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Industry ingenuity and care in a crisis

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Oilfield Technology,

Joanna Mainguy, Energy Industry Solution Manager for EMEA at Microsoft, and Sak Nayagam, Global Marketing Director,, look at the benefits of a more collaborative approach to the digital transformation business by bringing energy technology expertise together with solutions that optimise productivity and accelerate the industry transition.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with oil market turmoil, is causing undeniable concern for the wellbeing of the workforce and future oil and gas operations. Now, more than ever, safely managing the role of digitalisation, whilst efficiently balancing the books, will be critical for companies to survive and thrive.

New ways of working that leverage the right mix of talent and technologies will be more important than ever in enabling the energy transition.

Fragmentation to fusion

Traditionally, many companies have worked in silo on their own solutions, services, technologies, and capabilities. Such a mentality can have an impact on operations and employee morale.

A deeper and broader ‘ecosystem’ approach can help establish strategic partnerships across the value chain. Together, this will not only develop new technologies and commercial models, but also unify the industry as it looks beyond the downturn to more stable and sustainable operations.

For example, in June 2019, Baker Hughes and began a joint venture (JV) agreement to deliver AI solutions for the oil and gas industry. In November 2019, expanded to include Microsoft through solution hosting and delivery on its Azure cloud computing platform. The combination of the three represents a more collaborative approach to the digital transformation business by bringing energy technology expertise together with solutions that optimise productivity and accelerate the industry transition.

Shell is already using the platform to hasten digital transformation by focusing on AI and machine learning to improve overall operations starting with predictive maintenance.

While the number of pilot projects around digital and AI may be increasing, a major challenge has been difficulty getting traction to quickly transform them to scale. Interestingly, a survey found that more than 80% of organisations have implemented a digital initiative within the past five years but only 16% of those stated a successful improvement in performance.1

Harnessing digital power for change

ENGenious Online 2020 (22 – 24 September 2020), the sister event to SPE Offshore Europe, will focus on solutions in the energy industry, what other industries are doing which is relevant, and equally important, how they other sectors have implemented the change needed in their business. There will be two sessions:

  1. Fit for the future - learning from each other
  2. Fast track to the future - learning from other industries

Tom Siebel, CEO of, Silicon Valley businessman, and author of Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, will give the keynote address. “Energy companies will have to digitally transform and harness the power of 21st century information technologies. Those willing to act have the opportunity to lead the transition to a new energy future.”

AI will have an increasingly strategic role to play. The importance is becoming amplified due to macro-economic conditions requiring heightened cost-competitiveness, productivity and efficiency.

Though the best technologies are on offer, nothing is going to be successfully implemented unless the right behaviours are present in order to accept and adapt to the changes and new ways of working this will bring. The convergence of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) is an important factor. While we have seen those worlds getting closer together, combining and in some cases colliding, this can sometimes lead to challenges in optimising behaviour to work with the new technology.

There is also the conundrum of marrying the experience of more traditional operating asset engineers with new approaches from data scientists to understand the value and insight that digitalisation can bring from the desktop to the drilling deck.

Being able to combine all types of people from varying roles with different experiences in a collaborative environment for a short period of time or ‘sprint’, will endear and empower supporters of change across the branches of the organisation and beyond into society.

As a working example, OGTC has created Code[Less] hackathon challenges with Microsoft and its data partners to give participants at ENGenious Online 2020 the opportunity to upskill and gain access to its latest platforms and training while also stretching the best minds and teams. The event is a first for the sector.

The value of strategic partnerships and ecosystems can deliver much shorter time to value, up to 40 times less cost and effort with a digital platform. Those that remain in silos will not benefit compared to their counterparts who are more open to teaming and collaborating in strategic ways.

Care and ingenuity in a crisis

Forward-thinking companies are exploring how to leverage digital technology to make not only their operations safer, cleaner and more efficient but their local communities too. This ‘community approach’ is evident in the innovative and agile response made by many oil businesses to the global COVID-19 crisis.

In addition to using its Additive Manufacturing facilities for spare or necessary parts on assets, Baker Hughes and its additive teams in the US, Germany, Scotland, Italy and Saudi Arabia are engaging with local hospitals, industrial consortiums and partners to print hundreds of face shield pieces and other high-demand medical equipment. Critical PPE is also being donated to healthcare facilities while staff have organised donations such as hand sanitising stations to schools, laptops for students who need to learn remotely, and supplies for local food drives.

Playing to their technology strengths, Microsoft and announced a public-private partnership to use AI in battling COVID-19. has also published a COVID-19 data lake, aggregating and providing a single image of all available COVID-19 data for analysis and insights.

In such unnerving and unpredictable times, we all need to work more safely and effectively together to come through this crisis stronger in ourselves, our communities and our industries. Digitalisation can support these efforts and like the crusade to reduce greenhouse gases, it’s the power of people working together that makes these changes a reality.



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