Oil and gas companies that make the best use of massive new amounts of digital information - so-called "Big Data" - will be the ones that remain most competitive, industry leaders heard on Monday.
Rapid advances in computing technology and a trend towards more affordable sensors in billions of objects and devices linked over the internet are now making enormous amounts data available to businesses, including ones in the exploration and production sector.
"We are facing an unprecedented time," said Ulises Mello, director of IBM Research Brazil, at the 21st World Petroleum Congress in Moscow.
Oil majors and drilling companies are now generating terabytes of data each day, he said.
Mello cited an example of an automated upstream Chevron facility off Nigeria that uses about 80,000 sensors, 1500 of which are located in so-called "intelligent" wells.
However, this sort of data creation and complexity is also creating challenges and in many cases is exceeding industry's capability to process and make use of it.
Celestine Vettical, vice president intelligent energy products & technology at Baker Hughes, said key challenges include the volume, velocity and variety of data.
Meanwhile, Arjen Dorland, executive vice president, technical and competitive IT at Shell, said the supermajor is targeting three main areas where it believes Big Data will have the greatest influence and provide new insights.
The collection and processing of data are helping Shell to de-risk exploration prospects while also improving the execution of capital projects and operational reliability of its assets, he said.