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Digital transformation in oil and gas

14 May 2020

Digital transformation has been at the forefront of every industry. Market intelligence company IDC predicts that worldwide spending on digital transformation will reach US$2.3 trillion in 2023. The oil and gas industry will be part of that expenditure, but simply changing paper or analogue-based information into digital is not enough to realise the overall benefits digital transformation has to offer in the long term.

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For years, organisations have been investing in technology to improve their operations, productivity, safety and more. A fully transformed organisation must also prioritise a coordinated effort to change its people, processes, and technology.

Predictive maintenance (PM) – Big Data

In a perfect world, every machine would be able to tell you when it needs maintenance, much like your car’s engine may now tell you when to change the oil. This indicator is based on the frequency and duration of use. The oil and gas industry has ageing equipment and assets that will need additional sensors to take advantage of what PM can offer. This data allows maintenance personnel to evaluate the equipment in terms of how and when repairs may need to be scheduled and results in a more efficient use of personnel, as well as management of fluids and components for that machinery. The reduction in unplanned downtime will reduce costs in terms of planning and production scheduling.

Streamline repair with Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (AR) introduces new functions on almost any device for a worker in a service or repair position. This capability can reduce travel time, expedite time to resolution, and increase worker safety.

In repair situations, when a tool arrives at the repair facility, it will go through a triage process to assess its condition and confirm it matches what the customer thought they sent. Solutions like remote expert software and digital work instructions help connect technicians to the information they need, including subject matter experts (SME), to accurately inspect and assess the equipment.

Using remote expertise, the technician can connect with colleagues, contractors, vendors, and the customer for collaboration. Collaborators can annotate, share images, and even diagrams to help understand the repair in real time. Digital work instructions can walk the technician through the repair process by displaying the steps and supplemental material to accelerate the repair.

Industry use case: remote expertise overseas

National Oilwell Varco (NOV) implemented its TrackerVision system, an augmented-reality remote expert solution powered by Librestream that combines software, communication devices, and specialised hardware, to increase the effectiveness of its global technicians on land rigs and offshore vessels. In one instance, an SME was scheduled to perform a remote inspection of equipment undergoing testing overseas. When the original date of the inspection moved due to equipment issues, the SME’s day was not interrupted by unplanned travel. Instead, the SME simply rescheduled the remote inspection and continued working.

The architecture is core

For many years, digital initiatives were brought forward by different business units within an organisation that were working in silos. While a solution may work in one area of the business, it may fail in others once expanded. For digital transformation initiatives to scale, focus on the redesign of operations and processes is essential.

Organisations must also prioritise an environment that enables all their facilities and rigs to use the technology in any situation. Investment in WiFi availability in the areas where these technologies will be used is one great place to start. The amount of bandwidth available should be in the 500k to 1MB range, but with the right software, that requirement can be reduced.

The role of AI and AR

Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be the deciding factor in the future. In 2019, 37% of organisations had already implemented AI. AI can be used to provide access to relevant information and recommendations across the operation at a much higher rate and frequency than ever before. These organisations are investing in AI systems and training them to effectively use the incoming data to predict outcomes. To do that, these systems need data to provide intelligent alerts and recommendations.

Part of the redesign plans should include gathering data from as many different areas as possible. This includes, if possible, conversion of analogue data to digital so it is actionable. It also includes capturing more digital information from the field with IIoT feeding it data and AR applications bringing in field-based information.

These AR technologies, including remote expert and digitised work instructions, add digital information such as pictures, recordings, and data from unconnected equipment. When used in conjunction with AI-based computer vision technologies such as optical character recognition (OCR) and object detection, AR tools can auto-tag this field-based information for machine learning modelling.

Achieving digital transformation requires a coordinated investment and commitment across an organisation and the willingness to tackle process change. The technologies are already available and proven to deliver improvements in productivity, worker safety and overall operations. As the oil and gas industry continues to invest in these digital technologies and process change, innovators will emerge to gain the immediate and long-term benefits of digital transformation.

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