Over the past few years, I have written papers and given several presentations on procedure management and decision support at the Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Intelligent Energy Europe conference and have seen a dramatic change with respect to digital transformation.
Modular Procedural Automation Innovation for Upstream Processes
My first presentation, ‘Modular Procedural Automation Innovation for Upstream Processes’, was done in conjunction with Steve Lazok from YCA in 2012. It looked at the changes being made by large oil companies such as Chevron and Shell by modularizing and automating their procedures. It also focused on the impact of standardization in helping them to do this. The interesting thing was that our presentation was one of very few on automation in the whole conference.
Are Machines Better than Humans in Crisis?
In 2014 I followed up by giving a presentation on decision support, ‘Are Machines Better than Humans in Crisis’. This presentation discussed the way that digital technology can assist operators in times of crisis when the human brain is not able to handle the huge amounts of data being generated by the control systems. It went on to discuss ways that data analysis could help to predict impending safety issues. By this time, there were more papers on digital technologies – but still not a huge amount.
Automated Procedures – A New Way of Improving Efficiency and Safety
The most recent paper I gave, ‘Automated Procedures – A New Way of Improving Efficiency and Safety’, was in 2016 at the Aberdeen conference. Digital technology was now front and center at this conference. Just about every paper had some elements of automation, asset management, condition monitoring, and data analytics. In fact, the conference started with five keynote speeches from major players such as BP, Chevron, Shell and a very impressive video aided presentation by Boston Dynamics on the impact of robotics.
Digital transformation has probably impacted the oil and gas industry more than any other major process sector because they started with almost nothing and ran into regulatory issues. Every oil major now has a digital transformation program in place – they need it to survive.