Interview: Stephen Anson, Director of Measurement, W Energy Software

Interview: Stephen Anson, Director of Measurement, W Energy Software

Polaris Sensor Technologies

Eric Eissler: Can you give a brief overview of your measurement pedigree and role in building the next generation of measurement solutions?

Stephen Anson
Stephen Anson

Stephen Anson: In my two decades in energy, I’ve always been focused on measurement in the field, the office and in the classroom. On the engagement and support side, I’ve been involved with many of our industry’s standards. My experience covers both gas and liquids measurement, including field maintenance activities, equipment design, and back office measurement data management. I’ve held various roles for E&P companies, midstream companies, and manufacturers always focusing on measurement.

I know, firsthand, the critical role of measurement to our industry, which is why I am so committed to excellence in this discipline, which is just as important as engineering, geoscience, and other disciplines we may be more familiar with in the oil and gas industry. That is why I am so active in measurement education, including the International School of Hydrocarbon Measurement (ISHM) where I am an instructor and General Committee member. I am also a member of multiple committees for the American Petroleum Institute (API) and participate in other industry forums.

As director of measurement at W Energy Software, I am representing the users we are designing software for, truly building software for measurement professionals by a measurement professional. What’s exciting for me personally is that I get to build the next generation of measurement solutions, what we’re calling WE Measure. I’m taking my vast experience and applying it to building out our measurement product roadmap in tight collaboration with a dedicated development team. I am also leading our Measurement Product Consortium, a group of client partners who are interested in being early adopters of WE Measure and helping to drive the development and testing.

EE: In W Energy’s announcement there is a quote: “Until now, there has only been one game in town for measurement solutions …” What is this only one game in town? How long has the measurement sector been dominated by this company?

SA: There are a few commercial measurement products on the market but the one we’re talking about is probably the most well-known. As a measurement professional, I’ve used this software package for over a decade. The man who created that software first made a living out of manually integrating charts in Excel until he recognized there was an opportunity to better integrate electronic measurement data, seized the moment, and built a measurement product from scratch the industry could use to better handle the data. He always did right by the client through boom or bust and I always felt that as a measurement user, my voice was always heard. I admire his legacy. Now we’re seizing the moment and building our measurement product. W Energy Software is returning to customer commitment by centering WE Measure around the voice of the measurement community.

EE: Do you have a focus on hardware, too, or is it mostly software that W Energy has developed?

SA: The hardware is already out there in the oilfield, meters, SCADA and that kind of technology. These systems physically interface with everything up and down the value chain, from wellhead meters to gas meters on your house. All of this equipment is already transforming into the digital age.

The problem is the torrent of data from the hardware. WE Measure is a 100 percent software solution designed to manage an energy company’s inbound measurement data, which could be hundreds or thousands of data sources. The real task of orchestrating the flow is in the database architecture and applications that calibrate, validate and balance the measurements.

W Energy Software is not starting from scratch. Because of our unified software architecture and existing technology in areas such as production allocations and midstream meter functionality, we’ve already done a lot of the basic work for WE Measure. We’re leveraging this modern code base and building on it to rapidly stand up our measurement solution.

EE: Why is there a need for change when it comes to measurement in the energy value chain?

SA: The metering and other measurement hardware that feed into measurement data management systems have changed. Software needs to change too, in order to keep pace with the rapidly evolving digital oilfield and the emerging needs of the measurement community. Today’s users need modern Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions that take full advantage of the cloud and agile technology that can match their complex workflows.

Measurement is an especially important space where dialogue between technology providers and technology users is critical for aligning myriad use cases and business needs. I’m passionate about measurement, which is why I’m passionate about bringing back the voice of measurement users to ensure that all opinions, concerns and needs are continuously leveraged.

There is an opportunity to further serve the industry I love and be part of another change. That’s why we made our decision this year to step in and be part of the next revolution in oil and gas. We’re going to let the measurement community know that their voices matter and their needs are met.

EE: Can you provide an overview of W Energy Software’s range of upstream and midstream solutions and how your new measurement initiative fits in?

SA: The important thing to note about measurement is that it doesn’t take place in a vacuum. So many departments use measurement data in their workflows, and we have a lot of workflows across the energy value chain that are on the W Energy Software roadmap. We’re continuing to execute our vision of a fully unified oil and gas ERP platform built on the cloud that brings core upstream and midstream workflows together in one place. That has a couple of huge advantages over the dozens of current solutions still relied on by energy companies. The cloud and W Energy Software architecture drive down costs significantly. A unified ERP means applications and workflows share a common and consistent dataset, which eliminates redundancies, manual data management and human error. [It also] means applications share a common and intuitive user interface.

