The term or phrase 'Digital Oil Field' (DOF) has been around for a long time. CPU did a study in 2000 with a major oil company to research the 'Digital Oil Field' and the 'Oilfield of the Future' within the company. The major theme of the results were that there were many islands' of data throughout the company, however many of the right people did not have access to that data so the data became useless and the return on investment (ROI) nil or negative.

Unfortunately, it is still true in many businesses today; but it does not have to be that way. It is easier than ever to obtain data, turn that data into information and combine it with human expertise to turn it into knowledge and wisdom for the company. When that happens, the company becomes more efficient and the business becomes more profitable than ever. The ROI in this case is almost immediate and the main question among the Executives is 'Why didn't we implement this sooner?'

We will discuss why companies do not implement a Digital Oil Field strategy as well as the challenges and pitfalls that can occur when implementing a DOF strategy on both the business side as well as the technical side. We will also talk about the proper way to implement the strategy and what a successful implementation brings to the business.

What is the Digital Oil Field?

Many people ask the question: 'What is the DOF?' The DOF is analogous to the 'Internet of Things' in that it is ambiguous and open to interpretation by one's own opinions and experience. However, our interpretation of The Digital Oil Field is the flow of data from the hardware to software interpreted into information coupled with the correct visualization of that information for each person in the organization such that that they can each make individual decisions based on their needs to increase production of the company and reduce operating costs for the Oil and Gas Industry.

One of the largest technical challenges for DOF is that each person may require a different view of that data based on their role in order to make the correct decisions. However, the foundation of all the data comes from the same place. If implemented correctly, the result is a continuous cycle of reducing operating costs, improving production efficiencies, improving resource efficiencies, and the optimization of processes all in concert to increase the profitability of the company.

Why Companies do not Implement a DOF Strategy

There are many reasons why companies do not implement a DOF Strategy. The main reason is because they do not have a leader in the company that sees the benefit in implementing such a change within the company. A DOF strategy is a fundamental change, or may be, in the way a company does business and operates so it takes the right leader with the right experience to see the bigger picture.

Even with the right leadership, the second largest challenge is to find someone in the company that understands the whole picture and understands what a DOF Strategy can do for a company that can step up and be the champion of the project. If no one with the capability exists in the company, then finding the right consulting company with the right resources to help can also be a challenge. Of course, with all of these challenges, once the right team of resources or consultants is found than the third largest challenge is that the project may be very costly and must be justified in order to be funded within the company. Justification is very easy though when you know what the benefits will be going forward.

These are the major business challenges that exist to implement a DOF strategy. There are many more technical challenges than business challenges in implementing a DOF strategy and we will cover them later. However, technical challenges are easier in most cases to solve than the business cases. All of these challenges are large, but if the vision exists, the implementation is easier than ever before in history.

Yesteryear's Digital Oil Field

The Digital Oil Field of yesteryear, yesteryear being fifteen to twenty years ago, was not that different from today; in theory. However, in practice, it was very different. Fifteen to twenty years ago most technologies were different, vendor solutions were purely proprietary and integration between software packages was more difficult. Furthermore, visualization techniques and technologies were not nearly as advanced as they are today. All of these challenges are gone, for the most part. Although some lingering old systems still exist, the majority of the problems and the major hurdles are gone.

Today's Digital Oil Field

Today's Digital Oil Field has advanced, mainly in the areas of data storage capacity, standards acceptance and usage, computing power, and interconnectivity. Vendor solutions now use common technologies such as Relational Databases for storage and common interfaces such as OPC and others. Because of these advances, new things have happened that have allowed us to interconnect systems where we could not before and allow for experts in your organization to see a full, overall view of your Digital Oil Field where they were not able to before.

The DOF really consists of four layers: The Hardware Layer, the Operations Layer, the Integration Layer, and the Executive Layer. These layers are visualized below and note that the middle/Integration Layer is sometimes also called a Field Data Capture System/Layer (FDCS) and the Executive Layer is called the Production Data Management System (PDMS.)


The hardware layer is the physical layer that monitors processes directly. This layer includes hardware such as:

  • Sub-sea systems,
  • Flow Computers,
  • PLCs,
  • DCSs,
  • Transmitters of all sorts,
  • Etcetera.

The hardware monitors process of the DOF and is vital to recording what is occurring in the field whether the field is onshore reading a tank level, offshore reading a down-hole pressure or temperature, or on the sea floor recording data from the well.

The operations layer is the first Software layer where data is read from devices in the field and presented to users to determine what action to take. The most prevalent user at the operations level is the Operator who is monitoring processes via an HMI (Human Machine Interface) which is typically letting them know if the processes are within tolerances and alerting them if they are not so they can correct the issue.


