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UK opens up access to oil and gas data

Terabytes of data on the UK's oil and gas fields and infrastructure has been made freely available for use by industry.

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said the release of the data can help industry recover the 20 billion barrels of oil and gas that are estimated to remain untapped in the UK's Continental Shelf (UKCS).

The data is accessible via a new national data repository (NDR) established by the OGA, and includes "130 terabytes of well, geophysical, field and infrastructure data … covering more than 12,500 wellbores, 5,000 seismic surveys, and 3,000 pipelines".

Bob Ruddiman, specialist in oil and gas at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "This is a significant development in the evolution of the UKCS. The future prospectivity of the basin will be significantly enhanced by the free availability of data. Innovators will look differently at the many opportunities which undoubtedly exist and the future will undoubtedly include developments previously overlooked or discarded but which will be enhanced by application of new technology to existing data."

Singapore-based Arwen Berry of Pinsent Masons, a technology law expert, said: "Traditional industry players are increasingly looking at technological collaboration with smaller and more agile technology companies to enhance and transform their ability analyse and explore new opportunities. The availability of reliable and complete data is central to the success of these projects, and the national data repository builds a strong foundation from which this can happen."

"Developing countries are also looking at ways to harness the power of big data and digital technologies to enable them to make more informed decisions about maximising the recovery of their national reserves. However, there can sometimes be challenges in relation to gathering and transmitting accurate and complete information due to limitations around infrastructure or resources. The sharing of data on such a large scale can also be contrary to established norms, with much information being treated as a state secret. This can dampen innovation, unless there is the right political willpower to push through the necessary changes to the traditional models of doing business," she said.

Nic Granger, director of corporate at the OGA, said there is scope to harness the data using machine learning and artificial intelligence, while the OGA's chief information officer Simon James said the new repository presents "research opportunities for both technology and analysis" and will help the OGA monitor compliance.

James said: "For the industry, it means access to a huge data pool to harness digital technology, relieves them of the regulatory requirement to retain information, and enhances collaboration."

The release of the data was welcomed by BP's North Sea regional president Ariel Flores.

Flores said: "Effective use of data can be a game-changer in the oil and gas sector, delivering improved safety, reliability and efficiency, yet the value of existing datasets are never fully realised. The NDR should bring about a step change, bolstering the UK’s digital infrastructure and liberating data flows to unlock a wealth of new opportunities that could ultimately boost recovery. Sharing data and information to build knowledge across the basin is key to maximising economic recovery from the UK."

UK energy minister Claire Perry said the NDR will position the oil and gas sector "at the front of the data revolution".

The NDR is to be funded through the OGA levy, which offshore petroleum licence holders must pay.

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