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Digital oilfields are changing the oil and gas landscape

Aug 10, 2020
4 min read
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Georges EL MIR, Vice President - Oil, Gas and Petrochemicals Schneider Electric spoke to Julian Walker about why digital technology is helping change the oil and gas landscape

How is the oil and gas landscape changing through digital technology?

Digital technology is providing the oil and gas industry with the right toolset to address the challenges it is facing around efficiency and sustainability. By making data available and by breaking the siloes across their organisations, the digital technology adopters have become more agile and are better equipped to drive faster decisions that impact positively their business. The most resilient companies are the ones that have adopted digital technologies and these companies will be the winners going out of the current crisis. In a lower barrel price environment, oil and gas companies must reduce CAPEX and OPEX spending while increasing reliability, safety and sustainability. 

How will the digital oilfield improve the work flows of operators?

Digital solutions provide oil and gas operators with knowledge and anticipation of assets’ performance using very sophisticated yet effective machine learning algorithms. Real time consistent information empowers the operators to make the right decisions and actions for each well. For example, artificial lift digital control and monitoring with edge analytics allows detection of possible future failures, hence enabling maintenance planning, optimising logistics and man-hours and most importantly reducing downtime. Another example is Digital Mobility solutions that automate and digitise maintenance routines, reducing time for routines tests, reducing paper work and optimising maintenance team. Dataflow between siloed systems becomes seamless with new platforms. This allows efficient information exchange between all the teams and as such improving processes and workflows.

What are the main technology components of a digital oilfield? 

Digital transformation is not only about technology, it’s about technology, process and people and must create business value like improving efficiency, increasing profitability and improving safety and sustainability. Digital oil fields address areas like operational efficiency, production optimisation, collaboration, decision support at operator and enterprise levels, data integration and workflow automation. While one of the important steps is connecting the wells and making different sets of data available for the scattered wells, transforming this data into advanced analytics and insights and making it available to the right teams is where the value stands. These insights will enable higher levels of collaboration among the various disciplines and empower the operators to make decisions with stronger business impacts.

A digital platform like EcoStruxure for Oil & Gas interconnects the different technology layers described as (1) sensors and field devices generating data, (2) the edge controllers including the control and scada systems and (3) the software, analytics and applications. This enables the flow of data and insight creation to be shared among the different disciplines and provides the foundation for asset management, energy management, production management, well management and supply chain management. This has to be done on a cybersecure platform, on premise or on the cloud, the latter being a great collaboration enabler.

As an example, machine learning solutions like EcoStruxure Autonomous Production Advisor of Schneider Electric provides artificial lift well failure prediction allowing for integration between legacy well site automation technologies, edge computing, cloud and AI.

What advantages can technology offer in terms of efficiency?

Technology and digital are the fastest route towards efficiency since they bring improved visibility on the business drivers, allowing through insights and prediction to drive better and faster decisions.

Technology increases reliability and safety while reducing total cost of ownership by:

  • In CAPEX phase: reducing engineering intensity and rework while improving schedule certainty
  • In Operations phase: Increasing equipment lifetime and maximizing production through detection and prediction of abnormal operating conditions. This yields to an improvement of the overall supply chain and better safety achievements.

Are companies ready for the digital wave?

It’s not a matter of readiness anymore, it’s a matter of survival.

Post 2014, the oil and gas companies had been looking for solutions to reduce capex and improve the production of their fields and digitalisation has been the best answer to address those challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic and new oil price reality will certainly accelerate decision for digitalisation of oilfields. The question is not if digital will come, this is certain. The key question is how to implement successfully.

This interview first appeared in the July issue of Pipeline Magazine