Digitally disrupted operations

I have already said that I believe the time is now for O&G operations to become digital. Radically different cost models are going to be needed and digital is one way they will be achieved.

“When assessing the implications, consider the fact that that new digital business models are the principal reason why just over half of the names of companies on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000. And yet, we are only at the beginning of what the World Economic Forum calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” characterized not only by mass adoption of digital technologies but by innovations in everything from energy to biosciences.” Pierre Nanterme – Accenture CEO [Link]

For me this revolution started with a computer programme called Mosaic, the first internet browser – which I discovered in 1993 while goofing around using Kermit, WAIS, Gopher, FTP and downloading cool stuff from GNU. I was being paid to generally muck-about and call it work. Since that moment I have witnessed a massive rise in computing power, information storage and interconnectivity that has left me gawping in awe. The chart below, from The New Machine Age, illustrates the trend.

Five Phases of Disruption

I model this disruption in 4 overlapping phases that are well established (each relying on the ones before it to progress) – and we’re about to see the fifth phase make itself felt.

Phase 1: Pure Information Industries

This was the first to be disrupted. It started with libraries, newspapers and advertising. As technology progressed this then disrupted industries requiring higher information capacity (bandwidth & storage) such as music and radio, and is now doing the same for television and cable companies. Bi-directional communication led to the X-Factor, the Huffington Post and any number of citizen journalists and bloggers.

Phase 2: Customer Engagement

As more people started to have access to and use the internet it was a small extension to make commercial transactions and shopping. As this ramped up customer experience of retail, customer-service departments and opened up access to a vast array of diverse products that could never be held in stock on the high-street. Now there are very few consumer engagements that do not have to integrate a digital channel into their offerings. Coffee and haircuts can’t be online – just about everything else can. Even there Starbucks is integrating a digital offering into their coffee order-to-pay process.

Phase 3: Co-ordination and logistics

It started with on-line parcel tracking, cross-docking and behind-the-scenes scheduling algorithms. Adding mobile GPS and mobile data allowed supply chain and logistics to start its transformation. Firstly on the containerisation and automatic freight and now down to warehouse location, stock control and soon perhaps delivery by dedicated drones [Link]. Phases 1, 2 & 3 have combined to give me my Occado delivery today at 12:30 (sharp).

Phase 4: Asset and resource sharing

This phase is still young and we’re seeing it play out in the consumer space first – a reversal I’ll elaborate on later. Companies like AirBNB, Uber, ZIPCar and others. In general this is the idea that Assets are not fully utilised by their owners all the time, and spare capacity can be made available through a brokering and booking service – and then scheduled and delivered.

Phase 5: Machine-optimised operations

Remote sensing, predictive algorithms, human-machine teaming – integrated with maintenance planning (plus all the attributes in phases 1-3) should lead to more reliable plant constantly optimised and operated by fewer people. This phase is being referred to as The Internet of Things.

“The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing manufacturing as we know it. Factories and plants that are connected to the Internet are more efficient, productive and smarter than their non-connected counterparts. In a marketplace where companies increasingly need to do whatever they can to survive, those that don’t take advantage of connectivity are lagging behind.”  Forbes Magazine [Link]

The reversing order of adoption

Sometime between 1992 and now a reversal in adoption sequence occurred. Prior to Mosaic the sequence of adoption was: Military, Big Business, Small Business, and Consumer. There was also a geographic sequence that meant technologies emerging in California took a few years (5+?) to make it to Europe and the same again to make it to Asia. The order has now reversed and the spread of ideas is both bi-directional and super-fast. For instance we’re going to see individuals install HIVE before most plant install remote operations. So I think we can already see the new technologies and ways-of working being successfully deployed for consumers – the question is how will the Oil and Gas industry adapt them for its use?

How could real-time sharing of Oil and Gas assets and equipment be made to work? How could we create an “Oil-Uber” for self-employed drilling engineers? How can we scale-up technology like HIVE, algorithms for maintenance diagnostics, combined with the GPS on a tag like that in my £100 Garmin watch attached to and despatch the most available uber-spare-part.

Of course, innovations will sneak up on us through lots, and lots, of small changes but the effect will dramatic – looking back we will see the change, but it will happen gradually with the companies that use more efficient technologies buying assets from those that don’t – or, more accurately, buying assets from their officially appointed receivers.

Crash of 2016 and rise of internet of things

As I write this post crude Oil is trading a shade under $30 and Iran is set to re-enter the market. When I was in Kuwait I thought that the ramp-up of Iraqi production would swing the market – I had not counted Shale or Iran. In some ways a price drop was inevitable in a cyclical industry but the effect of this drop is painful for many good friends in Aberdeen and Stavanger – and other oil-centric towns and cities around the world.

What will the up-shot of this price crash be? Perhaps there are lessons from history?

