The cure for ‘un­bear­able pain’

The Press and Journal (Inverness) - - ENERGY -

Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion is needed where the pain is “most un­bear­able”, an in­dus­try tech­nol­ogy leader has said.

And ac­cord­ing to Ak­se­los chief ex­ec­u­tive Thomas Leurent, the pinch point most in need is the oil and gas sec­tor.

“The term we use for our tech­nol­ogy is tough tech,” he said.

“It’s not like an Ap­ple or a smart­phone. It is re­ally much harder than that. When you bring some­thing to mar­ket like that you are ask­ing cus­tomers to ex­ert some sort of ef­fort to adopt. That ef­fort must be dwarfed by the pain it is try­ing to solve. There must be a very high level of pain for peo­ple to come in and adopt a tech­nol­ogy.”

Ak­se­los uses MIT-li­cenced tech­nol­ogy to cre­ate the world’s most ad­vanced en­gi­neer­ing sim­u­la­tion tech­nol­ogy – or dig­i­tal twins. The tech is based on al­go­rithms that are 1,000 times faster than those typ­i­cally used in con­ven­tional de­sign tech­nol­ogy, en­abling de­tailed and ac­cu­rate struc­tural sim­u­la­tions of large-scale op­er­a­tional as­sets.

The com­pany’s vi­sion is to com­bine the sim­u­la­tion soft­ware with sen­sors and big data an­a­lyt­ics to cre­ate an ex­act vir­tual replica of an as­set in its cur­rent en­vi­ron­ment, which the com­pany de­scribes as a Dig­i­tal Guardian. This will al­low op­er­a­tors real-time ac­cess to the con­di­tion of their as­set from any­where at any time and al­low a move to­wards pre­dic­tive and pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance. It will also bet­ter in­form the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process with As­set Life Ex­ten­sion, us­ing data to re­as­sure op­er­a­tors that as­sets are safe to con­tinue op­er­at­ing be­yond their de­sign life.

Mr Leurent, who is a for­mer US gov­ern­ment sci­en­tist, has his­tor­i­cally worked with the au­to­mo­tive and aero­space in­dus­tries.

“But frankly, the cars run fine. The planes fly OK,” he said.

“You have to find an in­dus­try where the level of pain is just un­bear­able for the tech­nol­ogy to be adopted and I think that’s where oil and gas is when it comes to the life ex­ten­sion of as­sets.

“You have to con­sider what it means to go out­side de­sign life by 20 years and what tech­nol­ogy you can bring to make it safer and leaner.”

The MIT grad has since part­nered with In­dus­try Tech­nol­ogy Fa­cil­i­ta­tor (ITF) to in­ves­ti­gate the po­ten­tial to rev­o­lu­tionise as­set man­age­ment in the oil and gas in­dus­try.

But Mr Leurent in­sists dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is more than just a tech­nol­ogy buy-in.

“Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion is not just about tech­nol­ogy,” he said.

“It’s go­ing to change the op­er­at­ing model for the op­er­a­tors and it’s go­ing to change the busi­ness model for the tech­nol­ogy providers. As you go dig­i­tal you have a lot of the key ex­per­tise from the world­wide arena get­ting em­bed­ded into soft­ware, which can be used more ef­fec­tively.

“This gets sold at a high mar­gin and it also means that the busi­ness model for the ser­vice providers shifts to­wards sell­ing soft­ware with high mar­gins ver­sus sell­ing ser­vices per hour.”

He added: “From an in­dus­try per­spec­tive we hear a lot about the in­vest­ment in big data and digi­ti­sa­tion. Big data on its own won’t crack it.”

Un­like the Ama­zons of the world where a 51% pre­dictabil­ity rate can still make a profit, the sec­tor must hone its abil­ity to lever­age big data into a much higher pre­dictabil­ity rate.

“In the oil and gas in­dus­try, the cost of test­ing a de­fect you have iden­ti­fied may ex­ist, if it’s a sub­sea in­spec­tion, is go­ing to be $2mil­lion. If you’re go­ing to do an in­spec­tion based on big data you want a pre­dic­tive power north of 90%.

“That’s not what big data can do for many rea­sons. It usu­ally has a lower pre­dic­tive power, be­cause there’s too few data points. The data points you’re in­ter­ested in aren’t all the ones that get streamed from the sen­sors. It’s specif­i­cally the fail­ure ones, when some­thing fails you have a data point. When it runs fine you don’t. And things don’t fail of­ten, which is good.

“Try­ing to pro­vide big data where there isn’t a lot of rel­e­vant data to work with and the cost of test­ing your hy­poth­e­sis is in the mil­lions of dol­lars is not what big data was built for.

“A lot of big data has been sold as if it works for Ama­zon it will work for the oil and gas in­dus­try. It doesn’t. The mod­els we bring cre­ate struc­ture with a hand­ful of data points.”

As well as chang­ing the in­dus­try’s pace of re­sponse, dig­i­tal will also change the scope of those re­spond­ing, ac­cord­ing to Mr Leurent.

“When cash ma­chines were cre­ated peo­ple thought it would wipe out all sorts of jobs in the sys­tem, but it cre­ated higher value jobs,” he said.

“The same thing is go­ing to hap­pen as we go through this dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion. The jobs are go­ing to change, but to say that jobs are go­ing to dis­ap­pear is not cor­rect.

“We’re go­ing to make things safer and make our in­fra­struc­ture more sus­tain­able and lower the in­dus­try’s car­bon foot­print.

“One thing we can’t ig­nore is that as the pace for in­no­va­tion goes faster, the com­pa­nies and the gov­ern­ments have a re­spon­si­bil­ity in mak­ing sure peo­ple can get re­trained and ul­ti­mately do jobs that will be aug­mented by bet­ter tools and be more in­ter­est­ing.”

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