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The 'wave' effect
Many oil-rich regions are located in politically volatile regions of the world. Hence, having the
|he Indian scenario
"After a period of relatively robust increases from 2002 to early 2004, India's oil product demand growth has slowed since the second half of 2004. However, growth is projected to accelerate over the coming years, India's oil demand in 2011 is forecast to grow by 4 per cent if the economy maintains an annual growth of 6-7 per cent. The demand for road transport fuels, including gasoline and diesel, should expand by some 5.3 per cent over 2006-2011, but the demand for fuel oil will remain stagnant...India.s demand however is much less compared to China's. India's economy is also less oriented towards energy-intensive manufacturing than is the case for China. India's impact on global oil demand growth will therefore be more limited over the forecast period." This is sourced from an International Energy Agency (IEA) Medium Term Report that forecasts demand-supply needs of oil in the world till 2011. There are also additional reports of oil sites becoming scarce in India.
As of now there is oil exploration and refining activity going on in many areas like Gujarat, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, and the Bay of Bengal belt. And IT is obviously playing a substantial role. Drilling Engineering Officer, A. Mohammed of the Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC), who is currently at the Krishna-Godavari (KG) basin, reveals: "Information technology has become the backbone of every industry known to man, be it a medical store or a vegetable retail store. IT and very advanced software are used in the oil industry for simulations, real-time data transfer, and many industry related operations. Developments in the IT industry have helped us in applying new technologies and using advanced systems in our constant search for oil and gas resources, even in harsh and extreme environments."
The glaring fact, however, is that not many Indian companies have their own software manufacturing divisions, unlike their Western counterparts. Most IT solutions are bought from external providers, which are customised according to needs. But an Indian Schlumberger field engineer (on conditions of anonymity) says, "Even though oil companies may not create their patented IT solutions, all of them, including Indian ones, have separate IT departments which handle the functioning on exploration sites. This implies that on-field engineers merely need to work on the machines and hardware solutions that are provided. Thanks to IT, work can be as simple as using a joystick while sitting in a chair. Of course, it requires our cautious judgments to handle the criticality and complexity that persists in oil exploration, refining and other processes. But IT personnel are almost always on hand to help."
maximum information possible about a region, from geological data to local politics, is vital for oil companies, before they invest millions of dollars for a new exploration project.
London-based Wave Technology has adopted a new IT innovation, Geographical Information Systems (GIS), in order to increase the information that companies can access through its digital mapping products. The group is leading the way in GIS reporting in oil-rich regions throughout the world. In the words of its managing director, Wyn Roberts, "Many industries already use GIS, but for some reason, the oil industry had been slow to jump on board. The information reports that oil exploration companies generally use are usually provided in hard copy and often span several volumes of printed material. Basically, 80 per cent of all this information can be related to a map. A GIS report takes all the different information that an oil company needs, geographical and other data starting from oil production to local politics, and from local taxes to population figures, and puts this information in one place: on a computer screen. On the front end, what you see is a map, but [with GIS] this map has a database behind it. This means that you can click on any item on the map, say a road or a pipelineâ€”and all information relating to that item can be readily displayed.:
Wave's GIS reports thus offer complete data reports that, far from being dense and bulky, are interactive and easily accessible.
IT is playing an increasingly important role in the oil industry and seems set to do so even more in the coming years. Workers are being trained using simulator tools. Web-based software is allowing companies to locate, consult, and utilise experts anywhere in the world and make global collaboration a reality. Solutions such as PowerSource and eSearch are helping document minute-by-minute account of on-site oil exploration process, result reports, well data, and even offer online archival services. Many PC-based applications are also aiding the oil industry, such as the Kingdom Suite and Geographix. Visualisation too has gone a step forward with better imaging techniques coupled with analysis and data interpretation tools, such as Magic Earth and GeoFrames. Sitting in one part of the world, one can visualise potential oil wells in another part and analyse whether their physical exploration is worth investing in. An article on MSNBC titled, "Can technology help find oil fast enough?" aptly describes the scenario in these words: "Today, with a click of a mouse you can travel halfway around the world and explore massive geologic formations, grab a 20 square kilometre block of rock on a site, and then zoom in to see what it holds. The journey is played out on an IMAX-like computer screen powered by a battery of high-end computers and graphics software that would make your average video gamer drool."