Despite lightening up our world, the energy industry is facing big challenges. Our world is made up of gadgets and appliances that constantly need to be powered up with some form of energy, be it electricity, petrol, cooking oil, or anything else. So, the production of energy never stops, and the requirement of more energy is unlikely to go down as well.
Despite the grand scale of the energy industry and its demand, it is considered a highly risky investment market. Oil rigs explode, oil spills occur, mine collapse, nuclear reactor blast, and renewable energy sources are so far inefficient and expensive. All of these also have a huge impact on the environment and the nature we live in, and it’s a big challenge to mitigate these risks.
With such challenges, there is an urgent need for relevant data and good analytics. Analytics can become a core factor that improves the functioning, the performance, the maintenance, and the growth of the entire energy industry. So, it is not surprising that the energy industry is out looking for proper solutions that provide a way to collect, synthesize, analyze, and integrate data, and eventually improve operations.
Every section of the energy industry could use big data and analytics in a good way and improve processes greatly, but one of the primary places in need of big data is the operational safety process.
There are numerous talks about extreme incidents of negligence, errors and undetected faults, that led to human lives being lost and a lot of damage to our environment when it comes to the energy industry.
For that specifically, the oil, petroleum, gas and nuclear companies are making more investment in sensors and monitoring technologies that can keep a good check on appliance status, pressure, temperature, shock capacity, expected lifetime and so on. These tasks, though manually trackable, are much more effective when tracked centrally and digitally.
A tracking at this scale makes sure that there’s a systemic approach to when a piece needs replacing or when the entire system needs service or what to do when there is some damage. This greatly reduces the risk of human losses, protects the environment and provides advance warning if something were to happen.
As mentioned earlier, investment in the energy industry is a very risky one. Hence, a lot of resources are being added during initial surveying before starting a project. Information like the location of the plant, the land/water type, height/depth, temperature range, soil quality, satellite imaging and weather conditions form the basis of the surveys that are analyzed along with historical data to calculate the likelihood of the project's success.
As an example, for a renewable energy company setting up a solar panel, it is very important to track the longitude/latitude of the location, the amount of sunlight received each day, the angle of sunlight, the elevation from the ground, cloudiness, soil quality, area available, and so on. For a hydro power station, information like water force, water quantity, water quality, depth of water or height of water, terrain type, soil quality, maximum and minimum flow of water, etc. are some of the factors that need to be measured. For a petroleum refinery they need to know about factors like soil quality, available minerals in the soil, depth of layers of fuel, quality of fuel, and so on.
All this data collected in different forms can be analysed on a national or global scale and can be better used to set up locations for future plants, or use it in town planning.
There’s a stigma attached to the energy industry, that it is out to destroy the environment. But with more data and knowledge coming in each minute and each day, the industry is slowly but steadily turning towards clean energy. More and more companies are countries are turning towards renewable energy sources, and it definitely seems to be a step in the right direction.
There are better ways to utilize the renewable energy now, the cost of generating energy through renewable sources is getting low, the efficiency is getting higher, there are better ways to produce energy. But there is still a lot of room for improvement and expansion, and that is where big data is helping greatly.
Weather data merged with cloud imaging helps predict energy generation for each day, or guide the motion of solar panels to get more sunlight, and so on. With time, this tracking will keep improving until the production of renewable energy gets cheaper compared to fossil fuel energy.
Future of Energy Industry
The energy industry provides a lot of opportunity for growth and development when it comes to data and analytics. It is on the cusp of growing exponentially with big data, and it is a really interesting industry to look after.
Knowledge brought us powerful insights, and big data will take us even further ahead. In times of troubles, big data will solve our problems and save us from repeating the same old mistakes. In times of growth, big data will present new ways to improve environmental outcomes and preserve our planet.
Nikunj is the CEO of DataOne Innovation Labs. His company provides architectural solutions for big data problems faced by enterprises. His main areas of focus are real-time data processing, machine learning, NLP, cloud computing and high availability architecture design. Nikunj holds a master’s degree in Information Technology from the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology.