By Praveen Kalamegham, Chief Technology Officer
Oil & Gas drilling operations are a bit like complex symphonies, in which members of the orchestra must work — solo and together — for the music to sound just right. In energy, hundreds of vendors must work, with an operator and with each other, to complete a single drilling project in any given location around the world.
The scale of operations we’re talking about is massive. Over 166,000 wells were completed in the US in 2021. Ultimately, these projects are a testament not just to the companies involved, but to the people on the ground. And those people are facing more challenges than ever before as they deliver the energy that powers our world.
I’ve explained why at Workrise we believe a low-trust ecosystem is the root cause of the supply chain and operational challenges many Oil & Gas projects face today. I’ve shared the capabilities of our new platform, which will create an unbroken digital chain that helps operators, vendors, and workers interact with transparency by connecting every step on the long road from evaluating vendors for a given service all the way through to verifying delivery, invoicing, and payments.
To go a step further and illustrate what some of these concepts look like in practice, let’s take a closer look at the busiest, most frenetic segment of the energy ecosystem: the field. This is where thousands of projects are delivered, maintained, and decommissioned weekly by the people who do some of the hardest work in energy and — thanks to that low-trust ecosystem — must contend with an astonishing level of complexity.
Setting the Stage
For example’s sake, let’s focus on two hypothetical players among the legions required to complete a single energy project: a production operator and a truck driver.
The Task: hauling produced water from a well site to a disposal site
The Location: the flat, open deserts of West Texas
The Players: a production operator we’ll call John and a water hauler we’ll call Allen
The Background: John is an experienced operator who’s been hired through a contract billing provider for a company (let’s call it Big A Petroleum) to work on the project. Among his responsibilities is to call in water haulers to remove produced water when the tanks on the job site are getting full.
On the day in question, the tanks are reaching capacity, so John starts working to source a water hauler to empty the tanks and dispose of the water. He begins by searching for the Big A Petroleum-approved vendor list in an email that was sent to him as a PDF by his supervisor.
He finds the email, opens the PDF, and starts calling the names on the list he recognizes. After a few tries, he gets a hit: a company called M&H Water Hauling says it should be no problem to find someone to send out in short order. Enter Allen, a truck driver who works for M&H.
Allen jumps in his truck and heads to their closest yard, where he signs in and picks up a rig equipped to carry the water from the well site to the disposal site. The office manager quickly relays the address to Allen, along with a set of instructions for how to get there, which he mostly retains.
An hour and a half later — after a few wrong turns — he arrives on the job site. He finds John, who waves him over to the tanks so he can start retrieving the water.
Once Allen is loaded up, he fills out a paper field ticket, then goes to find John to approve it. John is busy in the trailer talking to the production foreman, but eventually comes out to find Allen waiting for the field ticket to be approved.
John verifies the load is full, locates the correct authorization (AFE) number, and stamps the field ticket accordingly to acknowledge and approve the expense. Stamped job ticket in hand, Allen gets back in the truck and hauls the water he collected to the disposal site before heading back to M&H to deliver the field ticket.
A week or two later, someone from M&H takes that field ticket, along with a stack of others for Big A Petroleum, in order to submit an invoice in Big A’s VMS of choice. Once submitted, Big A Petroleum lines up payment for the invoice based on the terms of their agreement with M&H Water Hauling.
Last but not least: At the end of the pay period, John submits his own timesheet to his billing provider, who then turns around and invoices Big A Petroleum so they can pay John for the work he did in getting that task accomplished.
There’s a Better Way
Easy peasy, right? Far from it. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg because all of that was for one load of water among hundreds – if not thousands – for a single well.
This web of connections and inter-relationships sounds complex, because it is complex. John may work with a different operator from one month to the next — and remember, he’s billing each client through a separate billing provider. That means he is regularly having to context shift just to complete basic tasks.
What happens if we have an unbroken digital chain to represent all the contracts and relationships between companies, as well as the mapping of what work is being done by which people?
That’s exactly what the Workrise platform does.
Line by line, we know the relationships of everyone in play. Each step is captured in that unbroken digital chain. And because we’ve connected each of the chain’s links, we can leverage all of this preset connectivity in a way that benefits this production operator and truck driver, so that John and Allen don’t have to jump through 10 mental (and often physical) hoops to do their jobs.
For one, John doesn’t have to dig in his email to find Big A Petroleum’s AVL. When he opens the app on the job site and starts searching for a vendor, we automatically show him results within Big A Petroleum’s AVL because we know where he is and what he is authorized to do on behalf of Big A Petroleum.
Allen no longer has to fill out a paper ticket and wait around until John can stamp it. Once his truck is loaded, all he has to do is open an app on his phone to record the load, snap a photo of his tank meter, and hit the road to the disposal site. And once he gets there, he can dispose of the load, snap a photo of the SWD meter before and after, and tap a button to submit the ticket for verification, which John can approve when he gets the notification.
That office manager who relayed the directions so that Allen could find the jobsite? That’s no longer necessary as that is conveyed directly from John’s original request. And she doesn’t have to worry about translating Allen’s field tickets into an invoice, since that comes straight from the digital field ticket Allen submitted and John approved. She can decide whether she wants to review invoices before they are submitted or allow the invoices to be automatically dispatched to Big A Petroleum with pre-approved pricing pursuant to the terms of their contract.
In this world, every person who touches this process is able to focus much more on the real work at hand, and much less on the busy work that is currently required at almost every step along the way.
John and Allen's story illustrates just one of the many things our field app is going to do. In my next piece, I’ll walk you through a preview of the app itself, demonstrate how much easier John and Allen’s lives will be, and underscore why digitizing field operations is such a critical next step to revolutionizing how work gets done in Oil & Gas.
Praveen Kalamegham is a 25-year technology veteran who has driven innovation at all layers of the software stack, from embedded systems to web-scale SaaS platforms. As Chief Technology Officer, he has led the development of the Workrise platform, enabling the company to grow its industry-leading labor business and shepherd its evolution into a leading supply chain solution for many of the biggest energy companies in the world. Praveen is as much a tinkerer at home as he is at work, spending his free time coding, gardening, and wood working at his home in Austin, Texas.
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