“To quickly respond to market changes, oil and gas companies need to reinvent themselves. They need to be the next disruptors.” – Julia King
There’s a huge emphasis on being more efficient. When oil was $100 a barrel, oil and gas companies didn’t worry about efficiency and costs because they were making so much money. But now, it’s a huge issue. The oil and gas industry is again at a crossroads. Reduced demand for crude oil and increasing supply requires companies to optimize current production and extend well life — to do more with less; to be more efficient and more innovative. While waiting for commodity prices to rise, operating costs are being cut, capital projects are being deferred or cancelled and suppliers are under pressure to lower prices. By automating some manual processes, oil and gas firms can improve efficiency, safety, and accuracy, while reducing risk. This means that companies should automate many routine analysis and decision-support processes.
For example, Schlumberger – the world’s largest oilfield services company is transforming its business and operating model by trying to optimize its cost base, so it can provide superior technology that can enable higher production rates, at less cost to the client. Schlumberger’s business model is diversified across geography and product lines of the entire oil and gas exploration and production job cycle. The business model is dependent on delivering innovative technological solutions to customers — Oil Majors such as BP, Shell ExxonMobil etc.; National Oil Companies such as Saudi Aramco, ADNOC etc. — that would help improve upstream companies’ reservoir performance. A critical aspect is to provide these solutions in a cost-effective manner.
Schlumberger’s competitors such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes and Weatherford can provide almost all the services that Schlumberger can provide, but the latter is differentiating itself by being able to improve its asset and people utilization. A reduced cost base is helping Schlumberger to secure projects in the current somber market — by providing discounts — and generate an operating profit.
Technology improving people productivity
For improvement in people productivity, technology is playing a vital role. A single engineer can operate and monitor multiple sites by connecting remotely to the distant field sites via secure desktop connection over the internet. Another aspect of improving people productivity is via automation of key work processes using wearable technology. But can wearables improve operational efficiencies; lead to significant cost savings; and/or make the dangerous, messy, and exceedingly complicated jobs in this sector safer and easier?
Wearables transforming operations in oilfields
When we talk about wearable technology in oil & gas, we are referring to wearable devices that can both collect and deliver data in the field, including Google Glass but especially more rugged smart glasses, such as those by Vuzix and Epson, and also VR (virtual reality) headsets like the Oculus Rift. Other devices include smartwatches and other smart wrist- and armbands, smart helmets, and sensors embedded in clothing designed to detect such things as radiation and/or chemicals. Most promising, however, is the smart glasses + AR (augmented reality) combo, along with the data analytics afforded by this new wave of mobile technology.
So how can wearable tech be applied at, say, a drilling site? Wearables can cut down on response time and total working hours by:
- Improving communication between control staff and on-site workers
- Providing workers with the key information they need at the moment they need it, whether data, schematics, maps, guidelines or instructions
- Enabling advanced, immersive, and remote collaboration, including virtual over-the-shoulder coaching
- Boosting on-the-job training—all hands-free. For instance, via smart glasses a worker can have ready access to interactive equipment manuals while repairing an oil rig or bridge cable; or receive specific directives such as emergency procedures at the point of impact. Wearables can pipe step-by-step instructions and illustrations to new, inexperienced workers; and, allow a worker to show a remote colleague first-person-perspective footage from the field to diagnose and fix problems quickly and efficiently, and thereby helping to eliminate rework.
Thus, smart glasses stand to give energy workers access to real-time information along with the insight and guidance of outside talent and expertise from around the world, enabling greater efficiency and faster decision-making without having to bring in additional resources to remote sites.
Schlumberger has already been testing Glass along with partner Wearable Intelligence. Schlumberger workers are using the technology to handle workflow in places tablets can’t go: Glass guides them through their daily tasks, and gives invaluable, real-time performance metrics back to management. But the challenge that the current technology faces is to mold it for the oilfield operating environment – the technology needs to be rugged and explosion-proof, with the wearable devices running custom software for data security and operable without net connectivity. (788 words)
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