W Energy Software has a complete ecosystem of software applications powering the entire value chain. For upstream, this includes purpose-built accounting and general ledger, land management, production operations and regulatory solutions. On the midstream side, W Energy Software drives key workflows for financial accounting, plant accounting, liquids and gas transportation, terminal management and marketing.

Measurement and what I’m working on cut across all of these product areas, from the wellhead, tanks and field tickets through gathering, processing, storage, and points of sale for hydrocarbon products. All of these have meters and other data acquisition systems. With the advent of WE Measure, energy companies can realize innovation with their data, and clients will benefit from having their measurement data seamlessly integrated into the same platform that drives their upstream and midstream workflows.

EE: Could you say that your technology is a “digital twin,” or would you describe it as something else?

SA: Yep, that’s one way to look at our products. You really are creating a digital twin in a couple of ways. First, we’re duplicating physical meters and measurement points with digital representations. And this allows W Energy Software clients to digitally twin assets where measurement plays a central role, such as representing complex allocation networks, gathering and transportation systems, processing and storage terminals. Clients will use all of this measurement data to track actuals but for purposes of creating a digital twin, what’s interesting is how that data can be used to model “what if” situations, such as how to optimally load and balance a transportation network.

EE: With global energy markets in turmoil and the industry undergoing unprecedented change, why choose 2020 to make such a bold stride in your product line?

SA: It’s been a perfect storm for the oil and gas business. We have aging assets and infrastructure. There’s vintage measurement technology out in the field and legacy solutions back in the office. Additionally, there is a data management storm, which was already brewing before COVID-19 hit. While the industry is strong, many companies have been forced to go into survival mode this year.

Market turmoil has piled on top of an unprecedented imperative to accurately account for every drop of oil and MCF of gas to uplift margins as much as possible. This perfect storm has just underscored the vital importance of measurement even more, where upstream and midstream need more than ever to aggregate a vast array of measurement sources, validate that data, and get it into the hands of the professionals who need it, from accounting and field staff to management and boards of directors.

W Energy leadership saw the opportunity to invest in the industry it loves and wanted to help the companies, who produce, transport, and account for hydrocarbons, become more efficient. The energy sector needed another option to run such a critical aspect of its business and W Energy Software is going to partner with the industry to ensure it’s right on all fronts.

EE: What are the potential cost savings for a company, should they switch over to your new measurement software?

SA: That’s a great question. Cost is always a concern for any company. WE Measure is going to change that by tapping into the economy of scale offered by the cloud and W Energy Software’s application architecture. There are enormous savings just in terms of eliminating the total cost of ownership associated with in-house data infrastructure and servers as well as the associated G&A that comes with full-time admins and measurement techs. There’s also enormous value in having a client’s measurement data integrated into the same platform as its business software, which eliminates manual data wrangling, accelerates cycle time, and improves business performance. It all adds up to tangible cost reduction while also enhancing data integrity and accuracy, which translates to more accurate volume reporting. These system-gained efficiencies drop more revenue into the bottom line.

EE: Can you explain what the measurement product consortium is tasked to provide?

SA: Measurement is the life blood of the energy business. That’s why having new options for managing this critical data infrastructure is so important. As W Energy Software sets out to provide choice in the market, we want to do so in a very transparent and responsible way that ensures what we build for the industry perfectly aligns and matches business needs.

That’s where the Measurement Product Consortium will play such a vital role. Part of this is, of course, encouraging early adopters of our technology so we can actively work with live digital oilfield assets. We don’t want to design our measurement product from the armchair, so to speak, [but] rather get our boots on the ground and work directly with a wide variety of measurement users to battle test WE Measure.

The most important aspect of the Measurement Product Consortium is giving the industry representation in a technology initiative that will impact everyone in the value chain. That voice of the customer needs to be heard during all stages of what W Energy Software is designing, testing and deploying.

A simple analogy: The Measurement Product Consortium is like building a railroad from two sides of the country that has to meet in the middle. Well, W Energy Software is laying down track on one side and the industry on the other. It takes careful collaboration!

EE: Do you have any early adopters or client use cases that help tell the measurement story?

SA: We’ve attracted a lot of interest right out of the gate and with our recent announcement of Phillips 66 joining the Measurement Product Consortium, we’ve got the critical mass needed to really make bold strides. Phillips 66 is now working closely with W Energy Software to align the direction of WE Measure with its vast operational footprint that encompasses a wide range of midstream use cases, including gathering, transportation, storage and processing. 

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Eissler, former editor-in- chief of Oil & Gas Engineering magazine, previously worked as an editor for Dubai-based The Oil & Gas Year Magazine.

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