The upstream oil & gas industry has been contending with massive data sets and monolithic files for many years, but "Big Data"—that is, the ability to apply more sophisticated types of analytical tools to information in a way that extracts new insights or creates new forms of value—is a relatively new concept that has the potential to significantly re-shape the industry. Despite the impressive amount of value that is being realized by Big Data technologies in other parts of the marketplace, however, much of the data collected within the oil & gas sector tends to be discarded, ignored, or analyzed in a very cursory way. This paper examines existing data management practices in the upstream oil & gas industry, and compares them to practices and philosophies that have emerged in organizations that are leading the Big Data revolution. The comparison shows that, in companies that are leading the Big Data revolution, data is regarded as a valuable asset. The presented evidence also shows, however, that this is usually not true within the oil & gas industry insofar as data is frequently regarded there as descriptive information about a physical asset rather than something that is valuable in and of itself. The paper then discusses how upstream oil & gas companies could potentially extract more value from data, and concludes with a series of specific technical and management-related recommendations to this end.

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