Panel Highlights Challenges, Successes in Digital Transformation

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Nearly everyone in the oil and gas industry is aware of the importance of Big Data, even as subject matter experts (SMEs) grapple with its implications. But what barriers stand in the way of implementing a digitally minded culture for operators and vendors, and how can these barriers be overcome?

At a panel session on the eve of the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, titled “A Mission of Uncovering the Value of Knowledge in Digital Transformation Projects in the Oil and Gas Industry,” industry experts reflected on the transformation taking place and its implications.

The discussion was moderated by Jim Crompton, adjunct professor at Colorado School of Mines and an SME for the Digital Energy Technical Section. Panelists included Pieris Hadjipieris, deputy CEO of PETEX; Nansen G. Saleri, chairman and CEO of Quantum Reservoir Impact; and Donald Thompson, president and CTO of Maana. Crompton offered a series of questions for the panel before turning to audience members for their own. These questions involved such topics as overcoming corporate and market inertia, identifying key elements that companies must have in navigating the changing priorities of the Big Data revolution, and outlining case studies of projects that had been transformed by the adoption of data analytics.

Both panelists and audience members agreed that the survival of the industry would depend on an adaptive mindset when confronting, and successfully exploiting, the oceans of data now available to engineers. Crompton noted that the “digitally native” generation of young engineers now emerging from academia already understood the challenge. “This is a topic that will be taken over and run by our young professionals, whether we show the right kind of leadership or not,” he said.

The drive of young engineers to acquire tools to interpret data, sometimes on their own initiative, was lauded, although the importance of collaboration among both veterans and newcomers was stressed as a key to industry survival. “We have tried to overcome siloed information, but we are starting to re-silo analytics,” Thompson said, cautioning against a territorial mindset that has long marked an industry driven by proprietary innovations.

The panel also discussed the “democratization” of data, with Saleri using the example of the Rotten Tomatoes film-evaluation site as a lighthearted but trenchant comparison between popular culture and the oil and gas industry. Potentially useful data are immediately available at rates and quantities never before imagined, but it must nevertheless be mined effectively. In this vein, audience members expressed concern about the collaboration of SME vendors and rank-and-file engineers: If budgetary limitations to data mining exist, or if the benefits and methodology of data acquisition are not better explained to engineers, might implementation suffer? Panel members responded that, for better or worse, the transformation into the world of digital energy has to some extent already taken place, and that participation to the greatest degree possible is necessary for stakeholder survival in the market. “Don’t judge the industry by who the big guys are now,” Saleri said. “There is no longer room for mediocrity.”

However, the panelists clarified that this change-or-expire environment need not have a negative or ominous tone. Digital transformation depends upon individual acceptance as much as it does state-of-the-art tools. As Hadjipieris said, “One individual with the right mindset and attitude, the desire to do better, can change an organization.” For an industry facing both immediate and long-term challenges, it is obvious that data analytics represents a crucial opportunity. But, as the panelists noted, the challenge of its adoption across the culture is as much an individual as an organizational matter.

Panel Highlights Challenges, Successes in Digital Transformation

Chris Carpenter, JPT Technology Editor

24 September 2018

Volume: 70 | Issue: 11