Author Archives: Certis Inc.

About Certis Inc.

Digital solutions architects. Servicing the energy industry since 2001. This blog contains the views and opinions of the founder and CEO of Certis IS Inc.

Capture The Retiring Knowledge

The massive knowledge that is retiring and about to retire in the next five years will bring some companies to a new low in productivity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 60% of job openings from 2010 to 2020 across all industries will result from retirees leaving the workforce, and it’s estimated that up to half of the current oil & gas workforce could retire in the next five to ten years.

For companies that do not have their processes defined and weaved into their everyday culture and systems — relying on their engineers and geoscientists knowledge instead — retirement of these professionals will cause a ‘brain drain,’ potentially costing these companies real down time and real money.

One way to minimize the impact of “Brain Drain” is by documenting a company’s unique technical processes and weaving them into training programs and, where possible, into automating technology. Why are process flows important to document? Process flow maps and documents are the geographical maps that give new employees the direction and the transparency they need, not only to ramp up a learning curve faster, but also to repeat the success that experienced resources deliver with their eyes closed.

For example, if a reservoir engineer decides to commission a transient test, equipment must be transported to location, the well is shut down and penetrated, pressure buildup is measured, data is interpreted, and BHP is extrapolated and Kh is calculated.
The above transient test process, if well mapped, would consist of: 1) Decisions 2) Tasks/ Activities 3) A Sequence Flow 4) Responsible and Accountable Parties 5) Clear Input and Output 6) and Possible Reference Materials and Safety Rules. These process components, when well documented and defined, allow a relatively new engineer to easily run the operation from start to end without downtime.

When documenting this knowledge, some of the rules will make its way in contracts and sometimes in technology enablers, such as software and workflow applications. The retiring knowledge can easily be weaved into the rules, reference materials, the sequence flow, and in information systems.

Documenting technical processes is one of the tools to minimize the impact of a retiring workforce. Another equally important way to capture and preserve knowledge is to ensure that data in personal network drives is accumulated, merged with mainstream information, and put in context early enough for the retiring workforce to verify its accuracy before they leave.

Processes and data  for a company make the foundation of a competitive edge, cuts back on rework and errors, and helps for quickly identifying new opportunities.

To learn more about our services on Processes or Data contact us at

In-hand data, both internal and external, can be the difference between millions of dollars gained or millions of dollars lost

The Eagle Ford… Bakken… Permian… Montney… Booming plays with over 50 active operators each. Each operator brings its own development strategy and its own philosophy. While some operators appear successful in every unconventional play they touch, others always seem to come last to the party, or to miss the party altogether. Why?

 Information. With all things being equal (funding availability, access to geoscience and engineering expertise), one variable becomes timely access to quality information and understanding what the data is telling you, faster than the competition.

 “Few if any operators understand how (shale) behaves, why one fracture stage within a well produces 10 times more oil or gas than its neighbor, or how to find sweet spots to overcome inequity.”  Colorado School of Mines Rhonda Duey

 Over 60 operators in the Eagle Ford alone. Studying the strategy and philosophy of each operator in a play would, should, yield insight as to what works, what does not work and why? Landing depth, fracking parameters, lateral length, flow-back design, etc… All may matter, all may contribute to better production rates, better ultimate recoveries and better margins. And yes, each play really is unique.


 A wealth of information from each operator is buried in shareholders’ presentations, their reported regulatory data, and published technical papers. Collecting relevant information and organizing it correctly will enable engineers and geo staff to find those insights. Today, engineers and geologists cannot fully take advantage of this information as it’s not readily consumable and their time is stretched as it is.

 We all agree, taking advantage of Shale plays is not only about efficiency, but it is also about being effective. The fastest and cheapest way to effectiveness is to build on what others have proven to work and avoid what is known not to work.

