New Mobile Apps for the Oilfield: Hit or Miss?
In our normal lives outside of work, most of us rely on our smartphones and tablets heavily. We have apps that we use daily, which we probably couldn’t imagine living without at this point. So why is it then when we step onto the oilfield, all that seems to go out the window? We are going to explore some of the reasons, as well as some the mobile technology solutions available today.
Are There Any Useful Apps out There?
This is probably the most important question, as you simply can’t use something that doesn’t exist. The traditional data and software vendors offer little in the way of useful apps to all the smaller operations out there. Sure, some of the larger and more advanced companies might have developed their own, highly useful apps, but you can bet your last drop of oil they aren’t going to let anyone outside of their company have access to them.
On the other hand, smaller app development firms don’t typically have the industry knowledge to create an app that’s useful to people out in the field. Also, the demand for these apps, while high in our industry, has virtually zero appeal to anyone outside the industry, making them unlikely to be developed by anyone who isn’t already involved in E&P.
Are Existing Apps Usable in the Field?
Before you start crying out that you can list off a handful of useful apps, ask yourself whether or not you can use them in the field and the office. The problem doesn’t usually have to do with the apps themselves, but with the fact that some operators ban the use of mobile devices because the wellsite is classified as a hazardous location. That renders even the best app worthless at times when you are likely to need the app’s data and functionality the most.
There are some smartphones and tablets which may be allowed on the field however. These devices are ruggedized, intrinsicly safe, and meet the U.S. standards for Class 1 Div 2, hazardous locations. More and more companies are offering enclosures for popular mobile devices. Unfortunately, even though these options do exist, most companies don’t want to pay for them, and employees ending up leaving their smartphones and tablets behind before stepping out onto the field.
Which Will Come First, the Chicken or the Egg?
Another big problem, is a lot of these companies want to see groundswell before adopting new practices in terms of mobile apps. Except, groundswell can’t be created unless some of these companies start adopting these new practices in terms of mobile apps. It’s a vicious circle that is unlikely to resolve itself at the corporate level. Also, let’s face it – the people who are at the top of these big companies are not always familiar with mobile technology to a point where they can truly realize its value. We aren’t trying to make any sweeping generalizations here, but just think about how many guys out in the field could care less that they can’t bring their smartphones or tablets out there.
This groundswell will likely need to come from the smaller, younger E&P companies, who can then influence the larger, more traditional ones to change up industry standards. Of course, all this is complicated by the fact that telecom coverage is still poor in many of the oilfields, which leads to its own host of problems.
Is There a Workable Solution?
We certainly hope so, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that it’s not too far off. Of course, no change will happen unless people actually go out and try to create it. So what can we do?
For one, we could start by lobbying for the use of smartphones and tablets at our companies, so we can actually use our devices out in the field. If the company refuses, deeming it as a useless expense, considering just buying one outright and using it in the field until the people making the decisions realize just how useful these tools really are. After a couple of people see you out there in the field pulling up data and relevant info on a slick tablet interface that’s allowed in the field, they’ll want one too. The snowball effect can help to gain some serious traction.
If your company is fairly forward thinking about technology and also has a team of developers, consider creating your own apps to do all the things you need to get done. Don’t do it like some of the big companies and keep the software closed and for your team only and available to no one else. Make it available to the rest of the industry – it might seem counterproductive from an economical standpoint, but there’s still lots of money to be had in advancing and revolutionizing an industry with new technology.
Today’s Apps Are Tools, Tomorrow Will Bring Workflow
You probably have gotten this far, and are saying, “Yeah, yeah, but what can I actually do with it all?” It’s a great question as you’ll likely have no incentive to participate in the uprising in technology within the E&P industry without knowing what mobile technology is actually capable of at this point.
Let’s start with a common list of needs on the oilfield and see what’s available:
Need to speed up the rapid response to well-control incidents?
The Boots & Coots Blowout Contingency Plan (BCP) is one of the best tools available for determining what level of risk is acceptable. The exhaustive process provides the client with a detailed picture of risks associated with a blowout.
Need a real-time view of the rig?
Pason Live Rig View (LRV) Mobile delivers your real-time drilling data to you anytime, anywhere. It provides fast and secure data access enabling you to make time-sensitive decisions about your active wells when it matters most.
Want to customize your field data capture needs?
FieldVisor Tablet, presented by Fielding Systems, is an offline capable, fully functional field data capture app for Oil & Gas producers of all sizes.
Want to track days-to-depth and drilling jobs?
WellEz Mobile takes the convenience and power of WellEz.net and places it in the palm of your hand. View all active wells Drilling & Completing, active Workover jobs, and follow daily operations progress and compare with plan.
Need to streamline your wellsite production reporting?
Streamline the way your pumpers report production, the way you manage your production properties, and the way you export information to your accounting and engineering tools.
Need to submit a near miss, incident, or record a JSA?
Safety Kick is a unique mobile business application to simplify the safety reporting and data collection requirements for your company, employees, and contractors. It helps streamline safety document preparation and reporting and eliminate paper.
Want to track operators and find well sites?
The well lifecycle is critical to sales and operations for oilfield services and operators. Energent’s mobile app helps you find the latest drilling permit’s with filters for depth, county, and date. You can see the latest drilling permits submitted across the shale plays.
There are also many other industry news and analysis apps that you can find through the mobile app stores (we’ll do another mobile app round-up just for news apps). The best part is these are only examples of the current, existing mobile technology solutions that can benefit the E&P industry. As mobile technology gains more traction in the industry, many more solutions that stitch together disparate information and workflows will begin making our lives in the field that much easier.
Shut Down the Silos to Gain Real Benefits
Today, many of the mobile apps today operate in a silo, much like the enterprise software used inside of large E&P’s and oilfield service companies. That will not last. Efficiency and ease of use will encourage more and more companies to operate across apps, sharing information about the location, well, production, job, and AFE, for instance.
Not only is life getting easier, but operators and service companies are efficiently executing jobs through better communication and tools. Companies can manage by exception to improve production, know the wellsite to help train new workers, and predict equipment needs in the field to reduce downtime. Real dollar benefits, not just hypothetical savings.
So the only question that remains is how will you help mobile technology penetrate the E&P industry even further?