The new normal is digital

2020 has shown that digitalizing the energy industry is no more a matter of choice, it has become an urge to maintain stable operations while working remotely. That said, operators now have the chance to drive it efficiently and get the maximum value that digital solutions can offer.

Publication: Oil & Gas Technology

Pandemic: a catalyst for change 

At beginning of 2020most industrial players knew that digitalization would impact business sometime down the line. They had been presented with these futurist scenarios of end-to-end interconnectedness and complete insight, and yet they had heard of many digitalization projects that failed. 

Then a pandemic hit, and despite the challenges, new ways of working have been proven possible. The world was forced to stay at home and conduct their work remotely. People’s everyday lives were flipped upside down, and workers needed to find and learn how to use the solutions that allowed them to do their work efficiently, maintaining stable and safe operations, while interacting with people and the digital world. 

For operators who were one step ahead in digitalization, COVID-19 was a catalyst to accelerate the adoption and integration of technologies into their day to day workflow as they experienced the benefits directlyOther operators admit they would have been better equipped to handle their operations if they had been more digitally mature. 

In that sense, 2020 has shown the global O&G industry that the time is ripe to start digitalizing.

Digitalization in Oil & Gas 

The time to digitalize has come, but what is still preventing the operators from achieving successful digital transformations? Are energy companies actually working towards digitalization for their assets? Probably, yes. However, it has not been done most smartly and efficiently so far. 

In its survey from 2017, McKinsey asked the industry how effective they are on delivering value due to data challenges. Only 7% of organizations said they are very effective at reaching their primary objectives on data and analytics, and a staggering 48% of respondents said they are neutral or effective. 

The case is that energy companies struggle to implement technologies and obtain substantial value due to different challenges. The main pain points include low adoption, non-user-friendly solutions, the disconnection between the technology and business case, long time to capture initial resultsand overly large technology programs. 

Among the major trends perceived in the industry are the use of digital solutions to enable automation, democratize the data access and enable decision-making. The market indicates that companies will start looking for real bottom-line impact and agile transformations. Concerns on decarbonization, sustainability and cyber-security are becoming crucial as well. 

Digital solutions have already yielded opportunities at all levels in the oil and gas industry, notable in the offshore operations where cost is higher. The collection, contextualization and sharing of data in common user systems do not only enable the companies to break down the traditional silos between different expert groups. As more data are shared and technologies like AI are used, it is possible to unlock new value with large contextualized datasets, giving teams an improved foundation for decision-making in real-time and a spur for innovating for even more value.

Digital Twin as a digitalization enabler 

The path that the industry is taking to boost digital transformation and unlock data valuis the form of the digital twin. The term digital twin itself requires some form of elucidation as it is a term that it is over utilised by many vendors for any form of digital visualisation. 

Across the vendor and operator landscape, many use the term purely as information repositories. This often involves a 3D or 2D representation of the facility with corresponding documentation that is fed with data from the IT platform. But it is still a static representation of the facility, a snapshot in time. 

Static visualizations are helpful but insufficient. The digital twin of an asset can be empowered offering more functionalitiesEnabling full virtualisation and describing the current behaviour of the asset the twin becomes alive. In other words, an advanced digital twin besides being a copy of a physical facility, integrates and converge IT and OT, describes the real-time situation and, through Artificial Intelligence, predicts how the facility will behave over time. 

O&G operators can take advantage of digital twins to democratize information and knowledge across the assets. Through a scalable and cloud-based solution, data from different facilities around the globe are connected and can be accessed from anywhere and from different teams. Therefore, the twin enables enhanced collaboration and performance, safer operations and more efficient working.

 The path forward 

O&G operators have to digitalize smartly and efficientlyTools need to be connected to the business strategy and business valueTo create effective digital transformation and unlock real value, energy companies must select the right partners to help them at this journey. Agility and ability to adapt has showcased to be key, especially in challenging times. 

Digitalization is accelerating in O&G, and much of the sector is unlikely to revert to legacy working practices. The new normal is digital. Is your company ready to be part of it?