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Digital transformation presents potential for oil and gas companies

Aug 06, 2020
5 min read
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Sebastien Grau, Regional Sales Director Middle East & Sub Saharan Africa, Rockwell Automation talks to Julian Walker about why digital transformation could provide massive opportunities for oil and gas companies

What kind of digital transformation is the oil and gas industry facing?

Today, digital transformation presents massive potential for oil and gas companies, both onshore and offshore. The oil and gas industry requires a flexible environment to stay competitive. Making important investments in these technologies will ensure that companies in this sector have a solid platform in place to benefit especially from improved health, safety, and environmental performance. Digital technologies provide companies with better access to analytics tools and digital ways of working that help companies to better handle their data. Digitalising logistics planning will also ensure that vehicles show up on time and with the correct equipment.

Many innovative approaches are being explored in the oil and gas industry to improve overall performance and safety on rigs. The companies that are introducing these technologies and are building a connected digital oilfield are eliminating risk scenarios. There is a lot of learning involved and new ideas will continue to persuade operators to step up their game in technology innovation. At Rockwell Automation we encourage our clients to engage in digital transformation early, align the trends we see every day across your organisation, and develop comprehensive strategies to adopt these changes correctly.

What impact will COVID-19 have on companies looking to implement digitalisation in the energy sector?

The energy sector is severely affected by this crisis, which has slowed transport, trade and economic activity across the globe. Electricity demand is down significantly in many territories and the market for transport fuel has shrunk dramatically, as planes are grounded and movement restricted. The global oil industry is experiencing the biggest shock in its history, so oil and gas companies should implement solutions for automated adaptive planning and scheduling of production, logistics and service processes.

As per IEA, the implications of the pandemic for energy systems and clean energy transitions are still evolving but three areas in particular stand out:

  • Energy security remains a cornerstone of our economies, especially during turbulent times.
  • Electricity security and resilient energy systems are more indispensable than ever for modern societies.
  • Clean energy transitions must be at the centre of economic recovery and stimulus plans.

Now, companies must start thinking strategically about how they will adapt as the pandemic and markets evolve. The experience of COVID-19 will almost certainly accelerate momentum towards new ways of working, automation and digitalisation. Companies that are further along the curve in digitising their operations have already benefited from greater built-in resiliency during the crisis, reducing dependence on human resources. Greater investments in these areas will equip companies to maintain better business continuity in their supply chains, operations and customer management, reducing the load on their workforces. The businesses that lack a robust digital backbone or an online presence have struggled. The move to shift infrastructure from traditional data centres to the cloud, or a mix of on-premises and cloud computing, is already showing signs of acceleration.

The COVID-19 crisis has created a unique opportunity for digital professionals to apply creative thinking beyond the realms of comfort for most businesses – especially those that are more averse to change and risk.

Do you feel greater digital transformation will come about due to the market shifts brought on by COVID-19?

Yes, business leaders today are rightly focused on the huge business continuity challenges posed by COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, the organisations that were furthest down the digital transformation journey before COVID-19 struck are tending to adapt to the crisis better than their peers. Their business models and working processes meant that they were able to pivot more rapidly or accelerate changes already underway. Many businesses are already rethinking how to introduce greater virtualisation into many aspects of the business. Technological transformation will also have been given a boost by the experience of virtualisation and new ways of working by staff during the pandemic lockdown. It is likely to accelerate the move to a more mobile workforce, able to work virtually and at distance. Companies will want to consider what worked well during the crisis and look at the opportunities for future workforce productivity and flexibility.

How is Rockwell Automation helping oil and gas companies prepare for the digital transformation?

At Rockwell Automation, we believe that a Connected Enterprise is the key to success, and achieving one involves driving the decisions and actions that bring together people, processes and technology. When we combine the strengths of technology with an enthusiastic and engaged workforce, a lot is possible. We always encourage extreme cohesion from the top down. And as oil and gas companies need a flexible environment to stay competitive, Rockwell Automation’s role is to guide companies as they integrate digital solutions that can maximise the recovery of existing reserves, optimise production, and reduce downtime.

What technologies are you focused on in particular?

Rockwell Automation offers a wide range of technologies to meet the challenges faced by today’s industry. The PlantPAx system is one such technology, helping companies make better and faster decisions by enabling manufactures to respond more quickly to the demands of the customer and fast-changing specifications. This modern DCS uses a common automation platform for seamless integration between critical areas of the plant, and helps companies to drive productivity, increase efficiencies and reduce costs.

We also focus on the FactoryTalk Analytics platform. This technology is a bundled offering that includes FactoryTalk Analytics DataView, FactoryTalk Analytics DataFlowML, and FactoryTalk Analytics Edge. With FactoryTalk Analytics, our clients gain scalable analytics from the edge to enterprise and can ingest data from many different sources. FactoryTalk Analytics provides our clients with self-service machine learning and data mashups for collaborative data analysis.

This interview first appeared in the July issue of Pipeline Magazine