The global energy industry is facing an unprecedented transformation period. Oil and gas majors are rapidly pivoting towards new low-carbon energy sources, which could drive M&A activity to more than $100bn over the next five years.

This restructuring, combined with the economic shock of Covid-19 and societal pressures to decarbonise, is changing the playing field significantly. For survival, the energy industry needs to pivot towards greater digitalisation to help mitigate these complex challenges.

Priorities and perspectives

Oil and gas companies have always been driven by the need to increase production efficiencies and reduce costs in order to protect profit margins. And adopting an operational excellence programme can help achieve these strategic goals.

By equipping employees at all levels of an organisation with tools and data, everyone is empowered to make smarter decisions more quickly, de-risking operations in the process. This is equally applicable to offshore wind farms, hydrogen plants and traditional hydro­carbon ­facilities.

Operational excellence is a critical tool for improving business performance—not least because it is instrumental in minimising downtime and reducing risk. Digitalising processes and operations also offers opportunities to use data more effectively to provide advanced analytics and insights for business improvement.

Accessing the full picture

Digitalisation and operational excellence are closely related to the concept of ‘situational awareness’. This is defined as being aware of what is happening around you in terms of where you are and where you are supposed to be, and whether anyone or anything nearby is a threat to your health and safety. This notion is critical for the energy industry and facility operators especially—when it comes to both day-to-day operations and digitalisation of assets.

Typically, companies employ situational awareness to support 3D representation of facilities in context, first by enabling access to information in real-time across the IT landscape. These sources can include digital twins, geospatial information, data historians, control of work, meteorological information, and maintenance and inspection system data, combined with information defining worker location and environmental monitoring.

Situational awareness helps to drive digitalisation by overcoming challenges related to poor data visibility through the provision of a full picture of all the facility information via an operational dashboard.

A situational awareness solution, combined with digital twin technology, connects digital data silos to visualise data in context and provide actionable information. Rather than trying to spot trends from numbers on spreadsheets, situational awareness morphs that data into visuals to give users a full-colour image of plant data.

Users will be able to visualise permit types, statuses and population density over time, all in one view, rather than digging through spreadsheets to connect the dots and shorten turnarounds and planned outages.

Taking the next steps

As the energy industry moves towards greater digitalisation maturity, companies are presented with many different strategy options. One approach could be to adopt a major company initiative to digitalise at an ­enterprise-level.

The alternative is to take small steps, implementing different solutions from various vendors to solve different problems. Whichever approach a facility uses, it could still involve solutions that cannot quickly and easily share useful, consumable data.

As digitalisation becomes ever more imperative for the energy industry, situational awareness will develop into a strategic necessity. Having a partner, such as global technology firm Hexagon, will help facilitate the energy industry’s path towards a digitalised future, giving facility operators a broad real-time view of their assets and portfolio. 



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