Despite growing awareness of the climate crisis, a lot of money can still be made in oil and gas. In 2017, revenues from the oil and gas drilling sector were estimated to come to $2 trillion.
Valuing these oil and gas fields has been the bread and butter of Wood Mackenzie for over 40 years, according to Craig Foot, senior product manager at the Edinburgh head-quartered energy research and consultancy firm. He said: “We’ve got good heritage in that and many other commodities. We do precious and base metals, and mining. And we’re starting to look at power and renewables.”
Data from these valuations is used by fossil fuel companies like Shell, Total and Exxon and even financial services companies like Barclays and Goldman Sachs to evaluate assets in their portfolios, according to chief product officer, Karen Padir. Foot elaborated that those who work in banks would be looking for investments to support or companies to fund, and those working at oil and gas companies might be deciding which competitor companies to acquire.
“It revolves a lot around sourcing data."
“It revolves a lot around sourcing data, having an up-to-date picture of what’s going on so that when they are asked to use their subject matter expertise to support their business decisions, they’ve got a certain opinion from Wood Mackenzie and they know how better to answer the question,” said Foot.
Before Lens was implemented, global upstream (oil and gas exploration and production) data was updated every three months. However, Foot said Wood Mackenzie’s clients wanted direct and faster access to the data. In addition, internal analysts needed a new platform on which to deliver their data and analysis and do their research.
Foot said that they started the build of Global Upstream Valuations at the end of 2018 and after nine months of development got their first commercial release to the market.
He said: "The foundations of the Lens platform had already been laid using an API-first approach that delivered data directly to users of PowerBI and Excel to support visualisation and other analytical workflows. On top of this API platform, called Lens Direct, a dedicated in-house design team created common user interface controls for use in workflow-driven solutions such as the Global Upstream Valuations."
Prior to 2018, data products were created by different teams, using different technologies at different times with different data sources. Furthermore, development of some tools had been outsourced to third parties leading to Foot and his team feeling that they didn’t have full ownership of the stack. “We ran that as a project rather than a product. It was a grand job and we were able to maintain it but not in an ongoing agile iterative way,” said Foot.
The first module of Lens, Well Evaluator, assesses the value of approximately three million oil wells in mainland United States. The second module, Global Upstream Valuations, came online in October. It allows users to find a company, oil field or license block anywhere in the world and get insights on exploration and production opportunities including the exact location and the companies operating in that area, giving them up-to-the-minute insight.
Wood Mackenzie manually and automatically collects proprietary and public data that is both structured and unstructured. The proprietary data is obtained by analysts and researchers collecting information on the ground by scouting, reading about and speaking to clients. They obtain information on things like which countries a certain company operates in, how many wells there are, the output of those wells and the equipment used to extract that output.
The data is from public records and pertains to land area, ownership and lease status. Padir said that from that data, Wood Mackenzie’s clients evaluate, value and benchmark to find out how much a particular well, piece of land, region or country is worth.
The data is then scraped, reshaped, the gaps are filled (either by estimating or taking information from other sources) and then made to fit Wood Mackenzie’s data structure. “We then put it into our multiple backend corporate databases, and then through a production and build process, output it to our products,” said Foot.
“The datasets are wide so we offer an opinionated curated view of data."
Well Evaluator and Global Upstream Valuations both serve external users, who buy subscriptions of one to three years, and internal users. “The datasets are wide so we can offer an opinionated and curated view of our data in a way that is suitable.”
As such, he hopes Lens will be the go-to place for clients to screen for opportunities, understand individual companies, see what competitors are doing and share that information with their colleagues.
Foot added: “That’s useful for clients and that’s useful for our analysts. They need a quick picture of what they are talking about, set it in context, then our research analysts do their value-add piece which is around the commentary and insight on what is happening with that asset or that company’s strategy.”
This digitisation represents Wood Mackenzie’s biggest capital expenditure investment and Foot said they will continue to invest in this platform.
In terms of Wood Mackenzie’s competitors such as IHS Markit and Bloomberg, Foot said: “We are at risk of being disrupted by new data vendors who can scrape data from sources with new technical stacks and make sense of it automatically. With Lens, we now have that capability ourselves.”
Going forward Wood Mackenzie will be adding more datasets to Lens including subsurface mapping to understand the different types of rock underground. “Next for the platform, we are going to delve further into the subsurface, literally beneath the ground, where the hydrocarbons are. If we can understand more of the technical characteristics of these project underground, we can build a better understanding of what the project is worth,” said Foot.