The term ''Real-Time Optimization'' (RTO) has rapidly found its way into common usage in the oil and gas industry, as it already has in many others. However, RTO in the oil and gas industry is usually used more as a slogan rather than describing a system or process that truly optimizes anything at all, let alone does so in real-time. In this paper, we describe what RTO means in the exploitation of hydrocarbons and what technologies are available now and are likely to be available in the future. We discuss how it is misunderstood and what real financial benefits await those who adopt it. Furthermore, we are working toward developing a method of classification to allow us to establish where a field operation lies on the RTO ladder, and to help plan a strategy to generate the benefits that moving up the RTO ladder can offer on specific fields and assets.
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