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The ability to predict the future to optimize operations has been the aim of oil and gas companies for some time. For the past 50 years, planners have chased accurate models to predict future energy supply, demand, and prices and the significant developments that affect them. Could that time finally be here? Thanks to recent advances in data analytics technologies, oil and gas companies now have the prospect to considerably widen and systematize the scope of their forecasting to include operational processes up and down the value chain. "The oil and gas industry may have emerged from its last downturn, but the pressure on companies to find new capital and operating efficiencies remains unrelenting," Nial McCollam, chief technology officer at Lloyd's Register, said.
The constant talk about the data-driven future of the oil and gas business poses a threatening question for some petroleum engineers: What do I need to know to ensure I have a job next year? Many universities are adding digital data and analytics programs to prepare petroleum engineering students, many of whom are also taking the initiative on their own to master the tools used for this new way of working in the industry. Jim Crompton, an adjunct faculty member at the Colorado School of Mines who created and taught some of the first such classes, said students who grew up in the Internet era pick it up quickly. He said he worries, though, about working engineers. "The greater challenge is for those with 10–20 years of experience," he said, specifically engineers who do not know programming and do not have the vocabulary of digital analysis.