Full disclosure: This writer treasures his transistor
radio. His fondness for the low-fidelity innovation
of yesteryear colors what follows.
Younger colleagues chuckle when the writer
speaks of enjoying a Rockets or Astros game while
walking the dog, leash in one hand, Sony with
analog tuning in the other, heroics by the likes of
James Harden or Jose Altuve reported excitedly
into the tangible air of a Houston night for anyone
“Don’t you know you can listen on your smart
phone?” they ask.
“Yes, I do,” the writer responds knowingly. “But
the Sony comes to life when I switch it on, with no
wait while a circle swirls on a screen labeled ‘
buffering,’ whatever that is, and no jarring pauses in
the audio when Altuve’s batting with bases loaded.”
“Don’t you use ear buds?” they ask.
“And not be able to hear cicadas in the trees or
airliners in the sky or wide-body pickups careen-
ing through the neighborhood as though nobody
ever walks his dog there?”
They roll their eyes then, these youngsters to
whom ear buds represent pinnacles of civilization.
So much for context. The subject is analytics.
It’s changing everything. This writer will repeat
what he has written nearby before: that future supplies of oil and gas nowadays depend dominantly
on knowledge and know-how and that modern
analytical methods leverage knowledge.
The implication for future oil supply is profound, when you think about it. For that reason,
Oil & Gas Journal ran a special report on analytics
last year and plans two more this year.
Yet the question occasionally arises: How, exactly, do analytical methods help oil and gas professionals?
Well, let’s see: They improve decision-making
by helping decision-makers spot patterns and
Thank Chesapeake Energy for providing more-
useful specificity on this subject. In a corporate
presentation, the company says big-data analyt-
ics helps it improve frac-fluid analysis, proppant
loading, perf-cluster spacing, reservoir charac-
terization, choke management, lateral-length ef-
ficiency, and formation targeting.
Those, of course, are operational enhancements producers cite when explaining how they
lower drilling and completion costs, raise ultimate
recoveries, and otherwise optimize development
of hydrocarbon resources in shales and other difficult but lavishly charged reservoirs.
In the oil and gas business, analytics is a big
deal—downstream as much as upstream.
Yet even big deals have limits.
Analytics at the personal level can be creepy.
This writer now receives an unsolicited, weekly, data-rich report generated, obviously, by yet
another clever program created by twenty-some-thing code-writers at one of those control-every-thing software manufacturers.
Covered are e-mail hours, meeting hours, focus
hours (whatever that means), e-mail read within
30 min of receipt, and “top collaborators.”
How did humanity survive before people received such enthralling feedback? All that’s missing from this formula for life-by-the-numbers is
hours spent wishing for an accounting of hours
spent on activities categorized anonymously by
The answer, however, is at hand: zero.
This writer knows full well that he spends too
bloody much time writing e-mails instead of news
and analysis and doesn’t need numbers excreted
by an algorithm to press the point.
Yet answering e-mails is part of the job. Does
the algorithm know anything about the job?
“This data is for you, and only you can see it,”
purrs an assuring message in the weekly report.
Baloney. Everyone knows anything online can
be accessed by anyone who really wants it and
knows how to write code. Ask Hillary Clinton.
Can data from a mechanism asserting such a
whopper be trusted? Can there be fake analytics?
Analytics will happen
This all feels like somebody borrowing your socks
without asking and returning them unwashed.
Inevitably, analytics will happen because it can
happen. It will happen where it helps more than
even it can measure. And it will happen where it
helps little and is wanted even less.
Now the dog needs his walk. Where’s the radio?
Analytics and radios