As the full extent of COVID-19 became apparent in March, its impacts reverberated across all industries. For the oil and gas sector, the pandemic presented a unique shock. Coming at a time of increased sectoral stress due to geopolitical tensions and market volatility, the situation underlined what’s been known in the industry for some time – in order to safeguard their long-term industry position, producers will need to cut costs and be smarter in their operating models.
As industry leaders deal with the demands around remote working and social distancing, it’s becoming increasingly clear that conventional ways of working, reliant on manual processes and on-site personnel, don’t offer the speed and agility that will be necessary to compete in the future. In this respect, COVID-19 hasn’t brought new priorities but simply intensified pressures and accelerated the need for change.
The adoption of remote technologies, consisting of high-bandwidth infrastructure, virtual private networks (VPN) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) among others, has emerged as an area that can completely transform how oil and gas sites operate. Company leaders, therefore, need to be thinking about building a holistic and integrated platform that provides the capabilities required to explore remote technologies.
Dealing with the Aftermath
As part of an initial response to COVID-19, many oil and gas companies were forced to quickly introduce emergency plans to ensure site safety. As a result, all non-essential employees – those not required to ensure continuous operations – were moved to working remotely and were equipped with laptops, mobile phones and data access. While this was critical to handle the immediate effects of the pandemic, it became clear that a more comprehensive transition to working remotely was needed to address the longer-term realities.
The oil and gas sector has previously not tapped into the potential of the new technologies available as much as it could. As a result, businesses are missing opportunities for greater efficiency and cost saving that are heavily prized in the current conditions. Now, many companies are not only seeking solutions to improve their performance in the short term – and increase their competitive edge amid challenging market conditions – but also to ensure long-term sustainability as the sector undergoes a period of transformation.
While some industries have been able to move seamlessly to working remotely, many oil and gas companies must retain at least some highly skilled workers on site. Introducing remote capabilities has proved increasingly attractive to executives seeking to limit on-site requirements. There are some specific areas of improvement that producers can expect from implementing these technologies:
- Reduced costs. Minimise cost of sending employees or contractors to wells and offshore facilities to perform simple diagnostics by managing functions from consolidated control centres.
- Resolve issues immediately. Reduce the risk of downtime by addressing maintenance, troubleshooting and repair issues quickly, without having to send engineers on site.
- Improve human resources. Use a diverse set of tools to enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing across sites and geographies.
- Bolster security. Improve management of access to data and help employees stay safe and engaged by empowering them with secure digital tools.
- Improve worker safety. Reduce the number of personnel on site and remove the need for staff to manually interact with potentially dangerous situations.
- Increase transparency. Increase transparency between everyone involved through better day-to-day communication and notes from on-site process engineers or managers.
A Total Transformation of Operations
By adopting a full suite of digital tools for remote working, rapid assessment, observation, and analytics, oil and gas companies can enable remote support where it was previously not considered possible without a physical presence. As the technologies that compose a remote platform, such as wearables and data visualisation software, take massive strides forward in terms of capabilities and ease of adoption, the potential benefits grow.
Despite the short-term costs required by COVID-19, increased investment in technological innovation and shifting mindsets could lead to a total transformation of operations. Rockwell Automation can help you to implement these technologies as part of an integrated platform. We work with industry-leading partners to bring the latest innovations to bear. One such example is our work with Schlumberger, which involves leveraging their petrotechnical expertise and oil and gas technologies to offer IoT capabilities, analytics and remote monitoring, through Sensia. We also partner with PTC to bring leading-edge hardware and software solutions to our customers, which allows us to support in areas such as AR, data analysis and contextualisation, and production optimisation workflows.
By being able to compose these solutions and capabilities, we can help you implement your remote connectivity platform and frameworks in the most effective way. We can also make sure you get the full benefit of the technologies within the platform, as well as being able to continually update with the latest innovations in future.
A Unified Solution
Increased use of automation and technology in oil and gas operations has always been on the horizon – and COVID-19 hastened its pace. This shift will call for substantial investment in digital tools and staff training to explore the vast potential they offer.
Your digital approach and your data are, however, only as good as the applications you have available and your ability to contextualise the information. You can benefit from having access to the combined expertise that Rockwell Automation can offer and being able to apply these to specific use cases from one single unified platform.
Through our deep understanding of the oil and gas industry, we can help you with the architecture and solutions that can help you do more with your resources and realise massive cost efficiencies that will have an impact on your business for many years to come.
Visit the Rockwell Automation Oil & Gas hub page to learn more about the solutions that could help you reduce costs while building for a brighter future.
Published August 17, 2020