RIO DE JANEIRO— Not long ago, storing large amounts of data was expensive for oil and gas companies, data access speeds were slow, and infrastructure was inadequate among other difficulties.

But times are changing with progress in these areas and more.

“The oil and gas industry is one of the most automated segments,” Claudio Makarovsky, head of oil and gas for Siemens in Brazil, told hundreds gathered recently for Siemens Forum 2018. “Currently, oil platforms are being remotely operated, which means that there is a digital transition that is much more than just using big data and analytics tools.”

The German engineering company, which has been expanding its presence in Brazil, put on the forum as the industry moves deeper into the digital age and uses such technology to operate more efficiently.

“Now digitization allows the integration of departments that previously operated separately in silos. Before, it was very difficult to have this kind of integration,” he added. “Oil companies that do not see the importance of digitalization will not be competitive.”

Makarovsky also spoke about digital twins, which is essentially the virtual form of a product or process created by combining data with software. He described it as the ultimate digitalization tool that will improve manufacturing processes, reduce costs for prototypes and enable projects to be launched faster.

It’s more than simulation because digital twins use real data from sensors from oil and gas sites. More information makes way for a more robust digital twin.

“Currently, we can get through modeling to create digital twins of plant engineering projects, equipment, processes or even a fleet of platforms,” Makarovsky said.

Digitalization was among the main topics discussed at the forum, which also focused on issues such as infrastructure challenges, collaboration and ways to boost energy transition talks without leaving the oil and gas industry behind.

Makarovsky emphasized that fossil fuels will still be a crucial part of the energy mix and will continue to be so for a long time.

Speaking on the topic Global Innovation for Boosting Investments in the Oil and Gas Industry, he said the resource potential of the Brazilian presalt, which can produce roughly 30,000 barrels of oil from a single producing well in the Libra oil field, and REPETRO—the special customs regime for the oil industry—are encouraging companies to eye Brazil as a location for oil and gas investments.

But the sector is not without challenges.

“More and more the industry is demanding lower costs and maximization of the recovery factor,” Makarovsky said. “Those issues also apply to Brazil, mainly those related to the maximization of the oil recovery factor. Brazil needs to increase the recovery factor of the fields, which is now 24%, compared to the world average of 35% and increase production.”

Makarovsky also highlighted Siemens electrification projects, including the Siemens Subsea Power Grid. The technology, which provides power for subsea equipment, uses power cables, transformers, switching mechanisms and variable speed drives to power and control electrically driven pumps, separators and other processing equipment. Required energy is provided via the umbilical of the offshore platform topside.

Siemens has a strong presence in Brazil’s oil and gas market. According to the company, two-thirds of Brazil’s oil platforms use Siemens’ solutions to meet the growing demand of leaner and more agile projects, which will be based on three automation, electrification and digitization - and, together, will increase efficiency and optimize operations.