Can the Renewable Energy industry leverage the lessons learnt by its Oil & Gas brother?
Last year the Renewable Energy Focus magazine published the feature “Oil, Gas and Wind: offshore harmony?” which argues that there are opportunities for skills transfer between the Renewable Energy (RE) and Oil & Gas (O&G) sectors. The feature highlights various areas where this could happen (assets installation and maintenance; Health, Safety & Environment; and integrated operations) and suggests transferability of strategic skills between the sectors in areas such as deployment of business models, funding and contractual mediation. In my view the list can also be extended to include other relevant components of an energy project, including the processes required to effectively manage spatial data.
RE and O&G industries both rely heavily on available or newly acquired data to drive strategic decisions and support the development of projects from inception to decommissioning. Both are data-driven, and decision making is (or should be) supported by data and information extracted from it rather than intuition or feelings (on this subject you may want to check Gareth Smith’s recent blog on confirmation bias).
The O&G industry has been dealing with the challenge of extracting business intelligence from large amounts of available data for a long time. The typical “landscape” for O&G companies can be simply summarised: loads of data everywhere that needs to be visible, accessible, usable & re-usable throughout the project’s lifecycle. Through the implementation of strong data management processes some of the most successful O&G companies have, over time, shown a significant reduction in the time spent by their staff in basic tasks such as looking for data, in favour of extracting value from it.
The development lifecycle of a Renewable Energy (RE) project is, in many aspects very similar to its O&G counterpart (Figure 1).
Figure 1 – Example of RE project lifecycle and areas that the GIS can support
Renewables projects require the capture, storage, manipulation and sharing of large quantities of varied data. This includes environmental; coastal process; weather station and seabed surveys; front end engineering and design; and human impact studies. Regional legislation, such as that in the UK, also requires that robust data management procedures which are future proof and scalable, are used to handle these datasets. Keeping control of the vast amount and variety of datasets generated within a given project is a challenge where the experience of the O&G industry can be looked at for inspiration and lessons learnt.
Where GIS is recognised as part of the core of the industry application portfolio, it becomes an enabler not only for data integration, visualisation and dissemination, but also in complementing traditional data management systems. GIS can become “the platform” to provide organisations with an intuitive access point to the company’s data assets allowing, at the same time, advanced use in areas such as sophisticated data analysis, predictive modelling and strategic decision support. GIS can provide the framework to deliver a potential step change resulting in improved communication, collaboration and information dissemination within and outside the company.
In my view a number of lessons learnt in the O&G industry could prove to be valuable for the RE industry – based on Exprodat’s experience in working with O&G clients, I would argue that the key lessons are:
- Clear governance for data under the spatial data management domain, with clear definition of roles and responsibilities.
- Implementation and capture of all critical spatial data in a centrally-managed corporate database.
- Clear separation between project and corporate data, with clear processes for migrating project-related data to the corporate level upon a project’s conclusion.
- Definition and utilisation of data and metadata standards, models and processes.
Our experience is that, where there is a clear strategy for the management of spatial data, data becomes a value generator for the company, providing critical information in an accessible format, in a timely fashion. This in turn reduces the technical and operational risk uncertainty and accelerates the decision-making processes through improved access and use of quality spatial information.
Posted by Paola Peroni, Senior GIS Consultant, Exprodat.