Global oil and gas sector is operating in an environment of unparalleled opportunity coupled with dynamism and volatility. In today’s world companies are looking for ways to create a sustainable cost-efficient model of operation. This model should be targeted to meet the challenges of the oil and gas industry, which includes margin pressure, cost competition, supply-chain issues, manpower shortage, global competition, technological advancements, and asset reliability. The good news here is, there is a solution within our reach that has immense untapped potential. Let us understand how Information technology can be leveraged in the oil and gas industry for greater benefit and sustainability.
What Is trending in Information Technology?
There are numerous technological advancements that are governing the oil and gas industry and are referred to as the drivers of the sector, these include:
Big data management - The use of automation and information technology resulting in the creation of volumes of data. This is then categorized and analyzed to create insightful information that helps in better decision-making.
Cloud computing - Cloud computing enables the oil companies to store and access a large volume of data. It allows seamless data management and computing across the organization.
IoT and SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) architecture - Industrial Internet of Things and SCADA help the operational process of oil and gas industry by merging it with information technology. The IT interface provides broad operational insights that help in optimizing the operational process. It can also enhance the cost efficiency and productivity.
Digital Oil-field- The sensors in pumps and well-heads create numerous data, both internally and externally. With the advent of information technology, this data is monitored and analyzed to create a digitally integrated oil value chain.
However, it is important that the oil and gas sector should adopt new IT practices to make them future-ready. The focus should not be just on data analysis via sensors but rather it should start addressing the entire E&P value chain and foray into complete automation. Until now the data collected and analyzed has been used to detect anomalies but now the time is right to optimize the resources and predict the future course.
How and where can IT be used in the oil and gas industry?
The important IT concepts like Big Data and analytics, IoT and SCADA can be used effectively in various areas of oil and gas industry, here are some of the applications:
Preventive maintenance of critical components
The real-time operational data derived from various critical components can help in setting a benchmark of quality parameters. The IT system will detect any deviation from the expected baseline and will alert the operational division to take prompt action. This system can be centralized such that the information available is real-time and accurate to plan preventive maintenance on time. This will help in reducing the maintenance cost and will avoid any hindrance in productivity.
By analyzing the historical data and real-time data from the well site, the drilling managers can discover the best performing wells. The current site location and its characteristics will be matched to the existing well site information to diagnose the right location for drilling, the rate of penetration and the expected issues that the team might encounter. This will help in better planning and execution.
With the integration of digital application, the oil companies have significantly increased the limit of the reservoir. Which resulted in a decrease in upstream and downstream capital expenditure along with additional ancillary benefits. Some oil and gas companies are using 4-D seismic imaging to add a time-lapse dimension to traditional 3-D imaging which enables them to measure and forecast fluid changes in reservoirs. This enhanced view of reservoirs typically increases the recovery rate by boosting upstream revenue.
Intuitive marketing and distribution
Retailers and marketers in other industries have successfully implemented digital technologies to understand consumer psychology for better positioning and marketing of their products and services. They also use this data to optimize pricing strategies, supply chain management, and product improvement. Oil companies have successfully replicated the result in the industry. With the help of geospatial analytics, the logistics department of the oil and gas company can efficiently manage the supply and distribution networks through location planning and route optimization.
Informed decision making
The availability of a large amount of detailed real-time data categorized into various formats can help the management and stakeholders to understand the performance and problems with each segment. It enables them to make informed decisions to maximize productivity and performance.
Recruitment and talent management
Technology has completely transformed the talent acquisition, management, and retention process. The oil companies can use digital platforms like NrgEdge.com to advertise their job openings and reach out to potential candidates. They can conduct screening tests, background checks, telephonic or video interviews for hiring suitable candidates. Additionally, they can also manage and monitor the performance of the employees via dedicated platforms. Even the on-job training can be conducted to upskill the existing employees through audio/video interface and via augmented or virtual reality like simulators. Oil and gas companies require highly skilled professionals, Information technology allows them to fix the skill, talent and knowledge gap efficiently.
It’s time for the oil and gas companies to reinvent themselves by investing in digital technologies. With the right application of big data and analytics, the oil and gas industry can be immensely benefitted. It can help optimize performance, predict breakdowns, streamline maintenance work, and help in better and informed decision making. This will result in higher productivity, enhanced operational activity, reduction in downtime and wastage which means higher profitability and sustainability.
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Two acquisitions in the energy sector were announced in the last week that illustrate the growing divergence in approaching the future of oil and gas between Europe and the USA. In France, Total announced that it had bought Fonroche Biogaz, the market leader in the production of renewable gas in France. In North America, ConocoPhillips completed its acquisition of Concho Resources, deepening the upstream major’s foothold into the lucrative Permian Basin and its shale riches. One is heading towards renewables, and the other is doubling down on conventional oil and gas.
What does this say about the direction of the energy industry?
