Blog Post

How Automation Is Changing the Oil & Gas Industry

Posted by Brett Long

oil and gas pipes on operation using automation

The oil and gas industry is going through a massive digital transformation in 2019. This transformation is being driven by multiple trends in technology and the broader economy. First, take a step back to look at the health of the industry.

What’s Driving Automation in Oil and Gas in 2019?

Several economic factors are driving these capital-intensive industries to invest heavily in technology. First, oil companies face the challenge of lower prices. Some analysts forecast Brent crude prices up to $73 per barrel in 2019. While that’s an improvement over 2018, it’s a far cry from the $100 and higher prices last seen in 2014. Natural gas prices continue to be highly volatile. That leaves managers struggling to maintain profits through more efficient operations.

Finally, several technology trends including data analytics, the Internet of Things (IoT) and AI have matured significantly in recent years. As a result, it’s now possible to do the following with oil and gas industry automation.

1. Leverage Data Analytics

In 2019, oil and gas companies are going to step up their work in managing data. This trend has several components. First, there’ll be increased data collection from machines (i.e., Internet of Things). Second, there’ll be increased demands for data from third parties, such as vendors and suppliers. Finally, oil and gas firms will invest more heavily in data analytics and intelligence software platforms.

The data analytics trend is already in progress. It’s a question of maximizing value from data. We’re likely to see more data scientists and experts moving to the oil and gas industry as a result.

2. Improve Profits Through Preventive Maintenance

Oil and gas are highly capital-intensive industries with hundreds of billions in annual spending. At the same time, lower oil prices have caused some companies to defer much-needed maintenance. For example, oil infrastructure in the North Sea region of Europe is a major challenge since the infrastructure was installed in the 1970s with a planned life of 25 years.

With a vast array of infrastructure assets to maintain, how do oil and gas firms make smart choices about where to focus their efforts? The answer lies in using preventive maintenance technology. Specifically, companies are leveraging network-connected sensors and analytics to plan maintenance more effectively.

Major technology firms including IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco are playing a role in transforming IoT dreams into reality. Some IoT technologies developed by Cisco go beyond maintenance benefits to improve security as well.

3. Cut Wasted Effort in Oil and Gas Field Services

In 2019, the oil and gas industry is forecast to spend $75 billion on field services, according to IBISWorld. It’s one of the largest costs in the industry. That means any improvement in efficiency will deliver significant savings. Beyond savings, the field services face another problem. As of December 2018, the U.S. unemployment rate was under 4%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That means that attracting and retaining high-quality staff will be a major challenge in field services.

What if there was a way to improve efficiency and keep field services staff engaged in their work? It’s possible! Start by looking at ways to eliminate paper forms and other time-consuming administrative steps. Your field services staff members don’t want to spend an hour every day sitting in a truck reviewing papers and then driving back to the head office.

The better way lies in using enterprise digital forms. Specifically, it would help if you had a way to collect data from the field and put it directly into your workflow. That’s the key to saving time and money. With Device Magic, your digital form data can be directly dropped into your workflow. Thanks to mobile forms automation, there’s no more need to retype data or move data between systems.

4. Apply Artificial Intelligence to Expensive Problems

Sorting through a large stack of data is a constant challenge in oil and gas. You receive reports from the field. There are quality data points to consider. You also need to manage data quality issues. It’s a never-ending challenge! Constantly adding analysts and business intelligence professionals to the payroll isn’t a sustainable approach.

In 2019, we’re going to see artificial intelligence come to the rescue in oil and gas. Take the example of addressing concerns raised by environmental groups. Responding to these stakeholders is difficult in the oil and gas industry because there are so many of them. That’s why you should take note of efforts by groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund to use natural language processing (NLP). In 2018, the Fund announced an NLP system to automate obligations related to environmental protection legislation.

5. Increase Use of Autonomous Devices

The increasing consumer adoption of autonomous vehicles matters to the oil and gas industry. In California, there are more than 50 organizations authorized to test autonomous vehicles with a driver as of January 2019. To seize the advantage, reach out to these approved companies and discuss bringing their technology to the oil and gas field. It’s one way to boost productivity in oil and gas that few firms have implemented.

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