[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the August 2020 edition of E&P. Subscribe to the magazine here.]  

As the energy industry faces increasing pressure to solve the challenges of efficient energy consumption, improved emissions, better workforce utilization and increased facility optimization, digital solutions are no longer an option but a necessity.

There is much talk surrounding why energy-centric digital solutions are needed. From new developments to EOR to decommissioning, multiple digital tools such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, robotics, drones and autonomous vehicles are already widely operational. What is required now is a strategic understanding of how to truly digitalize an industrial organization effectively, at scale, for the most significant business impact.

Extracting value from data, collaboration and learning from others, and multiskilling the workforce are all significant success factors.
Automating the process of extracting, manipulating and gaining value from data is as essential to the fourth industrial revolution as the steam engine was to the first. Seamlessly combining conventional IT data such as the information provided by business process systems across the enterprise with operational data is critical.

Platforms do exist, and the time to realize “value from data” is shortening. However, organizations must be crystal clear on how data will help achieve business goals. There is little point in data for data’s sake, as it is the insight gained that is important.

The inherent desire within the energy industry is to create bespoke solutions. Collaboration across companies needs to become commonplace. Appropriate, off-the-shelf software and hardware solutions must be employed for the industry’s adoption of digitalization to progress much faster.

Cognite recently announced a strategic partnership with Aker BP to investigate how robotics and drones could be employed on the Skarv oil and gas platform to carry out safer, more efficient and sustainable operations. Using Cognite’s Data Fusion cloud-based platform, relevant data are easily accessible and can be used to drive decision-making. Testing will take place throughout 2020 and will include autonomous inspection, high-quality data capture and response to leaks.

There are a multitude of small-scale companies with digital solutions, tools, platforms and experience that can revolutionize business models.

Not every company is capable of forging its own path. Nor do they necessarily need to. It’s good to have leaders and followers, but it’s also important to understand when a company should lead and when it should follow. Operators have a tremendous responsibility to listen to the entire supply chain as there are a multitude of small-scale companies with digital solutions, tools, platforms and experience that can revolutionize business models.

Other industries, such as banking, defense, life sciences and automotive, are significantly further ahead in their digital journey, and we must learn from them to accelerate our action to adopt and adapt digitally.

Many will be showcased at ENGenious 2020, the sister event to SPE Offshore Europe. It was originally scheduled to be held Sept. 22-24 in Aberdeen, but the decision was made to switch ENGenious from a face-to-face conference and exhibition to a virtual conference format in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference program will showcase innovative companies that are successfully adapting and growing their core business by scaling digital technologies.

Leaders must understand the opportunity presented by scaling digital adoption. Multiskilling the existing workforce and bringing in new types of resources (e.g., data scientists and software developers) are critical. Digital tools and applications must be as intuitive and easy to use as possible. If the user experience is inferior, uptake will be limited.

Let’s not underestimate the challenge ahead of us. Altering the core ways of working within the energy industry is an immense undertaking. It can only be achieved successfully if the value to be gained from digital and technological solutions is understood and embraced throughout organizations.

The pace of digital evolution is tremendous, but never again will it move so slowly.