Big impact

As Vasuki Upadhya explains, emerging technologies in automation and machine learning are ready to help oil and gas companies reduce capital expenditure and operating costs, and boost efficiency

Digital technology has brought increasing amounts of experimentation within enterprises in the oil and gas industry. Its ability to challenge the historic ways of working and delivering value has seen oil and gas companies redesign their operations and rethink the future of their business. Digital capabilities that can help solve real world business problems provide companies with exciting transformational opportunities.

Whether it is enhancing user experience, increasing the speed of delivery or creating a more agile delivery model, digital technologies enable executives to address the issues oil companies are faced with. However, with so many digital technologies available it can be hard for businesses to determine which ones to implement or invest in. Before considering this, it is important that companies consider the areas where digital technology could make the biggest impact within their company.

Digital priorities
Wipro’s energy industry expertise and global partnerships with oil and gas companies has highlighted that the top digital priorities should include:

Customer experience
The days of a rigid approach to customer service are gone. Today’s customers are more empowered, educated and demanding than ever before. Oil and gas companies now need to be able to deliver customer relationships that are personal, seamless and immediate. As highlighted by Gartner, 89 per cent of companies think they now compete solely on customer experience. In order to meet this changing dynamic, oil and gas companies need to look through their customer journey to identify the points that could create the most friction for a customer, and then identify and source the correct digital technologies to reduce friction and meet the needs of the customer.

Supply chain
Many oil and gas companies face the challenge of getting the right type of oil, in the right amount, at the right time to the right place. However, the efficient supply chain becomes a more achievable goal with the use of digital technology. With the use of the correct technological solutions, the supply chain can become more optimised, efficient and agile.

Asset management and operations
The oil and gas industry is asset and operations heavy, with surveillance, inspection and maintenance processes still largely manual. This opens up the opportunity to make substantial gains in efficiency through using technology like remote monitoring and augmented reality capabilities.

Decision making
With the large amounts of data that oil companies have amassed over the years, analytical technologies will provide the ability for companies to make smarter, quicker and more accurate decisions.

The key technologies
So once the digital priority areas are identified, what are the key technologies that can deliver the required improvements? At Wipro we believe there are six key technologies that require the attention of oil and gas businesses looking to improve their competitiveness:

Automation is a prominent technology, adopted to automate the repetitive processes that absorb a lot of time and effort. Chatbots are an example of this, they enable a seamless process by automating the user’s interaction with a system, providing a fulfilling and consistent user experience for the customer – anytime, anywhere. Robotic automation can also provide solutions to heavily manned operations in hazardous areas or hostile environments, helping oil and gas companies with complex operations like identifying the mechanical deformities in the flare burning chimneys at refineries or conducting a drone based inspection for leakage detection along pipelines.

Advanced analytics
The industry has large amounts of data which has not yet been exploited. If this data is harnessed correctly, advanced analytics models can help drive predictive asset maintenance. This will enable oil and gas companies to predict failures of equipment ahead of time, allowing them to take proactive steps to avoid unplanned downtime and production loss. Similarly, it can help predict the corrosion levels and leakages in linear assets.

The possibilities of advanced analytics applies to just more than maintenance processes. It can also provide similar benefits in the supply chain, allowing companies identify the right mode of transport based on the product and the quickest route in order to ensure the cost effective and timely delivery of goods.

Big data
Oil and gas companies have amassed large amounts of data over the years, now digital technologies can help bring that data in to a format that allows companies to take advantage of it. With correlations being identified that were once unknown, technology data-driven insights can drive more accurate decision-making – allowing the organisation to become more adaptable in volatile market conditions.

Augmented reality
This technology offers great opportunities for oil and gas companies, bringing to life operational characteristics through an interactive 3D object model that can greatly improve productivity and understanding. For example, the 3D visualisation of drilling operations or 3D visualisation of turbine operations provides the ability to visualise the project and focus in on assessing and analysing the condition of components.

Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT)
This dense network of operational sensors can provide real-time data while using machine learning to quickly solve operational problems. Industry grade sensors/devices are manufactured and deployed at almost half the cost of OEM provided sensors without vendor lock-ins. Low powered long distance communication network provides reliable connectivity with simplified network topology at lesser maintenance costs.

Blockchain adoption in the oil and gas industry is still in the early stages with companies currently exploring blockchain adoption in the areas of trade delivery management and settlements, product provenance in the supply chain network and new energy economies of Peer to Peer Energy trading.

3D printing
This technology is in the early stages of adoption by the industry, primarily focused on reducing the inventory cost of critical high value components, which normally has a longer lead-time. Traditional spares and inventory management can be partly replaced by on-demand and on-site production of spares using 3D printing. Currently the focus is on to assess and identify the business case for 3D printing in the area of just-in-time printing of non-metallic components.

In summary, the goal of an oil and gas company should be to identify the areas where they believe digital technologies will make the biggest impact. From there, they should re-imagine their processes with the capabilities digital technologies can offer, assessing each one carefully. When this is done and the technology is implemented correctly, a business will be in a better position to meet the challenges of the industry, adapt to the changing needs of the consumer and enhance its operational agility.

Wipro Limited
Vasuki Upadhya is Lead Architect – Energy, Natural Resources and Utilities Strategic Business Unit, Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company. It has over 160,000 dedicated employees serving clients across six continents and harnesses the power of cognitive computing, robotics, cloud, analytics and emerging technologies.

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