The oil and gas industry has been at the forefront of technology since the first modern oil wells were constructed in the industrial era. More than 150 years later, innovation is transforming the sector for the digital age, as energy embraces a leaner, greener future.
Digital transformation and the pandemic
Although data is now the driving force behind businesses across the commercial world, value creation from digital technology is far from uniform across sectors. For many reasons-from legacy systems to cultural factors-oil and gas has been a lagging adopter in the digital realm.
Along with many parts of the global economy, that changed when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and focused the need for data-driven insights to shape adaptive business strategies in uncertain times.
The need for remote solutions and automation to enable business continuity in an increasingly contact-free working environment, galvanized the resolve of those reticent to embrace digitalization.
Compelled by the necessity of a public-health emergency, companies with only tentative inroads into digital transformation would start to depend on it for survival. In the process, they elected a way of working that not only increased operational insights, efficiency and safeguarded their people in the pandemic, but also set them up to reduce risks and drive down costs in the new normal to come.
The benefits of going digital
Oil and gas companies are increasingly facing up to the demands of "the dual challenge"-the need to meet the world's growing energy demand while simultaneously acting on climate concerns. Alongside this, the industry is combatting the reality of a skills shortage and an impending wave of retirements.
When addressing these issues, digital transformation means far more than just using digitalized hardware and software to speed up and slim down processes across an organization, it is about reshaping the whole way that business is conducted to do more with less, and better.
Through digital adoption, we are increasingly able to reduce the long and complex planning cycles inherent in the energy industry, using AI-supported analyses to drive performance-improving decisions.
The ability to monitor processes in real-time, is allowing us to optimize production and maintenance, maximizing uptime and forward-planning interventions.
Wide-scale automation is liberating valuable personnel from repetitive tasks, allowing their talents to be utilized in other fields at the same time as removing the possibility of human error from critical functions.
Digital technology is enabling those same professionals to be more interconnected than ever before, ensuring that data can flow freely across siloed workspaces. Edge computing, as provided by the Agora edge AI and IoT solutions, where data is processed close to the source, rather than though a centralized server or cloud-based location-is empowering project teams with near real-time, actionable insights and rewiring the age-old disconnect between the back office and frontline.
Novel AI and machine learning are helping companies to make better decisions at speed, delivering greater operational control and creating the datapoints needed to optimize operational and production performance.
Although transformational in their own right, none of these innovations can make a difference across an organization unless they are scalable. The benefits of digital adoption at the single-asset level will remain stranded unless multiplied to fit the whole enterprise. This is perhaps the biggest challenge-converting ambition into change.
As investors eye ever faster returns, Schlumberger has applied transformative digital solutions with partners across the globe, realizing stunning advances in exploration and production for customers, with a raft of accompanying benefits.
Working with Austrian integrated oil, gas, and chemicals company, OMV, the automation of workflows, repetitive tasks, and the collation of past-project data into a single, shared environment, cut the concept selection process for onshore development from two weeks to just two days. Having deployed the DrillPlan coherent well construction planning solution, this 600% improvement allowed OMV to map out eight wells in the time it would normally take to plan one.
Similarly, in collaboration with Australia's largest independent dedicated oil and gas company, Woodside, we developed an agile reservoir-modeling solution using the cloud-based DELFI cognitive E&P environment that reduced field-development planning from 18 months to just eight days.
In a world where efficiency, competitiveness and protecting revenues will always be an important factor, digital technology will be the differentiator that actively drives the achievement of these goals.
Whether it is production optimization of a single well, composition of feasibility studies for carbon capture and storage projects or the huge, global challenge of energy transition, digital transformation in oil and gas is a fundamental part of a sustainable future, both commercially and environmentally.