Accelerating digital transformation in oil and gas for competitive edge

Digital-first operations is an ever-persistent conversation across industries, but for the oil and gas segment and how this translates for a highly dispersed, asset-intensive operation there is real opportunity to reduce costs while improving productivity and worker safety.

By Rudy De Anda April 16, 2024
Courtesy: Stratus Technologies

 

Learning Objectives

  • Learn how to gain visibility and control integration of critical business data across disparate assets and systems.
  • Understand how using automation to boost efficiency allows the workforce to focus on more strategic and business-critical initiatives.
  • Learn about the benefit of taking advantage of technologies like HMI/SCADA, edge computing, data, analytics and artificial intelligence to help get a handle on operating data and overall operations.

Oil and gas companies need to take meaningful steps to find ways to bridge the digital gap, the key to which is edge computing. By leveraging edge computing, oil and gas companies can lay the groundwork to transform business operations, seamlessly integrating digital tools and solutions, such as remote monitoring of advanced process control systems that will help them keep pace with demands of the rapidly evolving energy market.

Cut costs and increase productivity with edge computing

Up- and mid-stream companies have remote locations filled with a growing sea of data, all of which hold potentially crucial insights that could shed light on impending problems, opportunities for optimization and areas of waste that could be eliminated. When data like this exists in so many varying locations, visibility and control integration are key. The first step here is to anticipate problems and opportunities, then act upon them with real-time data-driven decision making.

Stratus ztC Endurance Computing Platform provides reliable, easy-to-implement edge-computing resources in rugged design.

Stratus ztC Endurance Computing Platform provides reliable, easy-to-implement edge-computing resources in rugged design. Courtesy: Stratus Technologies

Anticipating problems is critical to avoiding costly downtime. In the Colonial Pipeline cyberattack in 2021, downtime for an oil and gas company can mean massive swaths of customers are unable to access critical utilities for days at a time, putting a company’s reputation at risk. Ensuring the continuous availability of critical applications and the integrity of data is essential to businesses. In some cases, recovering from a failure or downtime is not an option due to not just financial concerns, but rather safety related. In addition, data transfer can become costly if volumes are high when uploading and downloading data from the cloud, but edge computing drastically reduces this cost by capturing and processing data locally.

Automation in the oil and gas industry enables employees to work more efficiently and enhances productivity and safety by automating mundane, repetitive tasks that are prone to human error. With that, employees have more time to focus on more strategic and business-critical initiatives such as data analysis and skill development that drives continued business and operational performance gains. Combined with remote capabilities and streamlined operations, leaders can create a smarter, more efficient workforce.

Tap into automation to boost efficiency

As in other industries, embracing automation can pay dividends for businesses in the energy industry. Not only does automation ensure operations will run smoothly, but automating key processes can help spot potential issues before they happen, helping avoid costly downtime. According to a Siemens predictive maintenance report, Oil and gas companies have seen the cost of an hour’s downtime more than double in just two years, to almost $500,000 and the total losses to downtime are also rising sharply. With automation practices set in place as a much-needed boost in support to staff particularly in the face of a global skills shortage in the industry, they can better manage and maintain information technology (IT) systems in operational technology (OT) environments is provided.

Edge computing is a distributed computing model in which computing takes place at the edge of operations. An edge computing platform collects critical data from sensors and equipment in a manufacturing environment.

Edge computing is a distributed computing model in which computing takes place at the edge of operations. An edge computing platform collects critical data from sensors and equipment in a manufacturing environment. Courtesy: Stratus Technologies

Monitoring system health is an important task for IT teams, but in a company as geographically vast as an oil and gas provider, monitoring those systems is a major time-consuming and cost-intensive task. But with an edge computing platform helping handle the flow of data, oil and gas companies can now easily prioritize integrating automation into their monitoring workflows and better institute industry best practices. Creating this autonomous monitoring environment means companies can more easily take inventory of assets, determine the health and status of all systems and operating assets and identify and release software patches and updates as needed.

Bringing in edge computing and edge analytics better supports IT and OT teams at oil and gas companies because these solutions enable teams to gather data and analyze it at the source of origination, enabling more efficient, real-time decision-making. On the OT side, edge computing allows teams to have access to modern local control with full local support. From an IT perspective, edge computing incorporates the latest industry-standard components, making systems easier to manage, service and protect. With the ability to have real-time monitoring across the organization, oil and gas companies can more readily spot if there’s a problem and ensure they have the right resources dedicated to solving it. With this new level of oversight, companies can ensure their staffs are free to tackle the most pressing challenges, without wasting time checking on systems in those remote locations.

Uncover new revenue opportunities

Beyond strictly modernizing technology infrastructure, leveraging digital tools is an important way for an oil and gas business to increase revenue and generate new value-producing opportunities.

Taking advantage of technologies like human-machine interface (HMI), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) software, edge computing, data, analytics and artificial intelligence helps oil and gas companies turn the sea of data into actionable insights. This combination of technologies empowers leaders to uncover where the next big opportunity lies and most importantly, gives them the agility to capitalize on those opportunities. Digital transformation adds benefits that extend far beyond the IT teams. A strong foundation of these digital tools will make it easier to provide business partners with a better experience and consistent, reliable service. When systems are supported by edge computing and digital technology that operate with minimal downtime or disruption, this results in happy customers that are confident in the service they receive.

Identifying key opportunity areas for applying edge computing across critical business operations to help guide overall edge solution design.

Identifying key opportunity areas for applying edge computing across critical business operations to help guide overall edge solution design. Courtesy: Stratus Technologies

Regardless of what industry a business operates in, modernizing and embracing digital transformation is no longer an option and ultimately can hamper long-term success and energy companies are no exception. Businesses face serious challenges when it comes to managing infrastructure, systems health and handling systems in remote locations and the complexity will only continue to grow. By leveraging edge computing and other digital technologies, oil and gas businesses have a powerful means to tear down data silos, effectively analyze data in remote locations at the source and create revenue-generating sources. With edge computing and the right tools in place, oil and gas companies can make the most of their operations and more importantly, won’t find themselves being left behind in an increasingly digital-first environment.

Rudy De Anda is the head of strategic alliances for Stratus Technologies. Edited by Tyler Wall, associate editor, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, twall@cfemedia.com.

KEYWORDS: Edge and cloud computing, Leveraging digital tools

ONLINE

See other ways edge computing helps manufacturing on the Control Engineering edge and cloud computing page.

https://www.controleng.com/edge-cloud-computing/

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How can edge computing accelerate your digitalization efforts?


Author Bio: Rudy De Anda is the head of strategic alliances for Stratus Technologies.