Digital Transformation in Oil & Gas Enabled by Technology Partnerships

By Tim Shea

Industry Trends

As the awareness of digital transformation and its many benefits grow in the oilfield, ARC is seeing an increasing number of collaborative partnerships being formed between high-tech giants and oil & gas players.  Leveraging complimentary domain expertise, technologies and solutions and developing a collaborative culture of sharing knowledge provides a powerful force for which an increasing number of oil & gas companies are deploying to improve operational performance, lower costs, and operate with greater visibility, flexibility and agility in an increasingly more challenging energy market.

A recent article in Upstream Intelligence highlighted a new multi-year agreement between Wood Group and IBM to transform asset life cycle management reveals the ever-closer relationship growing between big tech and the oil and gas industry that ARC believes is critical for success.

Digital Transformation in oil & gas empowered by AI, Blockchain and Analytics

The tie-up between Wood, a global leader in the delivery of project, engineering and technical services to energy markets, and IBM -- announced in early May - combines Wood’s engineering, innovation and industry expertise with Big Blue’s advanced market leading technologies in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), Blockchain and analytics. The aim is to advance operational efficiencies for customers in industrial and energy markets.

IBM has a global cloud platform and cognitive solutions company with capabilities in data and analytics, IoT, mobile, blockchain and security that has substantial application potential across the upstream space. Wood and IBM are set to look to develop solutions and explore new ways to apply AI and advanced Platforms to improve productivity and expand digital insight.

Digital transformation enabled by technology partnerships
Source: Woodside

Companies are digitally reinventing themselves

A Wood official indicated that it considered it a “proactive step in addressing the challenges of the energy and associated industries during an era of digitization and the emergence of new technologies, following the creation of Wood from the acquisition of AMEC Foster Wheeler and IBM’s new identity as a cloud, cognitive and digital reinvention company.” The initial phase of the collaboration will focus on oil producers and utilities in three areas where the two companies believe they can bring immediate value to oil and gas clients. These are:

  • Project design & planning – combining digital processes and data management tools to provide predictable costs and seamless integration from design to commissioning.
  • Asset insights – providing leading edge analytics platforms to provide insight to asset owners and operators looking to improve operational efficiency, predict operational or safety issues and drive down costs associated with brownfield assets.

Project execution excellence – the use of blockchain and cognitive capabilities to ensure effective and safe execution of the work scope through advanced control of work solutions that manage worksites, personnel, materials and equipment in accordance with the project plan.

The reason for focusing on these three areas is that Wood sees a clear value proposition in integrated digital technology solutions enhanced by data and machine learning.  According to Bob MacDonald, CEO of Wood Specialist Technical Solutions, by combining Wood’s engineering innovation, understanding of client operational objectives and domain expertise with IBM’s market leading advanced technologies such as cognitive, blockchain, and Quantum, “we will help unlock new insights, to learn from and make predictions on data.”

IBM’s offering to oil and gas companies includes its Watson system – a supercomputer combining AI with analytical hardware as a question-answering machine -- which is also being deployed by Australian oil company Woodside Petroleum to analyze 30 years of internal data.

Working with Watson, Woodside Energy has built a customized tool that allowed its employees to find detailed answers to highly specific questions—even on remote oil and gas facilities. Watson ingested the equivalent of 38,000 Woodside documents. This would take a human over five years to read.

This corpus of knowledge evolved into Willow, Woodside’s cognitive solution powered by Watson on IBM Cloud. Now employees anywhere in the world can access this expertise and locate technical data to make quicker, smarter, more fact-based decisions.  According to the companies, Watson has helped reduce the time spent searching for expert knowledge by 75%.

More oil & gas companies are taking journey towards Digital Transformation

IBM is not the only big tech company to have built up close relations with oil and gas companies. Microsoft and oilfield services giant Schlumberger announced a collaboration in September last year intended to digitize the business of oil and gas drilling. ARC has blogged about several other such noteworthy partnerships in the past couple of years.

ARC is encouraged to see a growing number of oil & gas operators, independent E&P firms, oilfield service providers and other industry stakeholders realize that the need to develop an ecosystem of partners to help them navigate the journey towards digital transformation and, as a natural byproduct, operational excellence.  ARC anticipates seeing more such technology partnership collaborations with oil & gas companies in the future since the real-world business value being derived far outweighs any legacy cultural barriers which has kept the industry a technology laggard for decades.

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