While downstream oil companies haven't felt the immediate burden of low oil prices, their upstream counterparts are having a harder time dealing with the lack of profitability. However, Deloitte noted upstream producers are turning to big data as a means to cut operational costs and increase drilling efficiency, according to RigZone.
Because smaller companies that have narrower margins are forced to be as efficient as possible to remain economically viable in the marketplace, these producers have employed the innovative use of new technologies as cost-management techniques. As such, these practices then gain in popularity and are co-opted by larger companies on a larger scale, thus changing the way oil is drilled.
"Typically in industry, especially in oilfield services, many of the big guys have good research and development, but a lot of innovation comes from smaller types of service providers, such as technologies around fracking," said Rick Carr, principal of Deloitte LLP's oil and gas operations, according to RigZone.
"Drillers must tailor production capabilities to market demand while remaining under budget."
New smartphone apps, audio and visual sensors and real-time data are just a few of the new technologies that drilling companies are embracing in an effort to keep production costs contained.
Dealing with the current environment
RigZone noted the problem with many upstream producers is that they were able to sell oil at such a high price that didn't necessarily correlate with real-world operational expenses. As a result, when prices have more than halved in the past six months, many companies haven't been able to stay profitable and are forced to reduce the number of rigs in operation.
According to Baker Hughes Inc., the number of rigs in the U.S. dropped 87 units in the week ending Feb. 6, highlighting a trend of losses that has continued for 10 weeks.
And with Bloomberg reporting OPEC predicting U.S. oil output to fall far short of the nation's 2014 production levels, the task of ramping up drilling capabilities once oil prices rebound in 2015 will be difficult for some U.S. companies, and even more so for those that aren't adopting new efficient methods.
The key, however, lies in the use of analytics to find areas where money can be saved and to boost profits where possible, according to RigZone. Tailoring production capabilities to market demand while remaining under budget will be the best path forward for U.S. drillers.
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