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Digital Energy 2021 | Meeting Challenges Old and New

Michael Behr

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Digital Energy 2021

Oil & gas has never been a stable industry, but digitalisation can help companies gain the agility needed to adapt to growing volatility.

The Digital Energy 2021 Virtual Summit took place on April 22nd and discussed the challenges facing the oil & gas industry. While the pandemic was obviously a major concern, the energy industry has been struggling for years against low oil prices and the need to move towards green energy sources.

While this state has existed for years, with threats from renewables, the pace towards a low carbon future, and investor pressure, the coronavirus has created a sense of urgency in addressing them.

As such, these challenges, and the role digital technology can play in addressing them, were the background to the day’s discussions.

Adapting

The day’s first session discussed how organisations can adapt to this changing energy landscape. Here, the session’s three presenters examined the need for agility, innovation and wholescale digital transformation to thrive in this challenging environment.

For the first talk, Technip Energies SVP & CIO Stuart Millar discussed his company’s experience over the pandemic, especially how it affected a planned spinoff. The pace of technological change is getting faster. This means that companies need to work hard to ensure they keep pace with technology.

However, this can lead to change fatigue. For many companies implementing digital projects, the temptation is to get things perfect. However, companies need to become comfortable with getting their projects good enough. As such, Millar noted, setting targets and goals is vital to avoid getting bogged down in edge use cases.

In the second talk, Daryn Edgar, CEO of LYTT looked at developing digitising beyond single assets and achieving wider digital and net zero strategies.

Oil & gas companies manage a broad range of assets and produce a huge amount of data. However, these traditionally exist in siloes, built around accommodating the end user. For a digital transformation, these siloes need to be broken to leverage true data-driven progress.

For the final talk of the first session, Regional Vice President of EMEA & APJ at Nasuni Andy Hardy talked about the advantages energy companies can derive by moving files to the cloud. This includes greater sharing, collaborating, and scaling for large files.

The energy sector has traditionally had to deal with greater volatility than other industries, be it from prices, demand, or even political instability or environmental issues. This means that having easily accessible and sharable data provides the adaptability needed to deal with volatility.

As technology has developed, this means that storing the huge amount of high-resolution data on the cloud is viable option. Also, given the highly diffuse nature of energy operations, across many countries and in the middle of seas, the industry can make great use of the accessibility the cloud offers.

Furthermore, breaking down traditional siloes means information becomes available to everyone, helping develop new insights and synergies.

During the combined Q&A, the three speakers touched on the importance of diversity. All diversity is about diversity of thought – getting new perspectives and new skills is vital for helping oil & gas navigating the challenges of the next few years.

In Practice

Digital Energy 2021 also featured a series of nine breakout sessions. These included practical demonstrations of the various software platforms available to companies, such as data analytics and cloud software migration.

Of particular note were talks concerning cybersecurity in the oil & gas industry. As the speed of technology change grows, keeping pace also becomes about survival. This is especially true when it comes to cybersecurity.

Delegates also heard a workshop from former Wood CEO Bob Keiller & Strategic Business Consultant Derrick Thomson about how to communicate effectively online. Good communicating is especially important for digitising the oil & gas. When pitching drastic changes to the board, it is vital to build credibility. While the temptation is to have a positive attitude, being open and about potential problems helps establish

Barriers

Despite what digitalisation offers to oil & gas, the industry has been slow to fully leverage digital technologies. The final session of Digital Energy 2021 looked at some of the barriers that are holding back digitalisation, and how companies can overcome these.

CIO at SSE Renewables Angus Murray started things off by talking about what is holding back digital innovation in the oil & gas industry, and how this can be overcome. He pointed to a lack of competition, motivation, and collaboration as key barriers.

He noted that there is quite a lot of resistance to digital technologies – the companies that are taking it most seriously are the major oil companies. However, many of the smaller companies are still lagging.

Part of this is down to a lack of competition – once a company has a lease on a field, it can produce from that field without having to worry about losing their lease to a more efficient competitor.


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For her talk, Jaye Deighton, Managing Director at Core29, examined the important of building up a culture of innovation to driving digitalisation. She said an innovation culture is defined by the percentage of people who, when asked how things can be done differently, respond with ideas and not problems.

To create an innovation culture, she recommended taking a ‘roots and wings’ approach – give your business a clear definition of goal and purpose and let them get on with it. And to drive innovation during the pandemic, it is important to make it as easy as possible.

For the final talk, Director of Intellectual Property at Centrica Charles Clark discussed the importance of intellectual property to a company. IP can come in many forms – inventions, patents, processes, logo, artistic works, and marketing materials. But it is also data and database rights.

As such, recognising IP is important for companies that want to make full use of and embark on a digital journey.

 

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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