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Many companies in the oil and gas (O&G) sector have deployed computer technologies and automation to increase efficiency. Now, as global demand for energy rises amid volatile market conditions, oil and gas leaders are going further to embrace digitalisation through the use of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, cloud computing, and advanced analytics.

This shift to Business 4.0 strategies can create greater value, but it also raises new challenges. Data management, worker preparedness, and security vulnerabilities must all be addressed.

Managing A Deluge Of Data

More than 80 percent of Asia Pacific O&G executives surveyed in DNV GL’s latest industry report[1] agreed their companies now need to embrace digitalisation to increase profitability, up from 70 percent in 2018 and 51 percent two years ago. Almost half (49 percent) cited digitalisation as their top technology priority for 2019, with the IoT as the main area of investment.

Sensor data from connected devices in the oilfield or refinery can certainty provide meaningful insights. For example, real-time monitoring can allow equipment to be adjusted onsite for better performance and enable predictive maintenance and planned replacement.

However, given the operational complexity of oilfields and refineries and the many kilometres of pipeline in use today, digitalisation projects can result in a deluge of data that few O&G companies are prepared for. Adding to the challenge, this data may be expensive to collect, contaminated by inaccurate or useless information, and hard to interpret. Our challenge is to extract, clean, store, and process the vast amount of data generated by IoT deployments to produce actionable intelligence that supports business decisions.

Creating A Digital-Ready Culture

Once technologies are in place to digitise services, operations, and processes, the next challenge is to make sure that the implemented solutions can and will be used. Creating a digital-ready culture includes equipping workers to make the most of Business 4.0 solutions through upskilling and investing in digital literacy. It is also likely to require a mindset shift.

Working in an exacting and safety-conscious industry, O&G staff in field service and managerial roles are necessarily cautious in the face of change. Good data-backed analytics give credence to data-based decisions and allow for technological and operational changes that improve efficiency, profitability, and safety.

Coping With Evolving Cyber Threats

The convergence of information technology and operational technology systems and the rise of IoT increases vulnerabilities for O&G companies. At the same time, cyber-attacks are growing in both number and sophistication. Data theft remains the aim for most cybercriminals, but core systems, such as industrial controls, are increasingly being hacked to cause harm by disrupting and destroying infrastructure.

Building A Resilient Digital Spine

To overcome these challenges and maximise the benefits of digitalisation, O&G companies need to develop the right framework: a digital spine that encompasses methodology, skills, technology, and infrastructure – all customised according to their needs.

This framework will include intelligent, agile, and automated Business 4.0 technologies on the cloud, with cybersecurity solutions as the overarching layer.

Analytics solutions, integrated with real-time monitoring and visualisation, are crucial, but different types of O&G companies will use them in different ways. For example, upstream companies may use analytics to optimise drilling operations with robotics on rigs, while midstream operators are interested in pressure monitoring and supply forecasting, and downstream companies commonly want to find ways to improve equipment reliability and support price optimisation.

Extracting Timely Insights

With a strong and resilient IT system in place as the core of the digital spine, the next challenge for O&G companies is to process the vast amount of data generated by their connected infrastructure to produce actionable intelligence.

O&G companies need to address their flow of data with the same discipline and level of care they take to monitor the flow of product. Using an advanced analytics-driven approach lets us glean granular insights that can improve throughput, asset life, and safety. For instance, analytical insights from the oilfield have led to lower lifting costs (by identifying areas where operator training can be enhanced) and fewer failures (by assessing equipment failure signatures).

Partnering For Success

The key to ensuring these insights are effective is to start small, dig deep, and learn and build in an agile manner. Business 4.0 provides O&G companies with the tools to do this. However, finding the right managed data services provider partner can mean the difference between achieving desired outcomes and struggling under a deluge of data and cyberattacks.

The right partner helps O&G companies gain access to quality data and derive timely insights from it to make informed business decisions, exponentially increasing the value of that data and its positive impact on margins.

Article by Tom Franklin, Industry Advisor and Director of the TCS Energy & Resources Center of Excellence for Business Performance


[1] Source: “A Test of Resilience”, https://www.dnvgl.com/news/rising-confidence-set-to-boost-spending-by-asia-pacific-oil-and-gas-industry-in-2019-as-cost-control-loosens-137660

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