What problem did LYTT set out to solve?
The main problem I have experienced and wrestled with in my career in the oil and gas industry is how to maximise production in large and complex oil and gas fields. Companies invest a lot to achieve a reasonable recovery factor but, due to shortage of wells and subsurface insights, they can still end up leaving a lot of resources in the ground. This is clearly inefficient.
However, the lack of information readily available about the subsurface makes companies very wary of making the additional investment to boost the recovery rate. Larger investment decisions require a clear understanding of the subsurface to manage risk and understand the true reservoir potential. This means wells and reservoirs have historically been optimised very conservatively.
This is where LYTT comes in. We analyse and extract insights from a huge quantity of data generated by the fiber optic cables installed in the wells, in real time, to build the field-wide view of the subsurface, from which wells and reservoirs can be properly optimised. A 3-6% increase in recovery rate that we can generate could equate to billions of dollars across a field – making a transformational impact on economic recovery and customer revenue.
Does this mean fiber optic cables are being under-used?
Fiber optic cabling has been installed in wells over the last decade, but the cost and complexity of installation and incredible volume of data generated every second put the brakes on industry-wide investment and uptake.
Unfortunately, businesses that have invested in the technology over the last decade, had very limited access to a capability that could create high-value insights from that data, making it challenging building a convincing technology value proposition.
So LYTT helps to do that?
Yes. LYTT provides the user and value cases that fiber works and, with the right analytics, can provide enormous value. Our platform provides real-time insights to the customer to optimise production and manage production risks.
What led you to build the business?
I took a job in the upstream technology team in bp in 2012. One of my roles was supporting risk management of a mature oil field. This included tracking down the cause of well integrity anomalies, understanding why these occurred, and mitigating them. An opportunity opened up to test the feasibility of fiber optic sensing for well integrity monitoring. The technology had great potential to analyse complex challenges, but it came with huge amount of data and no decision software.
From the first field trial on the first well, we started to see hugely valuable insights, and this gave us a real sense of confidence that we were onto something. A manual and labour-intensive interpretation workflow was developed to support and add value to subsequent data acquisitions.
And it grew from there?
Exactly. Those results meant an initial three-month project was extended to eight months and, shortly after that, results were reported back to bp leadership. bp was hugely excited by this and sanctioned a technology program to develop a real-time monitoring solution for well integrity and sand monitoring.
This is when Prad and I started to work on this, and development went at the speed of light from here. Over the course of the next three months we designed the whole tech proposition and built a minimum viable product. We also started the first field validations, with the issue of sand ingress taking priority as it was such a huge production problem.
We then validated our results in the field, directing engineering teams to remediate and optimise wells. On the pilot well we increased production by 50% and reduced sand ingress by 90%. This was the moment everyone started to believe in the technology.
Why did you decide to develop LYTT outside of bp?
We had successfully developed and deployed our technology solution to a handful of bp assets, adding substantial value to the business and creating lots of excitement. We had also started expanding the programme for other high-value applications.
In December 2018 we successfully pitched a multi-billion-dollar value proposal to bp’s executive team. The idea was to create a new company, not only to scale this technology across the company’s existing and future assets, but also serving the wider industry with real-time analytics.
We knew we needed to scale up quickly and learn from other companies outside bp. That would have been impossible if we had remained within bp. LYTT was founded one month later – a new chapter on this great journey had started!
How will digital technology change the oil and gas industry?
The industry is at the early stage of a large digital transformation. Driven by a lower energy price outlook, these companies need to become more cost efficient to be competitive in the longer run. They also must define and execute an effective carbon reduction strategy, though oil and gas will not leave the energy mix overnight.
A key question to consider is how companies are going to survive in this new phase. Will they cut costs and do the bare minimum to survive, or proactively invest in digital technology and sensing and be in it for the long run?
Done right, that transitional period will require companies to make more effective decisions with fewer people – and digitalisation will be key to this. They will need to harvest data from the subsurface and use these insights to advise their production and recovery strategies. That’s where we can help.
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