Technology as a Disrupter in Oil, Gas

Technology as a Disrupter in Oil, Gas
Oil and gas executives discuss the role technology will play in disrupting the upstream during the CERAWeek conference in Houston.

Technology has been touted as one of the key factors in keeping a lot of oil and gas companies trucking ahead during the downturn in which worker numbers were low and cost-cutting was top-of-mind. And in the industry’s early recovery and looking ahead, new technologies around automation and digitalization are expected to remain relevant.

But timing seems to play a factor in how well the technology is received, according to Borghild Lunde, senior vice president for oil, gas and chemicals division at ABB Group.

Borghild Lunde
Borghild Lunde, Senior VP for Oil, Gas and Chemicals Division, ABB Group
Senior VP for Oil, Gas and Chemicals Division, ABB Group

“Sometimes we have developed the technology too early – it was good, it’s piloted and then nothing … this has happened over and over again over the last 20 years,” Lunde, who has 30 years of industry experience related to technology, told Rigzone during the CERAWeek by IHS Markit conference. “What we’ve now seen over the last maybe five years is that a lot of the earlier developments we did, the need is now more pronounced. Maybe we can’t use that technology as it was developed at that time, but we can pick up on these ideas and move them forward because now there is more technology available to enable it.”

However, Peter Terwiesch, president of industrial automation for ABB Group, said as an industry, oil and gas sits relatively low on the digitalization S-curve compared to other industries, such as utilities.

But the state of the industry has set the stage for something big.  

“We have two very dramatic revolutions happening in our industry at the same time – surge of production in the U.S. and digitalization and analytics. Either one of those by itself would have created an enormous disruption in the oil and gas industry, but the two together really have changed the fundamentals,” said Gregory Leveille, chief technology officer for ConocoPhillips. “We see technology as the tool that’s going to allow us to keep moving forward.”

Leveille said his company in recent years have been able to use data analytics and similar tools and apply them to almost every part of the business.

“We don’t see that trend stopping,” he said. “Almost everyone in our industry is going to learn how to work with data and the soon-to-be graduates who want to work in oil and gas realize these skillsets will be a big part of the future.”


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Chris Paul  |  March 20, 2018
Lunde's comments are spot on. Technology and opportunities it presents are often available long before embraced by organizations focused on expense reduction and cost-control; both fine goals but failure to invest in technologies does leave financial improvement from technology stranded. One commenter noted that the issue ultimately is the user and Lunde touches on this with mention of data analytics. The opportunity available today technology that allows for capture of data, filtering of data, integration of various streams of data, then analysis to provide operations with tools to fine-tune production and management with information to gain a competitive advantage in business decisions. Organizations that grasp this will win. Those that do not will get by.
Dave McCarroll  |  March 14, 2018
Technolology advance is inevitable. What is in the negative, is the people to care with it and realistic analysis. The trend I see is low paid local hire, that don' care. IMO the rigs get more digital and robotic, but the crews are under trained, under paid and not up to caring with the high end equipment! Put it this way,.. would you trust your Ferrari to a monkey driving it? I don't think so! Who is making these descisions, Obviously not in touch with reality?
Ken Hemmerich  |  March 12, 2018
It's the only way we are going to move forward. Oil companies are riddled with unproductive, redundant departments. This can be easily changed with technology.
Rudolf Huber  |  March 12, 2018
Sure, technology makes a mark. But it's not the heavy slammer. Whats really changing things is the capability to apply those technologies productively. Its the people using the toys making the difference. Giving those same toys to a conventional producer from OPEC will make them look at it like an Autist look at a social interaction game. It will cost them an arm and a leg for not much to show for. How many of us have expensive software toys we rarely ever use for more than 5%? Its a culture change and that's the hardest part to understand for OPEC.