Price crash of 1986

The chart here (from the FT [Link]) – shows the oil price from 1983-88.

What changed after the crash of the mid-eighties? In my view, the most significant change in Upstream came in Exploration. New techniques and rapid advances in computing power reshaped whole departments of geologists, petrophysicists, geophysicists and started the movement towards integrated sub-surface modelling and simulation which we have today. What happened was a rapid reduction in finding costs and increases in certainty (pre-drilling) – leading to tools that provide deep understanding of deposits and accurate ways to manage reservoir dynamics.

This article in Computer World, May 1987 (page 89) [Link] is subtitled “Cost-cutting prompts Sohio to centralize and integrate systems” – this is the world I remember joining as PDP-11/34’s were being replaced by VAX 11/785 and Micro-Vax’s and sun microsystems 4/330’s, and if you didn’t know how to configure a Versatech plotter and UNIRAS libraries you weren’t much use. That was the start of, and without any research, I’d estimate that the cost on a job-by-job basis has fallen 90% and enabled far more technical reservoirs to be identified and quantified – leading to access to new territories, new financing mechanisms and new development concepts.

The imperative in this period was reservoir optimisation which quickly came to the fore with all manner of rapidly applied innovations in complex drilling, remote sensing and reservoir simulation. Exploration took a back seat for a while with lots of analysis and “banking” of reserves which were not really developed until the mid-noughties.

Price crash of 2015

So what’s going to happen this time around? Like 30 years ago I see that there will be a rush to take cost-reduction actions now, and there will be a period of reflection where new design patterns and new dominant designs will emerge ready for the next upswing.

Low-cost operational interventions

I think we will see the case for low-cost operational interventions. More temporary fixes for failing plant with minimum workable solutions applied to prolong life until shut-down (either permanent shut-down, or a large overhaul). This will include various forms of integrity management solutions – this might be an interesting year for companies like Wood Group, Intertek, ICR, AIBEL etc.

New design pattern for operations

Rapid cost reduction in the North Sea must now be centred on reducing operations costs. This means increasing the throughput of existing plant and reducing production-loss due to outages. This will mean accurate measurement and control, real-time plant-simulation and low-cost approaches to maintenance. Like we saw consolidation of exploration departments and the emergence of integrated geoscience teams we will see the rise of joint operations teams (concepts that have existed for a while but never fully had their impact). We will also see the rise of computer simulation and integration of data across domains – with predictive scheduling of parts and preparation of work-orders so that crews will be able to prioritise work and maximise the value generated from each shut-in period.

The impact of this will be a reduction in lower skilled workers and an increase in on-shore data-savvy planners. There will need to be more instrumentation and remote sensing, data communication and integrated dash-boarding of data. Emerging from this will be discovery of key, high-impact monitoring and intervention techniques and dominant designs for way-of-working will emerge. Much of this work will rely on enabling technology which closely resembles “The Internet of Things” [Link] [Link]

Unlike the many previous attempts at “field of the future” and “intelligent operations” – and a hundred other buzz-words – this time there is real imperative to make this change.

New dominant designs for development

After the 1986 price crash lots of back-office work was undertaken in exploration but drilling was at much lower levels for more than a decade. This time it’s going to be field development that takes the pause. According to the FT, WoodMac reports that over $400bln of projects are now delayed or cancelled. [Link]

I’ve talked to a number of operators this year and no-one is worried about designs taking longer. Everyone wants projects to cost less so that they can have a better chance of attaining FID. I predict that the dominant designs emerging from new design patterns and the remote sensing and operations will be incorporated into these designs in an integrated way. Taking asset data streams (and interpretation of them) into the integrity and barrier models from day one. This will lead to substantially lower cost operations.

With the retirement of the old-guard in both operations and development I expect to see younger engineers who embrace new technologies take major decisions. These are engineers that “get” the bigger picture and are frustrated by the pace of change. Their intervention will lead to more computerised monitoring, more adoption of technology like sub-sea processing, differing materials and techniques and wider acceptance of what were – five years ago – things not considered “proven” – or at least, not proven to the satisfaction of the old-guard.

Working Hours Vary by Country

An interesting update came my way today courtesy of the Deloitte Monday briefing from Ian Stewart.  In my post about starting your own consultancy  [Link] I said that a consultancy would normally expect you to account for 2000 hours a year.  Below are some of the average worker stats by country. Just interesting I thought, I must work too hard !

In 2014 the average Mexican worker put in 2,228 hours, equivalent to a 43-hour working week with no holidays. The average German worked 1,371 hours in 2014, 39% less than the average Mexican. French workers worked 1,473 hours. Contrary to popular perceptions, Greece features among the countries where people work long hours (2,042 hours). By-and-large people in nations with higher levels of productivity work fewer hours, enabling Germans – who have among the highest productivity in the world – to produce more in a relatively short working week.