People have used oil from the ground since at least 4000 BC. In the Middle East crude oil seeped to the surface and was used as waterproofing and adhesive. From 1848 to 1859, the first modern commercial oil wells were drilled in Asia, Europe and North America. Gasoline acquired its name from its tendency to vaporise quickly and become a gas. Early oil was transported in barrels. Each barrel is 42 gallons and is the default measure today. The fundamental process of refining involves separating different products by heating them. They have different boiling points so they evaporate and are condensed separately. Oil 101, Morgan Downey, 2009
Everyone has their own price
That is, the fuel price point that prompts them to change their behaviour...whether it is to drive less, carpool, take mass transit, or resolve to buy a more fuel-efficient car.
In the United Kingdom, fuel prices hit a high this summer, driving the global energy crisis and the need for smarter oil exploration and production front and centre in our collective conscience.
Projected demand for energy is expected to increase by 50% from 2005 to 2030, mainly from developing economies such as China and India. While there is a renewed focus on nuclear, solar and other alternative energies, experts agree that fossil fuels such as oil and gas will remain a significant source of energy for the foreseeable future.
The "easy oil" has been found
Even today, there is a lot that we do not know about the world's petroleum and natural gas reserves. It is estimated that only 33% of oil is pulled from existing reservoirs. How can we improve recovery rates? Where can we find new reservoirs?
These challenges are complicated by the fact that the "easy oil" has been found. Any recently discovered oil and gas fields are in remote, deep locations, such as the large Tupi field 180 miles off the coast of Brazil, 4.5 miles below salt, rock, sand and seawater.
Getting every drop
When you consider that even a modest improvement in oil recovery of 1.5% can yield enough oil on average for a half year of global consumption...it's clear why innovative energy companies are focused on enhancing the oil recovery of existing reservoirs.
Adding intelligence to oilfields
The time is right because the technology is here: the systems that underlie our oilfields are getting much smarter. Advances in deep computing are pushing 3-D seismic modelling into the next generation, enabling scientists to discern fields that previously were invisible. Autonomic sensing technologies and data analytics are being used to improve oil exploration: identify viable reserves, increase the amount of oil being extracted, improve productivity and anticipate problems, minimising risk to people and the environment. Through virtualisation, fields can be monitored remotely, reducing the strain on the workforce.
A single oil or gas field can generate a tetrabyte (1,024 gigabytes) of data every day. An oil and gas engineer spends from one-thid or 60 percent of his time on data mining.
Chart: Top 5 consumers of oil. Percent of total oil consumption: 24,4% United States. 9,0% China. 6,1% Japan. 3,4% Russia. 3,2% India. Top 5 producers of oil. Percent of total oil production: 12,2% Saudi Arabia. 11,7% Russia. 10,1% United States. 4,6% Iran. 4,3% Mexico. EIA Data 2007, Oil 101, Morgan Downey, Wooden Table Press, 2009.
How do you find oil buried in the deepest reservoirs of the earth?
Deep computing. Analytics. Seismic imaging.
Intelligent oilfields around the planet
Since 1955, IBM has been in the oil business. Today, we have five research facilities developing intelligent oilfields: in Calgary, Canada; Stavanger, Norway; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Beijing, China; and Moscow, Russia.
Smarter oil exploration
Madrid-based Repsol (US) partnered with IBM and scientists around the world to improve the accuracy of deep sea oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico by harnessing the most powerful multicore processing technology on the planet for seismic data analysis.
Pumping up production
Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil (US) is using sensors and telemetry to monitor conditions in realtime. By pooling all of the sensory data from fields and rigs, and combining it with 3-D visualisation, they can make smarter decisions.
IBM helped Landmark (US), a product service line of Halliburton Energy Services, to integrate silos of basin modelling data, seismic data and, for the first time, rock physics to determine the size and quality of potential oil and gas fields.