When an industry is faced with a collective crisis, demand for new solutions and ways of working increase as challenges are grappled with.

The urgency for efficiencies is brought into sharper focus and so too is the acceptance of working smarter. We can all marvel at the fast adoption of video platforms as the switch to homeworking took hold, but the reality is that those tools were readily available. It took a global pandemic to make them universally accepted and so too the notion that we can communicate fluidly and be more efficient through their use.

Crisis is the mother of invention, after all. A quick review of our technology portfolio reveals the roots of innovation are usually aligned with the toughest of times.

Sharing successful solutions

Deep in the downturn of 2015, operator CNR International UK Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., approached Xodus to support the integrity of its North Sea assets. It was a trying time for all in the basin. The oil price hit below $35/bbl and the sector was reeling from what was to be one of the most prolonged downturns it had faced to date. There was a clear objective that the whole subsea integrity process had to be managed in a different way.

We knew that we needed to address the problem from a different perspective. CNR also knew after many years of searching for the perfect Integrity Management solution, it didn’t yet exist off the shelf. An integrated team of engineers from both Xodus and CNR worked hand in glove with our software developers to create XAMIN and deliver a bespoke solution in less than six months. 

The journey was driven by the Integrity Superintendent having a passion to give his team the tools they needed to do the job he expected them to perform.

XAMIN is a modular integrity management software platform providing energy companies with the toolkit needed to effectively and efficiently manage all integrity operations from condition reporting and inspection planning to historical data management. It streamlines the integrity management cycle, linking data to avoid multiple entries, visualizing history to give current results.

CNR could quite easily have paid Xodus for XAMIN and moved on with their internal rollout. But the operator shared our vision and was committed to making this a system that would benefit the whole industry, thus they shared their successes with others. XAMIN has now evolved and is being used by five North Sea operators, sharing best practice solutions across all user companies. The other operators benefitted from the investment and time that CNR put into the original version. CNR in turn benefitted from the additional functionality and lessons learned by the other operators, creating a collaborative environment, leading to a common practice that none could have achieved alone.

Automated assessments

Similarly, it was a frustration at repetitive tasks and the desire to find a better way in the last downturn that led to the idea for eBase, a cloud-based Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) tool. In 2019, Xodus acquired Australia-based environmental consultancy Green Light Environmental and as well as the brilliant team, this technology was a key attraction. 

Following prototype development and funding, eBase was launched in 2016, hugely speeding up the laborious process of EIAs. Petrina Raitt, who now leads our environmental operation in Perth, had recently had a baby, was time-starved and sick of repeatedly pulling info from disparate documents. She decided there had to be a better way. 

Whilst there are systems that present EIA information, this is the only tool that automates the impact assessment process. It’s not just about speed, but also about the quality of the data. It has had strong pick up from operators in Australia and buy in from the regulator and we are now updating for other global locations and including Geographic Information System (GIS) capabilities.

Software solutions deliver hard results

Launched by a small team in the buoyant mid-noughties, right from the get-go we employed senior software developers. The vision was to integrate domain experience through our many varied engineering disciplines, so that complex challenges would be tackled from the user perspective. It was never about creating a fancy piece of kit, but centred on improving user efficiency by giving real-time access to data, not just from the operation, but also from online calculations and visualizations that cut the time to assess a problem, react accordingly, and take the right decision.

That stands true today and that philosophy is helping us navigate through the critical challenges of 2020 with the double whammy of COVID-19 and low oil price.

Whilst our technology ideas have often germinated during tough times, our approach to innovation is continuous. So much so, that we created dedicated roles in the last year to ensure that it is embedded in the way we interact with clients, deliver on projects, and develop new solutions. 

Crises inevitably accelerates evolution as well as pulling sometimes surprisingly obvious solutions in from the margins. Whilst the focus must be on keeping our families, employees and friends safe, one positive may be that we emerge from this period with new habits and behaviors and openness to new solutions that reduce the impacts on society.

The sector has a proud legacy of inventing transformational technologies that have enabled great leaps in how we produce energy. As the momentum builds for low carbon solutions to meet climate goals, so too does the opportunity to take all that knowledge built up through our sector’s 40 plus year legacy of producing oil and gas and super-charge it with new ideas. We share a common goal of enabling the energy transition. And that it something we can all be excited about.

About the Author:

Andrew Wylie
Andrew Wylie

Andrew Wylie is operations director for Scotland and Norway at Xodus.

Wylie joined Xodus Group in 2010 and is responsible for the Scotland and Norway operation. He is a Charted Mechanical Engineer and has many years of subsea project management experience for both FEED and EPIC scale projects across U.K. and Norwegian waters.

He was previously the Scotland Subsea Manager for Xodus Group and has a comprehensive flexible pipe design, manufacture and installation knowledge as a result of various positions within installation contractors and other consultancies. His experience covers the complete project lifecycle from concept, FEED, detailed design, procurement, subsea construction through to commissioning.