 Here are some thoughts on how to leverage external data sources to your advantage:

  • Understand the goal of the study from engineers and geoscientists. Optimized lateral completion? Optimized fracking? Reducing drilling costs? All of the above?
  • Implement “big data” technology with a clear vision of the output. This requires integration between data systems to correlate data from various external sources with various internal sources.
  • Not ready to invest in “big data” initiatives or don’t have the time? Outsource information curation (gathering and loading data) for focused studies.
  • Utilize data scientists and analytical tools to find trends in your data, then qualify findings with solid engineering and geoscience understanding.
  • Consider a consortium among operators to exchange key data otherwise not made available publicly. If all leases are leased in the play, then the competition among operators is over. Then shouldn’t play data be shared to maximize recovery from the reservoirs?
  • Build a culture of “complete understanding” by leveraging various sources of external data. 

Better Capital Allocation With A Rear-View Mirror – Look Back

In front of you are two choices: Tie up $100 million with low return or over spend by $50 million with no reliable return. Which option do you choose? Neither is acceptable.

“It seemed we were either tying up cash and missing on other opportunities, or overspending where we should not have in the first place,” said a former officer of a US independent. “We heard great stories at presentations from engineers and geoscientists as they were painting the picture to executives to fund their programs. But at the end of the year, the growth was never where we had expected it to be.”

Passing by poor investments through better allocation of capital greatly enhances company performance. To achieve this, executives needed a system to look back and evaluate what each asset team had predicted compared to the actual performance of the asset. They needed a look-back system where hindsight is always 20/20.

A look-back system is beneficial not only for better capital allocation, but also to identify and understand the reasons for low or high performance of an investment.

Implementing a look-back system is data intensive. The data needed, however, typically has already been collected and stored as part of everyday operations. For example most companies have an AFE system that captures predicted economics of well projects. All companies keep system(s) to capture production volumes and accounting data for both revenue and costs.  Data for evaluating an investment after-the-fact is already available – for the most part.  The reason executives did not have a look-back system was buried in their processes. In how each asset’s economic returns are calculated and allocated.

Here are few tips to consider when implementing a look-back system for an oil and gas company:

  • Start with the end. Identify the performance indicators (KPI) required to measure assets’ performance.
  • Standardize how economics are prepared by each asset team. Only then will you be able to compare apples to apples.
  • Allocate costs and revenue back to each well. Granularity matters and is key. With granularity, mistakes of lumping costs under a wrong category can be avoided and easily rectified.
  • Missing information for the KPI’s? Introduce processes to capture and enter data in company’s systems (historically this information may be in presentation slides and personal spreadsheets).
  • If well information is scattered across systems, data integration will be needed. Well, AFE, Production, Reserves, and Accounting data will need to be correlated.
  • Automate the generation of information to executives. Engineers and geoscientist should not have to prepare reports at the end of each month or quarter to management. Their time is FAR better spent making money and assets work harder for their investors.
  • Know it is a change to the culture. Leadership support must be behind the initiative and well communicated throughout the stake holders.

“Once we implemented a look-back system, we funded successful teams more and reduced the budget from under performing assets, then we utilized the freed money to grow. We were a better company all around” – Former Officer of a Large Independent.

Bring It On Sooner & Keep It Lifting Longer. Solutions To Consider For ESPs (Or Any Field Equipment)

Settled on average 6,000 feet below the surface, electrical submersible pumps (a.k.a ESPs) provide artificial lift for liquid hydrocarbons for more than 130,000 wells worldwide.
Installing the correct ESP system for the well, installing it precisely, and careful monitoring of the system is paramount to reducing the risk of a premature end to an ESP life cycle. But the increasingly long laterals of horizontal wells, along with rapid drilling in remote areas, is creating challenges for efficient operations and the ESP’s life span. Implementing the correct processes and data strategies will, undoubtedly, be the cheapest and fastest way to overcome some of the challenges.

