The last year has been an extraordinary, unprecedented period for global industry. The onset of the coronavirus pandemic and international lockdowns prompted vast changes in the way we live and work, with millions continuing their roles from home and operating remotely.
For some industries, particularly the oil and gas sector, the pandemic has posed significant challenges on the back of what was already a period of great change. Against a backdrop of gradual economic recovery, digitisation and energy transition, the arrival of the pandemic was far from welcomed.
However, despite such difficulties, Daryn Edgar, CEO of LYTT, believes the pandemic has prompted positive changes and forced many organisations to adopt dynamic new technologies, working practices and ways of thinking.
In years to come, the coronavirus pandemic could be viewed as a major milestone for the oil and gas sector.
“The pandemic has impacted the energy industry in a similar way to how it’s impacted financial services, or retail, in that the time to go digital isn’t just now, it was last week,” Edgar says.
Recalling early 2020 and the final quarter of 2019, Edgar notes that many digital transformation projects often had long, laborious lifecycles. During the disorienting early days of the pandemic, however, organisations quickly realised that changes had to be implemented as soon as possible.
This nudge, this fear, she says, led to a great acceleration and proof that change can be implemented rapidly and at scale.
“Coming into the beginning of the pandemic, some of the organisations I was working with were like ‘yeah, we need this now. We can’t wait anymore’,” she explains.
Across most of the industry, Edgar asserts, that same impetus and ethos has remained.
“When you face something really impactful, you change your mindset. I think it’s a global mindset now in terms of the imperative that pandemic has created in regard to digital transformation.”
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Crucially, Edgar believes the pandemic and subsequent changes have altered the perception of digital transformation in the workplace. As ridiculous as it may have seemed, the classic tropes of robots coming after human jobs was a cause for concern among many workers.
In fact, a recent study from Rystad Energy found that hundreds of thousands of jobs globally could be replaced by robots by 2030. The report suggested that many positions could be filled through automation, saving billions of dollars on reduced labour costs.
In particular, drilling is one area that could see vast savings and improvements through automation and the increased uptake of technology.
In the past year, real-world examples of how digital transformation has positively impacted the workplace, practices and processes, Edgar says, has helped to alleviate concerns over the potential of mass lay-offs and generate a degree of excitement.
Fundamentally, the benefits of digitisation have been supportive throughout the pandemic, enabling many businesses simply to remain afloat and operating. Similarly, the period has allowed time to re-evaluate how human workers are best utilised within organisations.
“The robots are indeed coming after our jobs, but they’re coming after the jobs that robots should have,” Edgar says. “Humans will retain the jobs they should have, which is the more meaningful work, the leadership work, the customer-facing work, for example.
“I believe we will continue to have those jobs, but the robots will keep the repetitive, highly-recurring, high volume-type tasks,” she adds.
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This is where Edgar says LYTT can fit into the equation. Founded in 2019, the firm provides software which contextualises sensor data, giving operators real-time insights into asset performance and efficiency.
Increasingly, machine learning, artificial intelligence and data analytics are being used to streamline and enhance processes across the oil and gas sector.
In a recent collaboration with BP, LYTT’s enhanced analytics platform enabled operators at the Clair Ridge installation to greatly improve production by up to 2,000 bpd.
According to Edgar, the adoption of new technologies and the data-driven nature of operations post-Covid will also help improve longevity – both for individual assets and the industry as a whole.
“If you imagine a petroleum engineer in the past when they were at the beginning of their career, there was virtually nothing that would tell them what was going on inside an oil well,” Edgar explains.
“The main way they would was after the fact later on through very obvious things, such as physical indicators. So the only option they had was to actually experience a negative environmental impact to establish if there was a problem,” she adds.
Today, Edgar notes, organisations can observe operations in real-time, drawing on large volumes of data to enhance processes.
“You can actually see in the moment how fast oil is flowing, where it’s flowing or which reservoir it’s producing from,” she says. “Now, it’s like a choir singing for a petroleum engineer because they can see what’s going on.”
This provides not only an opportunity for workers to carry out their tasks with greater efficiency, but also reduces friction throughout the process, from the ground to the consumer.
Additionally, this increased use of data also brings huge environmental benefits. As oil and gas companies set increasingly ambitious net-zero targets and ramp up efforts to decarbonise operations and supply chains, technology will be vital to streamlining operations which, in the long-term, will aid in achieving targets.
“If you know what’s going on with an asset, you can lengthen the lifecycle much more safely and in a more productive, efficient way. By maximising production of these existing assets, it is also possible to remove the need to drill new wells to achieve the same volume.
“Even though these businesses are still producing oil, it’s done much more efficiently, intelligently, and sustainably than previously because they have the tools they need to make different, smarter decisions.”
This bolstered level of insight and ability to lessen environmental impacts through technology, Edgar says, could also help improve relations with consumers and the general public. And in a post-transition business environment, this will pay dividends.
Digital Energy Virtual Summit | Join the Debate
Daryn Edgar will be speaking at the 2021 Digital Energy Virtual Summit, held on Thursday 22nd April, where she will explore how technology is supporting and fuelling the energy transition.
Register today and secure your free place: www.digitalenergysummit.com