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Technology & Innovation

Creating the Oilfield of the Future
At Marathon Oil, technology and innovation are integral to our competitiveness and sustainability. We’re creating the oilfield of the future – an online, real-time, data-driven, digital way of working.

It’s automated and predictive, and combines innovation with operational excellence to increase efficiency, improve well and facility uptime, and improve safety and environmental performance. It does this at a lower cost that boosts our business performance.

In the field, the foundation for our digital oilfield is well established and the next generation is coming into view. We launched the digital oilfield operations control center (OCC) in our South Texas Eagle Ford asset in 2016, and continued expanding OCCs throughout our U.S. operations in 2018. Marathon Oil continuously seeks, pilots and adopts technology to make our field operations and staff even more safe, productive and efficient. We’re using high-performance databases to quickly interpret massive volumes of data generated from unconventional wells and facilities to proactively manage our production assets.

From this data, for example, machine learning provides predictive insights into individual wells and facilities that enable us to take actions before production streams are interrupted.
Bruce McCullough

Marathon Oil further leverages this data to monitor the overall health of the field in real time and to support operators in the field. Beyond managing our production assets each day, this data allows us to perform optimization to maximize production from our wells, and to see and predict trends that allow early intervention into anomalies. To ensure high performance and safe operations, we’ll continue to expand the capabilities of OCCs, drawing on digital technology, and well and facility automation.

In our North Dakota Bakken asset in 2018, the OCC staff collaborated with the completions team to develop and implement an application that automates the labor-intensive monitoring of nearby hydraulic fracturing jobs. In addition to saving time, the application has decreased deferred production and lowered lifting costs. By enabling control room operators to focus on higher-priority tasks, it has also improved efficiency and field support capability. Throughout our U.S. operations, we strengthened real-time field communications capabilities in 2018 by deploying a chat-based collaboration tool for instant messaging, voice, video and email. After quickly becoming the primary means of communication between OCCs and field operations, the tool has been supporting operational excellence.

At the subsurface level, Marathon Oil is coupling data with our understanding of geology and physics to explore for and produce oil and gas more accurately and efficiently. Using proprietary software with next-generation computation power, we are processing extremely complex models of unconventional reservoirs at very fast rates in new and creative ways that are improving well placement and completion designs. To support these designs, we apply advanced data analytics to reinforce our decisions about field development plans. Advanced data analytics also enable us to predict production very early in a well’s life, which allows us to optimize our capital budget, improve planning and provide early feedback on our field development plans.

Bruce McCullough
SVP, Technology & Innovation, and CIO

Encouraging Innovation

To encourage innovation, we sponsor an annual internal Innovation Exchange that highlights technology-based solutions and technologies targeting critical business challenges and opportunities for creating value in resource plays: inventory growth, improving returns and operational excellence. Besides our technical, engineering and geophysical personnel, the 2018 Innovation Exchange included Marathon Oil managers from human resources, health, environment and safety (HES) and supply chain discussing innovation; a luncheon keynote by entrepreneur and author Frans Johansson; and 50 poster sessions on our critical challenges, with a winner selected for each category. The day-long event was open to all employees.

We also hosted the first-ever SPE Gulf Coast Innovation and Entrepreneurship Symposium (IES) at our Houston headquarters in 2018. Two Marathon Oil employees gave presentations at the forum where entrepreneurs, investors and energy industry organizations could collaborate, share knowledge, learn and educate. In the context of the environment, geopolitics, industry image and other external challenges, IES attendees discussed ways technology and innovation can help address these issues and add value in the oil and gas sector. Hosting the symposium aligned with Marathon Oil’s commitment to engaging and using technology providers to add value.

In looking beyond our industry to solve problems, Marathon Oil is applying commercial technologies in new ways. For example, we’re employing computer vision, a form of artificial intelligence commonly used to read bar codes, to interpret visual images from field locations. Computer vision can help OCC staff detect leaks and spills at a well site much faster, and read tank levels that can then automatically dispatch haulers without requiring an operator to check the tank manually. We’re also applying logistics technologies in a field services management platform to improve work prioritization and workforce deployment.

This technology, commonly used in large-scale service and delivery companies, can dispatch the proper resources and materials to the field to mitigate issues more quickly and effectively. The result is improved well and facility uptime, with less time spent driving to field locations.


Digital technologies are integrated into all aspects of Marathon Oil’s business, including the systems to produce, distribute and transport oil and gas; third-party providers of services to collect, host and process information; and internet and other public networks for communications, services and storage such as third-party cloud computing. Like other companies in our industry and throughout the business world, Marathon Oil is exposed to cybersecurity risks. The Audit and Finance Committee of our board of directors regularly reviews the company’s operational risks, including cybersecurity. In addition, one board member has experience in or strong understanding of the technology issues facing the oil and gas industry.

Marathon Oil has sophisticated capabilities and uses proven technology to protect our business and assets against cyberattacks. Using third parties with deep knowledge of cyberattacks, we constantly assess potential vulnerabilities in our environment and make improvements as needed to reduce risks. We also provide training to employees on responsible, secure use of our computers and technologies.

We constantly assess potential vulnerabilities in our environment and make improvements as needed to reduce risks.
Bruce McCullough

As we continue to identify, implement and leverage information technology opportunities across our enterprise, Marathon Oil will seek both incremental innovations and breakthroughs to create the oilfield of the future.

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