Total’s move is unsurprising. Like almost all of its European peers operating in the oil and gas sector, Total has announced ambitious targets to become carbon-neutral by 2050. It is an ambition supported by the European population and pushed for by European governments, so in that sense, Total is following the wishes of its investors and stakeholders – just like BP, Shell, Repsol, Eni and others are doing. Fonroche Biogaz is therefore a canny acquisition. The company designs, builds and operates anaerobic digestion units that convert organic waste such as farming manure into biomethane to serve a gas feedstock for power generation. Fonroche Biogaz already has close to 500 GWh of installed capacity through seven power generation units with four in the pipeline. This feeds into Total’s recent moves to expand its renewable power generation capacity, with the stated intention of increasing the group’s biomethane capacity to 1.5 terawatts per hour (TWh) by 2025. Through this, Total vaults into a leading position within the renewable gas market in Europe, which is already active through affiliates such as Méthanergy, PitPoint and Clean Energy.
In parallel to this move, Total also announced that it has decided not to renew its membership in the American Petroleum Institute for 2021. Citing that it is only ‘partially aligned’ with the API on climate change issues in the past, Total has now decided that those positions have now ‘diverged’ particularly on rolling back methane emission regulations, carbon pricing and decarbonising transport. The French supermajor is not alone in its stance. BP, which has ditched the supermajor moniker in favour of turning itself into a clean energy giant, has also expressed reservations over the API’s stance over climate issues, and may very well choose to resign from the trade group as well. Other European upstream players might follow suit.
However, the core of the API will remain American energy firms. And the stance among these companies remains pro-oil and gas, despite shareholder pressure to bring climate issues and clean energy to the forefront. While the likes of ExxonMobil and Chevron have balanced significant investments into prolific shale patches in North America with public overtures to embrace renewables, no major US firm has made a public commitment to a carbon-neutral future as their European counterparts have. And so ConocoPhillips acquisition of Concho Resources, which boosts its value to some US$60 billion is not an outlier, but a preview of the ongoing consolidation happening in US shale as the free-for-all days give way to big boy acquisitions following the price-upheaval there since 2019.
That could change. In fact, it will change. The incoming Biden administration marks a significant break from the Trump administration’s embrace of oil and gas. Instead of opening of protected federal lands to exploration, especially in Alaska and sensitive coastal areas and loosening environmental regulations, the US will now pivot to putting climate change at the top of the agenda. Although political realities may water it down, the progressive faction of the Democrats are pushing for a Green New Deal embracing sustainability as the future for the US. Biden has already hinted that he may cancel the controversial and long-running Keystone XL pipeline via executive order on his first day in the office. His nominees for key positions including the Department of the Interior, Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and Council on Environmental Quality suggest that there will be a major push on low-carbon and renewable initiatives, at least for the next 4 years. A pledge to reach net zero fossil fuel emissions from the power sector by 2035 has been mooted. More will come.
The landscape is changing. But the two approaches still apply, the aggressive acceleration adopted by European majors, and the slower movement favoured by US firms. Political changes in the USA might hasten the change, but it is unlikely that convergence will happen anytime soon. There is room in the world for both approaches for now, but the future seems inevitable. It just depends on how energy companies want to get there.
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In its January Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) expects global demand for petroleum liquids will be greater than global supply in 2021, especially during the first quarter, leading to inventory draws. As a result, EIA expects the price of Brent crude oil to increase from its December 2020 average of $50 per barrel (b) to an average of $56/b in the first quarter of 2021. The Brent price is then expected to average between $51/b and $54/b on a quarterly basis through 2022.
EIA expects that growth in crude oil production from members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and partner countries (OPEC+) will be limited because of a multilateral agreement to limit production. Saudi Arabia announced that it would voluntarily cut production by an additional 1.0 million b/d during February and March. Even with this cut, EIA expects OPEC to produce more oil than it did last year, forecasting that crude oil production from OPEC will average 27.2 million b/d in 2021, up from an estimated 25.6 million b/d in 2020.
EIA forecasts that U.S. crude oil production in the Lower 48 states—excluding the Gulf of Mexico—will decline in the first quarter of 2021 before increasing through the end of 2022. In 2021, EIA expects crude oil production in this region will average 8.9 million b/d and total U.S. crude oil production will average 11.1 million b/d, which is less than 2020 production.
EIA expects that responses to the recent rise in COVID-19 cases will continue to limit global oil demand in the first half of 2021. Based on global macroeconomic forecasts from Oxford Economics, however, EIA forecasts that global gross domestic product will grow by 5.4% in 2021 and by 4.3% in 2022, leading to energy consumption growth. EIA forecasts that global consumption of liquid fuels will average 97.8 million barrels per day (b/d) in 2021 and 101.1 million b/d in 2022, only slightly less than the 2019 average of 101.2 million b/d.
EIA expects global inventory draws will contribute to forecast rising crude oil prices in the first quarter of 2021. Despite rising forecast crude oil prices in early 2021, EIA expects upward price pressure will be limited through the forecast period because of high global oil inventory, surplus crude oil production capacity, and stock draws decreasing after the first quarter of 2021. EIA forecasts Brent crude oil prices will average $53/b in both 2021 and 2022.
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Short-Term Energy Outlook (STEO)
You can find more information on EIA’s expectations for changes in global petroleum liquids production, consumption, and crude oil prices in EIA’s latest This Week in Petroleum article and its January STEO.
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