Digital technology that connects machines, data and people is the oil and gas sector’s best bet to optimise performance and processes, safely and securely, across the full value chain.

That’s the view of GE Oil and Gas CEO Lorenzo Simonelli, expressed in an open letter to clients on the company’s web site.

According to Simonelli, “The global oil and gas industry operates in challenging circumstances, especially with the sharp fall in oil prices over the last two years. As the signs point to still more uncertainty and volatility, the industry will need as never before to make the most of every asset, and of every dollar invested — all while continuing to make operations safer.

However, he cautions that this cannot be achieved at sufficient scale through incremental changes of the back of traditional approaches or familiar technologies. Instead, he argues, the industry needs new means of capturing hidden value at every point of production from reservoir to refinery.

The Oil and Gas chief executive reveals that GE’s own experience with digital technology suggests that equipment can be made to perform better and last longer. “Sensors and analytics provide actionable insights, so that the condition of equipment is constantly monitored, unplanned downtime is kept to a minimum and maintenance is conducted more precisely and preemptively.

GE Oil and Gas CEO Lorenzo Simonelli
GE Oil and Gas CEO Lorenzo Simonelli

Simonelli  says that operations are greatly enhanced by the knowledge customers gain through digital technology. “When insights from equipment, sub-surface reservoirs and external data points are all brought together, operational planning and decision-making become more efficient and focused — with corresponding gains in performance and safety.

As evidence, he offers the experiences garnered on GE’s Brilliant Factories program. “Engineers are working from 3D models and rapid prototyping, using virtual validation at both the component and assembly levels to accelerate the design process. This means we can deliver faster solutions to oil and gas operators — not on our timetable, but on theirs.

And he suggests  that analysis simulation, analytics and closed-loop learning all helped to improve yield performance and cost of quality. “We now have a single, centralised system to create, manage, configure and integrate product-manufacturing data.

GE Oil and Gas’s own digital transformation program has seen significant emphasis placed on driving cultural changes across the group, fueled by a strong investment in analytics, writes Simonelli. “Financial algorithms and a contemporary CRM tool are helping us to eliminate meetings simply for the sake of ‘reporting-out’ and instead pull leaders together when there are actionable insights that will help us manage base costs or invest in R&D and localisation. Our data lakes help supply chain teams compare common parts across product lines and boost their purchasing power and our productivity.

The company is also running crowd-sourcing events, and these have already uncovered creative ways to simply save on general administrative costs and even use less water in customer field operations, he suggests.

*Image source, World Petroleum Council


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