Mark McCollum, President and CEO, Weatherford International, on digitalisation, data analysis technology, and bringing on the next generation of talent in the workforce in order to usher in an era of greater efficiency and productivity across the oil and gas sector
What is the major challenge that the industry faces and how can it best be tackled?
One long-time industry concern is creating sustainable supply to meet the ever-growing demand for energy. We can tackle this challenge by developing new ways to deliver more productivity at lower operating costs. Over the past several years, reduced well economics due to lower oil prices and an increase in cash flow discipline by operators have led to underinvestment in the global supply base. We need to challenge ourselves and focus on superior engineering, digital software, and inter-industry collaborations to grow our capabilities to improve well economics and productivity.
What are the main opportunities for the industry and where can they take us in the future?
Some areas of opportunity with huge potential are automation and digitalisation—including principles such as the Internet of Things, Big Data, and Machine Learning—not only for production but also for drilling. The last decade focused on intelligent completion design. Now the frontier is applying digital technology to other life-cycle segments. We can remove personnel from high-risk areas, improve the training of on board personnel, and increase the predictability of operations.
What more can be done in the digital area to add to efficiency, safety, and productivity?
As we harness all the Big Data we hold as an industry, we can develop more advanced models that identify and avoid points of failure early.
With these predictive models, we can reduce non productive time during well construction and increase uptime during production. Furthermore, we can identify best practices in specific situations and employ them time and again.
Is the oil and gas workforce trained to the necessary level to take advantage of this potential?
The industry’s talent profile requires a change. We need to create a workforce that strikes the right balance between technical and technological brainpower. While traditional oil and gas disciplines such as engineering are critically important, we also need expertise in digital operations, software engineering, and data science.
What opportunities exist within the industry for young talent and how much do you value new thoughts and ideas?
There is ample opportunity for young talent in the oil and gas industry, and we value their contributions. At Weatherford, we are firmly committed to recruiting new employees and accelerating their development. For example, our NextGen programme identifies the next generation of company leadership. In the first year of the programme, we hired approximately 200 graduates to participate in a five-year structured rotation. We intend to increase this number every year and to hire a significant percentage of females.
Recent financial predictions for the company have been extremely positive.
What investments can you attribute this success to?
We are continually investing in technologies that pass value onto our customers. One recently commercialised technology—our Magnus rotary steerable system—offers a cost-effective tool that reliably functions in nearly all well conditions. We have also made investments in managed pressure drilling (MPD) and artificial lift.
We introduced our Pressure Pro onshore MPD control system, which puts simple and precise pressure management in our customers’ hands, and we formed an alliance with Valiant Artificial Lift solutions to distribute electrical submersible pumps, or ESPs, around the globe.