ONS 2016: A laboratory for innovation, primed for digital transformation

By Michele Stangarone, President & CEO, Europe, GE Oil & Gas on 8/30/2016

The oil and gas industry is at a turning point. While global energy demand continues to rise, an increasingly constrained operational landscape means that higher efficiency and smarter cost management continue to be the main focus areas for operators and manufacturers alike.

For the North Sea, which has historically served as a hub of innovation for the entire industry, the current landscape offers significant opportunities for it to once again assume a trailblazing role and signpost the way to a more sustainable future.

In the past, this region has acted as an incubator for the wider industry, breaking new ground by adopting and refining the use of new technologies as well as pioneering best practice and industry models, which have been exported around the world.

There has been general consensus among industry players that, given the surge in operating cost that characterized the past few years, oil and gas in general—and the offshore sector in particular—are calling for a more efficient and cost-effective way to manage project development and operations. The current economic climate is further exacerbating this necessity, providing new opportunities to reshape the way we work across the value chain to build sustainable growth for the long-term future.

The question for our industry is no longer can we afford to make process and technological shifts to facilitate longer-term productivity; it is can we afford not to.

Digital solutions as part of everyday operations can be a game-changer. At GE, we believe that enhanced data visibility and a more widespread use of analytics and insights has the potential to fuel business outcomes. This is much more than a response to the current market decline; it’s a way to weave a digital thread across operations, making the industry leaner, more productive and more agile.

The data currently collected on offshore platforms is used mostly for anomaly detection and control, not optimization and prediction—where it can add the most value . For example, on a typical offshore oil rig there are 30,000 sensors continuously generating data. However, less than 1% of the data generated is used to make decisions.

One of the most impactful ways digital can drive value is by implementing Asset Performance Management (APM) to improve the reliability and availability of assets while reducing unnecessary or unplanned maintenance downtime. APM at GE is a suite of software products developed on Predix, GE’s operating system for the industrial internet, connecting physical assets to the digital world. APM connects standalone data sources and uses advanced analytics to turn that data in actionable insights while fostering collaboration and knowledge management across the organization and minimizing the total cost of ownership. This allows industrial businesses to operate faster, smarter and more efficiently.

In today’s climate, we know uptime is more precious than ever. Using APM to monitor and analyze performance data also enables maintenance optimization. In other words, reducing downtime through analytics-based, planned work management, rather than reactive, ad-hoc maintenance. This helps operators ensure the health, integrity and performance of their equipment in a truly revolutionary way.

In 2015, five of the top oil and gas companies in the world spent approximately 55 times more money on assets (property, plant and equipment; PP&E) than on other general expenses (selling, general and administrative; SG&A.) In such an asset-centric industry as oil and gas, operators can deploy digital solutions to get the most value out of their assets and achieve optimised uptime, cost-efficiency, productivity, and operational flexibility.

Digital solutions can also be deployed to improve production using high tech sensors, well and pump data, analysis of safety-critical drilling technology, such as BOPs, fleet-wide data views and analytics, and better interfaces that provide more holistic views of production processes. Digital technologies, advanced hardware developments and innovative service agreements present the opportunity to make oil rigs more productive and cost-efficient and breathe new life into oil rigs and platforms that were previously earmarked for closure.

At GE Oil & Gas, we recognize the potential these applications hold for the future of our industry. For example, we have estimated that by combining asset and software expertise we can optimize maintenance cost for a given offshore platform by up to 20% and increase overall reliability by up to 3%. That’s why we are investing significantly to develop a full portfolio of integrated solutions to enable improvement across the entire value chain.

GE is also going digital within its own walls, deploying digital tools in its operations to optimize and drive leaner engineering, manufacturing, supply chain and project management processes. We are investing in dedicated technology enhancements to automate processes and introduce digitized services. These range from automating pressure testing in our subsea manufacturing facilities to advanced manufacturing, including the introduction of collaborative robots in our assembly lines.

With its high technology standards, the North Sea basin can seize these emerging opportunities and act as a laboratory of innovation to introduce new levels of performance. With maturing reservoirs, strict regulations, challenging operating conditions, and expensive operations, this region can demonstrate the benefits of optimization powered by digital. In the past, progress in this region enabled the industry to scale new heights in terms of safety excellence, technological sophistication, and policy development—all of which has contributed to putting oil and gas at the cutting-edge of the engineering world.

Re-creating and harnessing this pioneering spirit and channeling efforts towards encouraging the uptake of new digital technologies will be crucial for the North Sea region and beyond in the years ahead.

In order to successfully emerge from this downturn and position for long-term growth, the industry will need a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach. Greater transparency and closer collaboration will play a key role, and so will our collective ability to develop and support a new generation of leaders with the right blend of talent and leadership skills to spearhead the transformation needed. We need to fuel new thinking and in some cases radically re-define the way we work. Opening the industry to the potential of digital is a key ingredient for the oil and gas industry to flourish. With new opportunities on the horizon and a strong history of innovation, the North Sea distinguishes itself as a leader for the oil and gas digital industrial revolution.

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