It is accepted by many within the oil and gas industry that progress towards the vision of a digital oilfield has been evolutionary and not revolutionary. These incremental technological improvements in pressure, viscosity and composition regimes along with enhancements in instrumentation, process optimization and reliability are outlined in the paper. The innovations described have contributed to the exploitation of new oil and gas fields, which demand longer offsets and operation in deeper water, however the industry still lags behind many others and is a long way from the concept of a fully integrated and automated oilfield.

The paper proposes that the primary reason for this lack of progress in key technology areas, for example subsea processing, is vendors have seen little reward in striving for market leadership through pioneering technology. Inceasingly, market behavior drives vendors to seek a 'cautious third' market position with respect to technology. The paper concludes that, if the industry is to encourage and accelerate the rate of technological innovation, it needs to take a less adversarial approach to contracting, allow vendors to get a better return on investments and speed the pace of implementation.


A revolution in the digital oilfield, through integration and connectivity, has long been anticipated in shifting the digital energy paradigm. Indeed it could be said that the subsea environment, because of its complexity, cost and limited accessibility is an environment that lends itself well to early adoption of real time control. Steps towards this vision have been taken, however the rate of progress has been a steady flow of incremental technology steps rather than revolutionary change. There are exceptions to this such as the paradigm shift to 3D seismic and directional drilling. However, these technologies were both available many years before they enjoyed wide adoption. Rapid introduction was catalyzed by the mid 80's oil crisis with poor exploration returns from low oil prices. This paper details the key incremental changes which have been introduced into the industry since the 1970's, which have enabled access to difficult and remote oilfields and optimization of the production process. This is set in the context of the 'digital oilfield vision'. The paper then goes on to explore some of the barriers that have restrained investment in the industry and slowed adoption of new technology. Finally suggestions are made on how to drive the change of pace from evolutionary to revolutionary within the field of offshore subsea technology.

The Digital Oilfield - a Vision

Digital Energy has been described as 'the end-to-end connectivity from down-hole in the reservoir to the sales meter, with integration on into financial reporting systems' (Digital Energy OTC2004 Paper). For the 'digital oilfield' this means a drive towards a fully integrated and automated oilfield with extensive monitoring and control capability of the reservoir, production system and export systems. Centralized management and control, on an international basis, from global centers of expertise is a realistic goal.

An Evolutionary Process

The 'digital oilfield' revolution is in reality a slow evolution.

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