Digitising the oil & gas industry

Microsoft's Omar Saleh shares his view on the impact of ICT on the regional oil & gas market

Tags: Augmented realityCloud StorageCloud computingMicrosoft Corporation
  • E-Mail
Digitising the oil & gas industry Saleh: Despite oil price challenges, the industry is seeing increasing IT spend as a way to maintain profitability and boost productivity.
By  Alexander Sophoclis Pieri Published  October 18, 2017

ACN: How have you continued to develop your capabilities for the oil & gas segment over the past year?

OS: According to a recent market analysis report, the global market for automation solutions in the oil and gas industry will grow moderately at a CAGR of over 1% by 2020 driven by the growth in Midstream infrastructure and the availability of automation solutions on the Cloud. By shifting towards cloud-based environments, oil and gas companies can significantly reduce costs, achieve greater flexibility, and enhance functionality. A cloud-based platform shifts the task of maintaining data from the oil and gas service companies to the cloud service provider and eliminates the expenses incurred and problems related to the hardware layer of IT infrastructure for companies.

Microsoft solutions enable a truly data-driven approach to operational excellence by collecting, storing, and analysing huge volumes of operational data in real time and using it to drive positive outcomes and behaviours. Our solutions enable our customers to gain a deeper level of understanding of their global operations across the field, the plant, and the entire supply chain.

Microsoft connected operations solutions for oil and gas create a more intelligent organisation by using data streamed from connected sensors and devices, as well as other relevant data sources, analysing them with machine learning for predictive and actionable analytics to help optimise production, improve maintenance, and drive higher profitability.

Technology is becoming much more entrenched in business processes and the tools that are needed are more efficient. The mobility aspect of what we do, did not exist five or six years ago.

The capability of mobile devices that provides capacity and horsepower for any application did not exist before. HoloLens, an augmented reality device that allows customers to look at actual reality and add digital assets, can be a great use in the Oil and gas industry as this allows our customers to see remote assets like rigs and pipelines while not being next to them, and assist others in doing things that they need to do.

ACN: How has demand for enterprise IT in the oil & gas segment, an area that traditionally has been a slow adopter of technology, changed over the past few years?

OS: Despite oil price challenges, the industry is seeing increasing IT spend as a way to maintain profitability and boost productivity. According to the 2016 Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey by Accenture and Microsoft, 80% of upstream oil and gas companies plan to increase spending on digital technologies in order to help them drive leaner, smarter organisations.

With 44% of respondents in the 2016 Upstream Oil and Gas Digital Trends Survey reporting that investing in the Internet of Things (IoT) is their next big priority, it’s clear that in the current challenging environment the industry is focusing technologies on areas that will deliver efficiencies and savings in the short term while enabling faster decision making. Respondents also saw the greatest impact from IoT in enabling connected field workers, with 60% planning to have field workers and assets digitally connected with smart devices.

Microsoft enables companies to maximise manufacturing and business process efficiencies, increase people productivity, and achieve business excellence. With our intelligent cloud and intelligent edge platform, and leading partner ecosystem, enterprises are able to create innovative products and services, execute with excellence, and improve customer engagement.

ACN: What are some of the solutions that oil & gas firms are typically looking to deploy?

OS: Digital transformation is emerging as a driver of sweeping change in the world around us. Today the Oil and Gas industry has the opportunity to redefine its boundaries through digitalisation. The growing consensus is that the Oil and Gas sector is on the cusp of a new era. A wave of business and digital technologies looks set to reshape it, propelled by a series of macroeconomic, industry and technology trends. The growing sophistication of platforms, as well as mobility, surveillance, connectivity and storage technologies, coupled with the ability to process and analyse data rapidly, enhance agility and support real-time decision making and execution has led the Oil and Gas sector to adopt latest technology solutions.

Building on this, we developed Microsoft’s Connected Operations solutions for oil and gas and mining; helping organisations drive operational intelligence by using data streamed from connected sensors and devices, as well as other relevant data sources, analysing them with machine learning for predictive and actionable analytics to help optimise production, improve maintenance, and drive higher profitability.

Equally important, we’ve been investing in our partnerships extensively for many years, thus aligning our value propositions and roadmaps, and developing platform technologies that support them with state of art, secure and reliable capabilities. This in effect provides our customers with a rich ecosystem that provides them choice, and give them confidence in the viability and reliability of the solutions they choose.

An example of this is our recent announcement of a strategic alliance between Microsoft and Halliburton to drive digital transformation across the oil and gas industry. The relationship will combine our expertise as a global leader in cloud and digital transformation with a global leader in exploration and production (E&P) science, software and services. Researchers and engineers from both companies will leverage and optimise Microsoft technologies in machine learning, augmented reality (AR), user interactions and Industrial-Internet-of-Things, as well as Azure’s high-performant infrastructure and built-in computing capabilities to deliver tightly integrated solutions across the energy value chain. Areas of collaboration include: applying deep learning to reservoir characterisation, modeling and simulation, building domain-specific visualisation for mixed reality, creating highly interactive applications and fueling the digitalisation of E&P assets. Microsoft Azure will also become Halliburton’s preferred public cloud provider for iEnergy, the oil and gas industry’s first global E&P cloud linking the oilfield to the office.

Specific to us in the Middle East, and as an elevated commitment from Microsoft to the Oil & Gas industry, we launched last year Microsoft’s Centre of Excellence for Oil & Gas in UAE as the largest such facility for Microsoft worldwide. The Centre of Excellence was built in partnership with leading industry players - Accenture, Aveva, Baker Hughes, Honeywell, OSIsoft, Schlumberger, and Schneider Electric. The Centre of Excellence features a host of solutions, co-developed with our partners, that address current industry priorities, and promote overall operational excellence. The facility serves as an executive briefing centre where we host our customers, both from the region and global.

ACN: Are there any emerging technologies that have yet to be introduced to the segment that you believe might have a positive impact?

OS: Some of the emerging technologies that we started to see application for include drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles, which can be especially useful in asset management, security, and safety applications. Drones can be used to inspect flare stacks without the need for scaffolding or having to stop operation, and they can be used to perform under deck and topside inspections, which are traditionally hard to get to and pose safety risks. They can be operated by a UAV pilot or could be programmed to follow a predetermined route in the future.

3D Printing is another technology gaining traction as various companies are currently looking into 3D printing to enhance their production of parts. 3D printing allows operators to prototype new parts faster, experiment with parts to improve efficiencies, and has the potential to allow the manufacturing of spare parts whilst on-site. Although oil and gas operators see the benefits that 3D printing brings, it is still in the early adoption stages.

Digital Twins is another technology that emerged in last years and accelerated recently and bears vast potential as its application extends in the industry. Digital twins provide a virtual instance of a smart connected physical asset and builds on the data insights driven from a fleet of such physical assets. Digital twins promise great gains that extend across several areas of the operation starting with asset reliability and extending into usage behaviours, performance and efficiency.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code