1- Implement A Process Flow That Works, Break The Barriers

When a decision is made to install an ESP in a well, a series of actions are triggered: preparing specifications, arranging for power, ordering equipment, scheduling operations, testing, and finally installing it in a well, to state a few. These actions and decisions involve individuals from multiple departments within an organization as well as external vendors and contractors. These series of actions form a process flow that is sometimes inefficient and is drawn out, causing delays in producing revenue. In addition, sometimes processes fall short causing premature pump failures that interrupt production and raise operational costs.
Research of many industry processes shows communication challenges are one of the root causes for delays, according to LMA Consulting Group Inc. Furthermore, communication challenges increase exponentially when actions change hands and departments. A good workflow will cut across departmental barriers to focus on the ultimate goal of making sure Engineering, Procurement, Logistics, accounting, vendors, contractors and field operations all are on the same page and have a simple and direct means to communicate effectively. But more importantly, the workflow will allow for the team to share the same level of urgency and keep stakeholders well informed with the correct information about their projects. If you are still relying on phones, papers and emails to communicate, look for workflow technology that will bring all parties on one page.

A well-thought through workflow coupled with fit-for-purpose technology and data is critical, not only to ensure consistent successful results each time but also to minimize delays in revenue.

2- ESP Rented Or Purchased, It Does Not Matter… QA/QC Should Be Part Of Your Process

Although ESPs are rented and the vendor will switch out non-performing ones, ensuring that the right ESP is being installed for a well should be an important step of the operator’s process and procedures. Skipping this step means operators will incur the cost of shut downs and tempering of reservoir conditions that may otherwise be stabilized – not to mention exposure to risks each time a well is penetrated.
More importantly a thoughtful workflow ensures a safe and optimal life span for ESPs regardless of the engineers or vendors involved, especially in this age of a mass retiring of knowledge.

At today’s oil prices, interrupted production for a well of 1,000 barrels per day will cost an operator at least $250,000 of delayed revenue for a 5 day operation. Predictive and prescriptive analytics in addition to efficient processes can keep the interruption to the minimum if not delay it altogether.

3- Know Why And How It Failed Then Improve Your Processes – You Need The Data And The Knowledge

One last point in this blog: Because ESPs consist of several components, a motor, a pump, a cable, elastomer, etc… ESP failure can, therefore, be electrical, mechanical, thermal or fluid/gas composition. Capturing and understanding the reasons for a failure in a system to allow for effective data analysis provides insight that can be carried forward to future wells and to monitoring systems. Integrating this knowledge into systems such as predictive analysis or even prescriptive analytic to guide new engineers will have an effect on operator’s bottom-line. A few vendors in the market offer these kind of technology, weaving the right technology, data and processes to work in synergy is where the future is.

On how to implement these solutions please contact our team at

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What More Can Be Done To Reduce Well Failure & Downtime? Predictive Analytics.

Today’s high oil prices make every production moment crucial and well downtime costlier than ever. When a well fails, money sits underneath the earth’s surface, but you cannot get to it. In addition, you have equipment and a crew draining money out of your pocket while you wait to replace a critical component. Ideally, you wouldn’t wait. You would be ready for equipment failure.

Example: One operator reported that downtimes causing an average of 400 bbl per day of production loss is normal practice. If we assume a minimum margin of $50 per bbl, that is more than $7 Million dollars of uncaptured revenue in that year. That’s a hefty price tag. Oil companies need to ask themselves: “what more can be done. Have all measures been taken to keep downtime to its minimum?”

With high equipment costs, companies used to balk at owning spare equipment. On the contrary, some companies consider backups as standard procedures. The trick is deciding on a balance between stockpiling backups and knowing what you really need ahead of time. I believe this balance can be achieved with “Automated Predictive Analytics”.

Predictive analytics compares incoming data from the field to expected or understood behaviors and trends to predict the future. It encompasses a variety of techniques from statistics, modeling and data mining that analyze current and historical facts to make future predictions.

Automated predictive analytics leverages systems to sift through large amount of data and alert for issues.  Automating predictive analytics means you can monitor and address ALL equipment on the critical path on a daily basis–more frequently if your data permits. Automating steps up the productivity of your engineers by minimizing the need to search for problem wells. Instead, your engineers can focus on addressing problem wells.

If you are not already on the predictive mode, these two cost-effective solutions can get you started on the right path.

