Managing data as an asset

Henrique Paula, ABS

March 1, 2016

The hype around buzzwords like big data and data analytics has created both believers and skeptics. Wary players in the offshore industry have adopted a wait-and-see approach, hoping clear business solutions will solidify. In dealing with disruptive technology, however, companies must be ready to mobilize if they are to implement game-changing solutions.

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The benefits of data analytics and well-managed data are enormous, potentially as much as billions of dollars each year.

Recognizing the value of what is at stake, ABS is developing guidance for data analytics and data management and is setting standards for best practices.

Data as an asset

There has been a proliferation of small, intelligent sensors that measure changes in physical attributes and transmit the resulting data through new, fast communication networks. Data can be stored in massive data centers and processed and analyzed by powerful computers and processors. More data, communication, storage and processing ability are becoming available at a relatively low cost, which has led to an exponential rate of data generation.

Data are a valuable asset, but rarely are recognized or managed as one. A typical international oil company invests US$2-3 billion per year in acquiring data. Applying a straight-line depreciation to the value of those data over 10 years results in an asset worth $10-15 billion. How much care and attention should be dedicated to this asset?

For data to deliver value, it is crucial to recognize and equate data analytics and data management to “good investment” instead of a cost of doing business.

Data processed into efficiency

Offshore assets, including those that are subsea, are a special and complex case. They are remote and isolated most of their operating life, and there are limited pre-scheduled times when repairs and maintenance can be undertaken (e.g., when a unit is dry-docked or when production has been reduced or stopped so the asset can undergo repairs).

Today, operators conduct routine inspections and collect data to determine the condition of the asset as well as specific structures and equipment. Then they develop estimates for remedial work and solicit proposals from repair and maintenance facilities. Sometimes, hidden damage is discovered during repair or maintenance work, which can cause costly delays in returning to operation. Collecting and analyzing more data while an offshore asset is operating can provide more knowledge, improved planning, and reduced maintenance down time. The same applies if deficiencies are uncovered during a statutory inspection or a survey by a classification society – previously unknown conditions generally are more costly and take longer to repair.

The possibility exists today to begin creating data-driven, “self-aware” physical assets, whose performance and state of health is being continually and holistically monitored and predicted. Assets can be designed with sensors and analytic capabilities from the outset. Metrics and sensors can be carefully selected to allow optimization of the asset through predictive data analytics. Sensitive “hot spots,” where risks to business and operations objectives are higher, can be proactively identified; so continuous data collection can be used for better decision-making.

Data analytics and data management are still at the early adoption stage in the offshore and subsea industries. ABS is working with industry partners to develop the guidance needed to help the industry realize potentially remarkable benefits.

It is time to start managing data as the asset it is.


Dr. Henrique Paula
, vice president of global energy initiatives for ABS, has 37 years of engineering experience in management in integrity, risk, safety, reliability and project quality with a focus in the oil and gas, and power sectors. Paula has provided advisory and training services in more than 30 countries and authored/co-authored more than 100 published documents. He holds a PhD from the University of Tennessee.