Cloud computing could transform Big Oil into Lean Oil

The revolution that offers so much but the oil and gas industry is loathe to embrace

When one mentions the effects of cloud computing on business, oil and gas is hardly the first industry that comes to mind.

The technology that has been enabling innovation across the board and disrupting business models at an ever accelerating pace has not really made that much of a dent in the energy sectors.

This could largely be down to a number of factors, including sensitivities around the security of data, protecting intellectual property and safeguarding trade secrets. This scenario is changing nowadays.

An unexpected silver lining?

The collapse of oil price in 2014 is making itself increasingly clear: energy companies have had a big wake-up call and they have realised that they must transform the way they play their hand in the poker game that is the energy business.

Approaching new projects more flexibly and cautiously, keeping costs low and enhancing operational efficiency are among the key routes for transformations we have already seen the oil and gas business embrace in these testing times.

After getting badly affected by the price crash, Big Oil as well as the smaller independent operators have begun turning into Lean Oil and are looking to smaller projects to accelerate and maximise investment returns. Some are even making a concerted push into the renewable energy space to make sure they witness growth for a much longer period of time.

Yet the conservative nature of an oil and gas industry that involves large amounts of sensitive information is not immediately conducive to adopting cloud services.


Tangible disruption

The cloud has been advancing rapidly and the data security problems pertaining to the cloud are gradually being dispelled. Energy companies are in a position where they will be able to use the cloud effectively and gain justifiable value from it.

For instance, a forecast from the UK Oil and Gas Council has argued that the oil and gas sector specifically will benefit from cloud technology.

Utilising a hybrid version of cloud technology that combines private cloud (software infrastructure as a service) and public cloud (software as a service) will not only cut down IT costs but will also enhance and streamline the way the business is handled.

According to Chris Walcot, the forecast’s author, cloud offers oil and gas businesses the strong processing capabilities they require, while facilitating the links between numerous offices across the world and improving the security of sensitive information by storing it in virtual hubs instead of local servers. All of this happens at a very low entry cost.  

Other experts in the industry strongly believe that the adoption of cloud will be one of the major IT trends for oil and gas this year along with leak-detection software, intelligent rigs and drones.

They note that the advantages of the cloud include gaining value from projects much more rapidly and building new solutions that are quicker and flexible to deploy.


The pace of change

Regardless of the industry, speed is the core aspect of cloud’s appeal. The technology prevents much of the hassle corresponding to the utilisation of an IT network and saves time in any context when compared to a standard network scenario.

Unplanned downtime is a possibility at times but the very nature of the cloud makes sure that this downtime is addressed quickly and damage is minimised.


Fostering collaboration

Oil and gas companies need to share files containing sensitive information among stakeholders which may include investors, suppliers, remote teams and joint venture partners.

The cloud maximises productivity offering a platform for collaboration in real-time across a company’s project network and the entire in-house workforce.

Having a shared space with access based on controlled permission offers oil and gas companies the ability to share sensitive files while eliminating the risk or hassle of transferring them through internet or email.


On the threshold of a new era?

It is becoming more and more obvious that the early adopters of cloud technology in oil and gas will acquire a significant competitive advantage, open up their operations to expert consultants, become more productive and free up time and reap the rewards in other spheres of endeavour. 

On the supply side, we are already witnessing an evolving choice of cloud solutions targeting the oil and gas sector, tailored to the needs of the three streams of the business. 

Opportunity is knocking for the oil and gas industry; will it open the door to a world of new possibilities?