1. Collect well and facility failure data (including causes of failure data). Technology, processes and the right training make this happen. There are a few tools available off-the-shelf. You may already have them in house; activate their use.

2.  Integrate systems and data then automate the analysis: expected well models, trends and thresholds need to be integrated with actual daily data flowing in from the field. “Workflow” automation tools on the market can exceed your expectations when it comes to integration and automating some of the analysis.

Example: One operator in North Dakota reported that 22 of its 150 producing wells in the Bakken have failed within the first two years due to severe scaling in the pump and production tubing. Analytics correlated rate and timing of failure with transient alkalinity spikes in the water analyses. The cause was attributed to fracturing-fluid flowback. (Journal of Petroleum Technology, March 2012).

In the above example, changes in production and pressure data would trigger the need to check water composition that could in turn trigger an action on engineers to check the level of scale inhibitors used on the well before the pump fails. This kind of analysis requires data (and systems) integration.

One more point on well failure systems. Too many equipment failures occur without proper knowledge on what went wrong. The rush to get the well producing again discourages what is sometimes seen as “low priority research”. Yet, this research could prevent future disruptions. By bringing the data together and using it to its full potential companies can save money now and for years to come.

More Shale Data Should Equal More Production, Unless Your Data is an Unusable Mess

As the U.S. overtakes Russia in Oil & Gas production because of its unconventional fields, new operators flood the industry. Inevitably, competition increases. The need for predictable and optimized well performance is greater than ever. The fastest route to optimization is quality data that can be used to understand unconventional fields better and drive the flow of operations efficiently.

However, as more data pours in, the cracks in many E&P companies’ data management systems are exposed. Geoscientists and engineers are left to make their own integrations and correlations between disperse systems and left digging through folders trying to find documents for knowledge.

Some of the trouble lies in the new methods of analyzing vast array of data that were not considered as prominent in conventional fields. For example, geoscientists break shale down by geology, geochemistry, and geomechanics, and engineers now look into fracs using microseimic lenses. While this data was used in conversional fields before, the stress on and ways of analyzing them is different now; new parameters have emerged as key measures such as TOC and brittleness. When it comes to shale fields, the industry is still learning from acquired data.

Well organized (and quality) information that is easily found and efficiently flows through internal departments and supplying vendors, not only will allow for faster reaction to operation’s needs & opportunities, it will turn into better strategy to increase EUR per well through better understanding of the reservoirs.

How you take care of your data directly impacts your engineers and geoscientists efficiency and the speed they can find good production opportunities. Fast and efficient is the name of the game when it comes to unconventional and competitive world.

It is not enough to provide a place to store new unconventional information and flow it to analytical systems, while those are the first steps they must fit into a holistic approach that takes unconventional integrated operational processes to the next level of efficiency.

Cut Search Time for Critical Documents from Days to Seconds. It is Time to Stop Digging in Folder Structures

It wasn’t long ago when geoscientists and petroleum engineers at one renowned oil company might spend days searching for documents.  “Searching” meant digging through folders (as many as 1500 of them!!), and discerning whether a “found” file was an official report or only an earlier draft.  To give you an idea, some critical HSE documents were buried as deeply as within the 13th   sub-folder (and then the correct version had to be selected!!)

Obviously in this situation emergency and critical decision cycle times were lengthened by the difficulty of finding the “buried” technical documents. The average time to locate and validate the accuracy of a document was calculated at 3 days.

When Certis arrived, the company’s folder system looked like an episode of “Hoarders”. The hoarder believes there is an organized system to his “madness”, but nobody else in the home can quite figure it out. Over the years, over 2,000,000 documents had been amassed at this location, and that total was growing fast. As engineers and geoscientists floated in and out, the system fell victim to hundreds of interpretations. Unlike the hoarder’s goods, these documents contained vital information that accumulated years of studies and billions of dollars of data acquisitions. Years of knowledge, buried, literally.

