Any stakeholder in the oil trade understands that today’s oil and gas sector is operating in a precarious environment. The sector still offers unique opportunities, with oil accountable for about 35% of the world’s energy needs, but there is a high level of risk and volatility involved. For a few years now, the sector has coped with dwindling prices and weak demand, but it has now turned to technology so as to stay relevant. The sector, in comparison to other industries, has been slow to innovate. However, to now save itself, it requires digital transformation so as decrease cost and margin pressures as well as achieve operational excellence.
Faced with this reality, the cash-rich oil and gas sector has taken huge strides in making technology part of its core strategy. Here are the top trends in the sector currently:
Robots are becoming more familiar in the oil and gas sector, with adoption being fueled not only by the pressure to reduce costs, but also the need to improve the safety of human workers in a rather dangerous environment. Generally, robots are great and efficient in performing complex repetitive tasks, and there are plenty of those in the oil and gas sector, such as connecting drill pipes and replacing broken or defective equipment.
There has been significant investment in robots in the sector. Currently, though, the most popular robot is the Iron Roughneck, developed by National Oilwell Varco Inc. The robot has helped cut costs of the drilling company as well as improve the safety of oil rig workers.
In a sector where real-time data and quick decision making impacts the bottom line of companies by the second, cloud computing has had a natural appeal. Oil and gas companies require instant access to data from oil fields and drilling platforms, so they can make important decisions quickly. Yet, in the sector, individual companies’ information is highly classified and very sensitive. This explains the low adoption of cloud computing in the industry, with companies less eager to compromise their data.
Despite this, great progress has been made in this regard and companies in the oil and gas sector are embracing cloud computing with a view to achieving scalable computing power and the seamless availability of data. Companies are likely to embrace a hybrid form of cloud computing, which combines software as a service (public cloud) and software infrastructure as a service (private cloud), thus further enhancing security as well as bringing IT costs down.
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Internet of Things
Internet of Things (IoT) is basically the capture, analysis and making use of data generated by networked objects and machines. In an industry as diverse as oil and gas, IoT brings about endless possibilities. Data is now treated as hydrocarbon – there is generation, communication, storage and processing. IoT integrates sensing, communications, and analytical abilities to bring more value in the management of existing company assets, customer relations and supply chains.
Wearables are an integral part of IoT and currently, there are companies using devices, such as Smart Helmets and Glasses. The devices, through IoT, can project augmented reality and images of sensor dials with no need to be physically near them.
Ultimately, IoT will enable the seamless flow of data from the fields to the boardroom. This will not only cut costs, but also enhance safety, process optimization, and better decision making.
4D seismic technology
Seismic technology helps in mapping and the interpretation of hydrocarbon reserves. Oil and gas companies perform 3D seismic surveys repeatedly, and when this is done over time, they are able to create 4D seismic images. Thus, 4D seismic technology is basically time-lapse seismic reservoir monitoring. 4D data helps in the effective mapping of bypassed oil reserves, in understanding of fluid flow patterns, in improving the quality of reserve description as well as the monitoring of expensive injection programs.
The costly nature of deep sea exploration as well as the need to efficiently value the worth of residual oil in existing fields has given 4D seismic technology much attention as companies seek to minimize drilling risks and maximize profitability in a dynamic and uncertain industry. 4D seismic also boosts the efficiency of existing oil wells, which consequently reduces the need of additional wells or drilling.
Every stakeholder in the oil trade agrees on one thing: the price of ‘black gold’ will always be volatile. In such an inherently risky environment, oil and gas companies that aspire to not only survive, but also to thrive, must be able to create business models that can easily adapt to prevailing market conditions. It is this flexibility that technology brings to the table. By integrating the above emerging technologies, the oil and gas industry can realize near immediate impact by optimising production, enhancing efficiency, improving the quality of decision making and reducing costs. It is even more appealing as technology helps enhance the safety of human workers as well as boost environmental conservation measures.