Georges El Mir, vice president - Oil and Gas for Europe and Africa at Schneider Electric speaks to Pipeline Magazine about urgent needs in asset management to optimise oil and gas companies’ operations
What are priorities you see that need to be addressed in asset management systems implementation in GCC/ Middle East?
In the era of the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0, the biggest priority in the Arabian Gulf’s oil and gas asset management is the need to connect the assets, collect the data and analyse it as part of wider digital transformation agendas to enhance their asset management journeys. Energy firms that are early adopters of the convergence of IT and OT can gain new opportunities for collaboration, driving profits, and maximising return on capital on assets throughout their lifecycle.
What core operations are changing with new and advanced asset management systems?
Arabian Gulf oil and gas firms will be able to harness the power of four key themes for their asset management transformation: digitising the mobile workforce with augmented reality, achieve operational excellence, leverage open connectivity to share data in real-time, and use cloud and predictive analytics to prevent asset failures. This will lead to lowering the maintenance cost and reducing idle and unscheduled downtime.
How can asset management systems help reduce cost and improve productivity?
Deployment of cost effective wireless sensors, easy cloud connectivity (including WAN) and data analytics, will improve asset performance. These tools allow data to be easily gathered from the field and converted into actionable information in real time. This will result in better business decisions and forward looking decision-making processes as well as solutions that optimise and stabilise process performance and reduce energy usage, thereby achieving the highest level of performance and reliability from critical assets. Moreover, predictive maintenance and machine learning is providing fault prediction capabilities, allowing to prevent unplanned downtime, therefore drastically reducing the cost of these outages. It also allows a better planning of maintenance actions, hence reducing operators’ presence on the fields and improving the safety environment for operators. Showing the business benefits of digital transformation, Schneider Electric customers that have implemented asset performance management strategies have improved asset utilisation by 30 per cent, reduced unplanned downtime by 25 per cent, and increased asset availability by 20 per cent.
What is the scope of business growth in Middle East in this area?
In the upstream the main target of the oil and gas players is to maximise their production while operating efficiently. Digital oilfields are a pressing topic in the Arabian Gulf, with a major focus on asset management to increase profitability and efficiency. As oil prices have rebounded, the early adopters of digital asset management, tied to wider digital transformation strategies and upskilling of staff, are seeing stronger competitiveness and will be ideally-positioned to withstand long-term market shocks. The region will also see massive investment in the downstream where more and more integration will happen with the aim of value creation and throughput maximisation. In the region, Schneider Electric is exchanging best practices with the leading oil and gas firms on their digital transformation. For example, we are enabling Kuwait Oil Company to train employees on how to address refinery tasks quickly and efficiently with smart and immersive virtual reality training.
How much is this related to a general adoption of digitalisation in the region?
The Arabian Gulf’s digital transformation is definitely having a major impact on the oil, gas, and energy sectors, as firms look to maximise return on assets, bridge the IT/OT gap, reduce unscheduled downtime, optimise asset utilisation, and increase operational efficiency. We’ve reached a “tipping point” in digital transformation for energy firms – it is no longer an ‘if’, but a ‘when’, as energy firms that are early adopters of digital transformation are seizing market share. In the coming months, we expect increased interest and take-up of pivotal technologies such as the cloud, the Industrial Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality, which can serve as the next step in business catalysts and digital transformation.