Blockchain in Oil and Gas - Convergence of Blockchain and Drilling Automation
The oil and gas industry has recently transformed itself into a data-intensive industry—artificial intelligence, intelligent or cognitive computing, machine learning, internet of things and robotics. With such growth and expansion, distributed ledger technology, commonly known as blockchain, can carry the industry’s transformation forward in the new era of cyber-automation in lockstep with other exponential technologies.
Cyber drilling automation software plug-ins from third party, different tools, and different equipment and IoT devices from various vendors can be on the blockchain as shown in figure 1 as different nodes. This option provides significant improvement in efficiency by radically changing the workflow. This also provides the opportunity to have distributed databases connected at different nodes. This figure shows the options for third party and main contractor to couple their data and algorithms as different blocks in the blockchain in the form of transactions. Each block contains data from different sources and can be from the same vendor or from different vendors. Whenever a change is made at any block by any vendor, the integrity of the change in the global system can be verified independently and can be immediately updated in the global chain at anytime and anywhere. This provides additional fingerprinting and immutability of the databases not only trust but also security in the global system as we develop a reliable autonomous platform for drilling automation. This system will ultimately provide an ultimate robust platform as we move in to an artificial enabled framework.
Fig. 1 Blockchain for Drilling Automation.
Figure 2 shows the drilling automation glide path. At higher level it can be classified as
• High dimensional uncertainty control
• Tactical autonomics control
Fig. 2 Cyber Drilling Automation Glide path.
Drilling Data and Asymmetry Chaining
An ongoing problem in the industry is data sharing and ownership rights besides added regulation from the local government regulations. The data and data stores are highly fragmented and transactions become very difficult. As a result, it has become difficult to aggregate data from different stores from different vendors with asymmetric information.
"Blockchain, can carry the industry’s transformation forward in the new era of cyber-automation in lockstep with other exponential technologies"
For this condition the blockchain technology based framework with distributed ledger technologies will provide an option to integrate various applications at the database level. Also it provides an agreement protocol layer between different operators, rig contractors and service companies. This further enables different access points without compromising on either the data leak or data corruption and thus establishes trust. This provides outsiders to participate in model development and propagate the new block developed further in the chain. Identification layer can be easily implemented in the blockchain as at any time a particular operator or service provider can restrict the access or block the block of the chain to their data without comprising the integrity of the entire chain.
Although blockchain seems promising and is gaining momentum beyond bitcoin, there are obvious hurdles in adapting this emerging technology in the oil and gas sector and more importantly in the upstream side of the business. Few challenges are:
•Standardization: Since the technology is new, there is an industry standard, which weakens the control on the implementation.
•Regulations: Since it is an emerging technology, including horizontals there are no regulations around it, and this prevents further adoption and trust in the system.
•Governance: A proper regulatory environment needs to be developed for decentralized ownership and international controlling authority.
•Data Quality: Data quality and data integrity are prime importance as we move on the automation stage and blockchain technology does not provide a robust underpinning for data quality.
•Transparency: The level of transparency in using others’ data is unknown and this will create further skepticism in adoption of this technology
•Multi-block/chain framework: Lot of companies are providing generic platform for blockchain operations. They have to be tailor made as the upstream industry is different from other industries. This is will create additional problems when sharing the blocks.