The diagram above explains the process of the DOF at every level but the Operations Layer the lowest level of software, which connects the hardware, the people and processes together in order to make direct and actionable decisions. This is typically/historically called the SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) layer. However, in today's world, a SCADA system is required to do much more than just acquire data and perform supervisory control. At this level as well, resources in roles such as Field personnel, Measurement techs, SCADA Managers and Asset Managers all use the system to view the information. All of whom would like to see the data in possibly a different way. We call the displaying of data in different ways Role-based displays/visualization.

Also note that companies can have several, even hundreds of Operational Centers where data is collected from hardware, recorded and displayed in different ways. What is typically done in practice, is that all or some of the operational data is replicated to a central or regional server. The central or regional server is typically the Field Data Capture System/Server. This FDCS may be at the Corporate site or a regional site.

The Field Data Capture System (FDCS) is usually gathering data from many different systems and integrating that data together, not just getting data from the operational systems. The FDCS will get data from system such as:

  • Real-time history from data historians,
  • SCADA Systems,
  • Measurement Systems,
  • Production Estimates,
  • Well Testing Data,
  • Third party partner data,
  • Weather data,
  • Etcetera.

Many different users can use the FDCS such as Production Accountants, Reservoir Engineers, Regional Managers, third-party customers, partners, and many more. The FDCS not only integrates the data from many systems but then displays that integrated data to resources who can make higher-level decisions about assets, production, work-overs, etcetera. The information from the FDCS can then move, or be replicated to the Production Data Management System (PDMS).

The PDMS will take the information put together in the FDCS and integrate that information with more data from other systems such as:

  • Financial Forecasts,
  • Business Rules,
  • Production Forecasts,
  • Stock Exchanges,
  • Commodities Exchanges,
  • Etcetera.

The PDMS extends the field to regional office and the regional office to the corporate office. This data will then be integrated into Executive level reports and dash-boards where the executives can make proper decisions from the business level. The PDMS marries the business processes and business data with the data and information from the entire company to allow the Executive to make the correct decisions at the right time. It is now possible for the Executive Management to see what the current production is up to the minute and know exactly at any minute whether production is on target or not for the day, for the month and for the year. This data can be delivered via desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone to anyplace in the world securely and safely.

Role-based Visualization

Seeing or visualizing the right data at the right time is a vital part of making the correct decisions. We all know of cases where people made dreadful decisions based on the wrong information and paid dearly because of the mistake. Role-based visualization means that each resource is placed in a particular role. Via that role, that resource is directed at certain screens, reports, dash-boards, trends, etcetera such that they get the right information at the right time.

Some roles may have overlapping needs with others but need to see things a bit differently to make the correct decisions. For example, a Regional SCADA Manager wants to see things such as the Production for the entire region plus the costs, the consumptions and the allocations. However, a Reservoir Engineer over a particular region may want to see the Production numbers, but not just the production numbers, he wants to see the details of Production of water, oil, gas, and solids. He also wants to see detailed trends of the production pressures and temperatures in as close detail as possible. Thus, their needs and requirements for data and information overlap, but only in the case of the Production numbers and nowhere else. There are many examples of overlapping in one or more areas between roles. For every role, the start of the data comes from the hardware which is where it starts. Every role feeds off of the same set of data and only differs in how the data is integrated into information.

Role-based visualization would not be possible if it were not for the data. The data originates at the hardware, is turned into information by the software, and then muddled with the business processes through the role-based visualization.


Seeing or visualizing the right data at the right time is a vital part of making the correct decisions. We all know of cases where people made dreadful decisions based on the wrong information and paid dearly because of the mistake. Role-based visualization means that each resource is placed in a particular role. Via that role, that resource is directed at certain screens, reports, dash-boards, trends, etcetera such that they get the right information at the right time.

Companies need a fully integrated, off-the-shelf technology that will not only ease their transition into the Digital Oil Field, but save them millions of dollars once implemented. The implementation must obtain the data, put it where everyone can access it and display that data in a way it can be understood for each resource individually. Once the DOF Strategy is in place, then your processes can be measured and continually improved upon for both cost reduction and production improvement not only saving money but making money for the company.

The eFCAS Production Data Management Software Platform combined with the hardware in your organization and the right decision makers is the perfect solution to move your organization in a whole new direction.


eFCAS works with people, processes and technology at many different levels of your business to transform your Oil and Gas operations into an optimized, producing machine. Call CPU at (504)-456-7446 for a personal consultation today.