The digital scale-up can keep oil and gas fields running, even remotely
There hasn’t been much good news for the upstream oil and gas industry over the past few months. The price and demand for oil are plunging, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, and longer-term challenges such as budget and schedule overruns as well as climate change are weighing on the industry.
Rather than hunker down and wait out the storm, the oil and gas companies that will emerge as leaders from this crisis are exploring opportunities to boost efficiency and lower production costs. Through greater adoption of the digital platforms and application, together with mining data generated from the existing infrastructures, producers will have a better chance of surviving the current challenges and enable the remote operation capabilities that will help the industry keep the lights on.
Broadly, the oil and gas industry is no stranger to big data, technology and digital innovation. As early as the 1980s, oil and gas companies began to adopt digital technologies, with a focus on better understanding a reservoir’s resource and production potential, improving health and safety, and boosting marginal operational efficiencies at oil fields around the world. A wave of digital oilfield initiatives swept through most of the industry in the 1990s and the early part of this century. However, for most of this decade, the industry has not taken full advantage of the opportunities that derive from using data and technology. A single drilling rig at an oilfield, for example, can generate terabytes of data every day, but only a small fraction of it is used for decision-making.
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Our top priority at Siemens Energy is to provide the technology needed to keep the industry running and to assist in the journey to unlock the full potential of digitalization. Here are six recommendations that can help the oil and gas industry keep up with – and stay ahead of – digital transformation – particularly during the current time of disruption and uncertainty:
1) Automated operation:
Thousands of manual operations can be distilled and refined into a small number of automated processes, managed by the touch of a button. Upstream operations and maintenance are among the largest expenses for oil and gas companies. Automating manual portions of that process, like valves and pump control or field reading (operators round), can significantly reduce safety risks and costs.
2) Digital control centers and remote monitoring:
We now have the technology that allows experts to remotely operate production as well as inspect and maintain facilities from control rooms a half a world away. This is proving crucial in the current environment of severe travel restrictions and social distancing.
3) Predictive analytics:
As sensors become more affordable and robust, overall asset health can be monitored more efficiently. Collating this data gives operators a better overview of the condition of their assets, and by looking at patterns, they can predict when equipment might fail.
With all this connectivity, organizations face increased targeted attacks, malware and ransomware. But the oil and gas industry has an additional risk to its operation technology. Companies need to make sure that people – whether they’re contractors or employees, are aware of the cybersecurity vulnerabilities and the processes they need to follow.
5) Connected workers, drones and robotics:
To improve workplace safety and reduce labor costs, drones and other robots are moving into more operational areas, including high-risk areas. This will require data sharing across equipment and command centers using Industry 4.0 for operations, reliable data exchanges, cyber security, and cloud storage.
6) New processes and structures:
Digital transformation will require organizations to implement a focused digital strategy. It will also need investment and commitment to revisit and revamp processes, infrastructure and systems; and a willingness to collaborate across the ecosystem.
Today, the volatile oil market is not just an opportunity to tighten operational efficiency: it’s an opportunity for the industry to revitalize itself. The digital scale-up across the industry will eventually lead to a new era of companies. These companies will be leaders in innovation, resulting in faster, more agile product rollouts, deployments, and feedback loops, as well as an increased focus on cyber security and enterprise-wide data sharing.
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