Experts in the global oil industry have called for the adoption of technology and data analytics to boost the sector recovery post-COVID-19, noting that the pandemic has accelerated technology adoption as an integral component of projects and cost-reduction measures.
Speaking during a webinar organised by Microsoft in conjunction with Africa Oil & Power, themed: “Leveraging the Power of Technology for Oilfield Optimisation,” the experts said digital applications are capable of uniting real-time data with advanced analytics, to improve decision-making, and boost efficiency and sustainability.
Specifically, Global VP, Digital, Analytics, and Innovation/Chief Innovation Officer, McDermott, Vaseem Khan, said technology had presented Africa the opportunity to leapfrog traditional oil and gas operations, noting that if maximised, could enable sub-Saharan Africa to become more competitive and one of the most prominent producing area globally.
He maintained that as oil and gas companies continue to face threats to efficiency, sustainability, and profitability, digitalisation and optimisation of oilfield assets have become principal cost-cutting mechanisms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Khan said: “Technology has become cheaper and more accessible. The cost of deploying technology is now a minor expenditure in a project. Technology is most efficient when looked at as an integral part of the project. Implementing a holistic vision would allow decision-makers to implement technology in a stable and rational way, with immense rewards down the way.
“COVID-19 acted as a technology accelerator. Technology adoption dramatically increased during the pandemic. It has allowed many projects to continue or resume faster and has shown many operators that remote work is an efficient way to maintain operations while lowering costs.
“The new normal is to use technology in order to deliver projects efficiently, in a cheaper manner. Technology is not an option for the future, it’s necessary at the present.”
In his remarks, Multi-Cloud Specialist at Microsoft, Dizando Norton, said Microsoft’s initiatives to boost technology adoption in the oil and gas industry would lower carbon emissions footprint in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
According to him, by 2030, Microsoft would be carbon negative, reducing emissions by more than half, while by 2050; Microsoft would have removed all the carbon it has produced since its founding in 1975.
His words: “Microsoft is collaborating with Chevron and Schlumberger to deploy optimised technology-based processes, looking to accelerate data analyses, thus triggering new exploration opportunities and speeding up time to first oil.
“These projects are supported mainly by Microsoft’s enabling cloud services, allowing customers to increase efficiency while reducing operational costs.”
Looking at the perceived high cost of entry to technology, Business Development Director, National Oilwell Varco, Dr Babajide Agunbiade, said the long-term vision is a crucial aspect of technology deployment.
He noted that customers need to move away from the short-term financial aspect and focus on the lifecycle of the project, which could have up to 30 years lifespan.
He said: “COVID-19 has brought peak oil closer. Demand for oil is set to decrease continuously from here. This situation stresses the importance of lower costs in all aspects of the petroleum business, like material selection, improved research and development, and remote work. All these crucial topics could and must be supported by technology.”
WW Energy Industry Core Team/Industry Digital Strategist at Microsoft, Osama Hanna, said following government regulations regarding well maintenance, Microsoft implemented a real-time monitoring solution to proactively detect corrosion, ultimately reducing corrosion by up to 46 per cent, thus avoiding a potential “plug and abandon” down the road.
He highlighted efficiency as the central topic for the post-COVID era, noting that efficiency would be a key challenge for all operators in the petroleum space.
“The price of a barrel is decided by the market, but companies can have an impact on their operational expenditure by optimising efficiency across the value chain, whether we speak about human resources, equipment, technology and so on,” he added.