communication,” Fanguy emphasized. “The only way to get them up-to-date on our technology is to get them in front of it.”