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GE O&G '17: Oil and gas execs tout need for digitization, data analytics

By Adrienne Blume, Editor, Gas Processing and Executive Editor, Hydrocarbon Processing

FLORENCE, ITALY—During a late-morning panel discussion on the second day of GE Oil & Gas' Annual Meeting 2017, representatives from GE Oil & Gas, Aker BP, Woodside, Petronas, RasGas and SBM Offshore discussed how digitization and big data are driving trends in the oil and gas industry.

Building on digital experience. Moderator Matthias Heilmann of GE asked Aker BP CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik what digital means to his company. The CEO immediately answered, "Building on experience."

Mr. Hersvik pointed to other industries—such as aviation, media, advertising and public transportation—where huge amounts of data have been utilized to transform and advance operations and processes. The global oil and gas industry must work toward the same achievement, he said.

With regard to analytics, the CEO emphasized the importance of having "A common thread that allows users to consume and use the data." Much of this data may not be easily visible in 2D. It must be rendered to be visible and comprehensible to all parties that are sharing and using the data.

Hersvik added that digital efforts are "Not just about software [… A company's] digital agenda must exist alongside its business management agenda, its quality agenda and its approval agenda." It must transform value chains. "The key issue is to develop an architecture that is flexible and scalable, and allows you to develop new models," the CEO said.

Photo by Adrienne Blume.
Photo by Adrienne Blume.

Crew change can bring fresh perspective. Woodside Senior VP and CTO Shaun Gregory (Fig. 1) named "data to insights" as a key impact of digitization. He gave an analogy of a young worker, highly skilled in data analytics and information technology, debating with a 30-year veteran about the proper way to optimize a process. The veteran worker may say, 'This is what my experience tells me will happen,' but the younger analyst may argue, 'This is how the data says it's going to work.'

"We're seeing this happening a lot now" in plants between younger, more tech-savvy personnel and experience-hardened veterans, Gregory said. "But the two can learn from each other," which will encourage maximum optimization efforts.

Applying digital to different business segments. Mr. Heilmann then asked President and Group CEO of Petronas, Datuk Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin, to name three words associated with digital technology at his organization. "Competency, technology, and culture," Mr. Ariffin answered.

"Digital means different things to different parts of the business," the Group CEO added. It can mean transformation, simplification of operations and/or cost reductions. Also, company culture is extremely important to fostering the successful execution of a digital strategy, Mr. Ariffin noted.

In 2016, Petronas assembled a small group within the company to examine strategic digital applications. "It is important to have a successful digital strategy implementation […] that is not only focused on assets, but also focused on the experience we give to our customers, and how to create new revenue streams," Mr. Ariffin said. "It is a very holistic approach in terms of digital strategy."

Photo by Adrienne Blume.
Photo by Adrienne Blume.

"Data is power." RasGas COO Fahad M. Al-Khatar (Fig. 2) discussed digital technologies as being transformative for the industry. RasGas has used digital applications to improve the reliability of its facilities. "Now, we are at a 99% level of reliability," Mr. Al-Khatar noted. Through digital event prediction, RasGas hopes to achieve 1% additional reliability. "I believe software will take us there," the COO said.

"The only thing I regret is that we didn't start earlier" on integrating digital and data, he added. "In order to improve everything else, we need to make sure [digital integration] is successful."

When Mr. Heilmann asked Mr. Al-Khatar if he had any advice to share on digitization efforts, the COO answered, "Data is power. Making sure that all analytics are based on real data is key. This will change or shape the organization differently, especially with regard to skill sets. Engineers, technicians, diagnostics—we need them to be thinking strategically about how we should continue to innovate, and how to utilize the skill sets of our people."

Data is a fundamental building block. Last but not least, Bruno Chabas, CEO of SBM, spoke about digital technologies and data analytics as the "architecture" and "backbone of systems." Data must be lean to improve flow efficiency and quality, he said. "It will also be experimental. In order to succeed, we have to experiment."

Mr. Chabas also advised companies to challenge the established order. "Gathering this data might change the perception of what we are doing and what is right. We need to be able to change our perception of how we should work."

Stay tuned for more coverage. More coverage of key speaker presentations from the GE Oil & Gas Annual Meeting is forthcoming. Keep an eye on this space for updates!

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