In today’s competitive and fast pace operations in our Oil and Gas industry, data is accumulating faster than ever and decisions must be made faster than ever by petro-professionals that are already overextended.  Compounded with the fact that a large portion of the knowledge is within a workforce that may soon retire means that Oil and Gas companies that want to stay exceptional and competitive cannot afford to waste petro-professionals time hunting for critical records.

So, how do you get to a point where your organization can locate the right document instantly?  We believe it is all about Processes, Technology and People put in place (a cliché but so true)

When Certis completed this project, the technical community could locate their documents within few seconds using “google-like” search. More importantly they were (and are now) able to locate the “latest” version and trust it. The solution had to address 3 elements, people, processes and technology.

The final solution meant collapsing folders from 2000 down to 150, using a DRM system without burdening the technical community and implementing complete processes with a service element that ensured sustainability.

Centralized, standardized and institutionalized systems and processes were configured to take full advantage of the taxonomy and DRM systems. Once the ease of use and the value were demonstrated to the people, buy-in was easy to get.

Technology advances faster than our ability to keep up. This is especially true when working with professionals whose focus is (and should be!) on their projects, not on data management. We had to break the fear of change by proving there is a better way to work that increases efficiency and makes employee’s lives easier.

Legacy Documents, what do you do with them?

Because solving operational issues at the field requires access to complete historical information, exhuming technical legacy documents, physical or electronic, from their buried locations was the next task.

On this project the work involved prioritizing, locating, removing duplicates, clustering, and tagging files with standard meta-data. With a huge number of files accumulated in network drives and library rooms, a company must keep an eye on “cost/ benefit” ratio. How to prioritize and how to tag technical files become two key success factors to designing a cost-effective migration project.

This topic can go on and on since there were so many details that made this project successful. But that may be for another post.

Read more about Certis and about our oil and gas DRM services

How an E & P Subsidiary took its Information Communications from Risky to Efficient

It starts with chatter around the workplace. A company is growing. Procedures that were once “nice to have” are now serious money bleeds. That is exactly what Certis found when they revamped a major E&P subsidiary’s communication procedures.

When an oil and gas company plants itself in any nation to explore for business opportunities, its communications with the nation’s government and with its JV partners can be, understandably, informal for the early stages of the project. As the company moves from Exploration and Appraisal phases towards a full fledge Development and Operation, what once worked with lax communications becomes a risky endeavor.

While these risks can be underplayed next to health and safety hazards, we discovered they warranted immediate action if the company is to survive long term. Consider these two real situations, to name a few:

1)      Sensitive information leaks, for example, at early stages of exploration efforts, any discovery would have a large impact on a company’s stock price (if public) and serious implications on their competitor’s behavior.

2)      Growing companies’ watch millions of dollars become billions of dollars almost overnight. Those large dollar amounts require complete technical data and timely communications to appease the government and the JV partner. The flow of information becomes crucial.

Knowing something is broken isn’t the same as understanding how it is broken and how to fix it.

Most employees can feel the weak spots in their company. When you start to sense problems, the cost of fixing them seems outlandish. But overtime the scales tip. Often, when the scales tip, the problem has grown to overwhelming proportions for employees to handle alone.

The scale had long ago tipped for this client.  Our team’s role was to quickly identify causes of communication problems, and orchestrate a long-term plan and processes to mitigate risks.

Over a period of few weeks, we surveyed the office, field, and rigs in two different continents. We went through a full cycle of process improvement. At the end we were able to divide their information communications needs into four process categories: 1) Documents and Data Management 2) Decisions Documentation 3) Security and Access Management 4) Request Management.

Our plan started with ‘Quick Wins’ that changed the way the subsidiary did business in the first month. Imagine being able to institute relevant changes in your company in one month. Yes, it was that easy to solve. The rest of the implementation plan spanned over 4 months. Communication policies, standards and procedures were to be defined and complied to across the organization.

We all know that the cost of fixing is cheap compared to the cost of cleaning up a huge mess later.

The costs of missed opportunities, reduced stock prices, or the cost of million-dollar lawsuits make this kind of projects important, combine that with the relevant low fixing cost, makes this project a “high” priority.

I believe a company needs to do more than simply comply with government or JV partner contracts. To build strong relationships, you must be able to readily prove your compliance. That’s just good business.

Our client’s new transparent business practices allow the government to view them as a serious and trusted part of the country’s future. It is impossible to put a price on a valued relationship. But successful business people know that gaining trust means big business over time.

What about your company? Is it starting to feel the risks of outdated communication systems?

Improved Seismic Data Services Cycle Time By 50 Weeks – Looking back at a project delivered by Certis Inc.

When you’re an Oil & Gas exploration company that manages over 5,000 lines and surveys a year, efficiency in managing data is vital. Yet, three years ago, a company that size had never measured the efficiency of the process of delivering data to the business. There was a general feeling that 80% of the time the process was acceptable. However, they could not see what was going wrong the other 20% of the time. Even within the 80%, they had to wonder if ‘acceptable’ was the best they could do. In essence, they knew they had their weaknesses, but were too close to the problems to see the solutions. They turned to a process improvement firm with oil and gas data experience to shed some light on any workflow problems they felt, but couldn’t see. This is when we came in.

To give you a visual of the work done for the E&P Company, we need to take a step back in time. Remember the days before email? Now, go further back to a time you don’t remember. Imagine a time before mail trucks and planes, a time, when you if you wanted to mail a letter to Spain, you needed to put it on a ship. It would take months to get there. It would need to withstand seasick sailors, ocean storms, and Moby Dick to arrive at its destination. You know it may never be as pretty as the day you mailed it. Now, pretend that time was three years ago. Three years ago, your letter spent months aboard a ship and now, you zap it electronically in seconds.

That is what this oil & gas company has gone through in the past three years. By improving their Seismic data processes, have gone from taking a year to complete a full cycle of receipt to archival to two weeks or less. Remember, in 2010, the oil company considered the delivery time for data to the business as acceptable in 80% of the cases. While they were suspicious of inefficiencies, they could not imagine going from the mail ship to email in three years. But that is exactly what they did.

Every business occasionally needs an outsider to look in to get a better vision of their systems potential. The company began to see that their processing was far from optimal, but it could be.

$250 Million Oil Take-Over Deal Implodes Due To Disastrous Data Management

As professionals in the oil and gas sector we all know that when it comes to a merger and acquisition (M&A) that having access to quality data is essential. In its absence deals don’t get made, investors lose $000,000s and livelihoods are put at risk.

So we were pretty taken aback recently to hear of one deal – of a public company – which fell through because the organization couldn’t even list their complete assets with confidence – such was the mess of their data.

We were talking with a CEO recently who “vented” about a recently failed acquisition.  He is a major player who has worked in the sector since the mid-1970s, he told us here why the $150 Million to $250 million investment his company was prepared to make didn’t just fall flat, but imploded:  “Despite asking this company repeatedly to give us access to their “complete” data sets they failed to deliver time and again. We became increasingly frustrated and discouraged to the extent we wouldn’t even make a proposal in the region of $80 million for the company.  What was so galling to us was that it was obvious this company badly needed an investor and had approached us to bid”

We all know what data is needed for M&A investments to happen, some of which we can get from public records and from commercial organizations such as I.H.S and Drilling Info (in the USA). But those sources alone are not nearly sufficient. So what were they thinking? Did they think data would take care of itself? Or was someone just not doing his/her job well?

The CEO continues “…. in the past when companies were under pressure, typically a lot of data got swept under the rug as it were. Today though, investors demand tighter regulation of data and I suspect that, because of this, in ten years’ time some companies just aren’t going to make it. If our company had been allowed to invest and take over we could have solved many of the organization’s problems, saved some jobs and even added value. Sadly, in this event, due to poor management of critical data that scenario was never allowed to take place. The deal never even got past the first hurdle. No-one is going to invest $millions when they don’t have a clue of (or confidence in the data of) what they’re buying.”

Considering this was a company which had a responsibility for public money the management team should never have been allowed free rein without critical data management regulations or at the very least “guidelines”.

What is your opinion?