Steve Scalise �Matthew Philips, with Meenal Vam­burkar

Bloomberg Businessweek (North America) - - Focus On/ Energy -

For oil and gas com­pa­nies plumb­ing U.S. wa­ters in the Gulf of Mex­ico, Scalise is a pow­er­ful ally. He’s lured Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic col­leagues onto he­li­copters bound for re­mote rigs to con­vince them of the im­por­tance of off­shore drilling and the risk of reg­u­lat­ing it from Wash­ing­ton. Since last April, he’s been fight­ing to over­turn a new Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion drilling rule. ▶ Scalise’s dis­trict en­com­passes the full spec­trum of oil and gas de­vel­op­ment. The in­dus­try is the top con­trib­u­tor to his 2016 re­elec­tion bid and has given $ 197,000 so far, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ter for Re­spon­sive Politics, a Wash­ing­ton cam­paign watch­dog. “He’s a rock star on our stuff,” says Stephen Brown, vice pres­i­dent for fed­eral gov­ern­ment af­fairs at oil re­finer Te­soro. ▶ Exxonmo­bil says the Obama reg­u­la­tion, which will im­pose tough re­quire­ments for coastal wells and emer­gency equip­ment meant to keep them in check, could cost as much as $ 25 bil­lion over 10 years and limit drilling in the Gulf. The ad­min­is­tra­tion re­buffed Scalise’s calls to de­lay the rule by six months for more pub­lic com­ment. The con­gress­man has vowed to keep push­ing for leg­is­la­tion to over­turn it. “Ev­ery­thing is on the table,” he says. �Jennifer A. Dlouhy

Welder says Wellaware’s gear has saved his com­pany hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars in the past year. “It would’ve been a lot worse if not for this tech­nol­ogy,” says Welder, who cut his staff by about a third over the past two years and idled about 30 per­cent of his wells. The use of the tech­nol­ogy also helped his re­main­ing em­ploy­ees be­come more pro­duc­tive. “Those guys who used to be in the trucks are no longer just data gath­er­ers,” he says. “They’re prob­lem solvers.” In 2014, Welder joined the board of Wellaware.

In a re­port re­leased in March, Mckin­sey es­ti­mates that each of the world’s oil ma­jors could reap $1 bil­lion in cost sav­ings and pro­duc­tion in­creases from the adop­tion of dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies. In Cal­i­for­nia, Chevron is us­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence to mine troves of his­tor­i­cal data on well lo­ca­tions with the goal of max­i­miz­ing pro­duc­tion. In late 2015 the com­pany also be­gan to fly drones over its oil fields in the San Joaquin Val­ley to col­lect data and build high-def­i­ni­tion maps.

Ahmed Hashmi, global head of up­stream tech­nol­ogy at BP, says the com­pany has plowed “sev­eral hun­dred mil­lion dol­lars” into dig­i­tal field tech­nolo­gies, which now cover about 85 per­cent of its oil and gas pro­duc­tion around the world, com­pared with just 20 per­cent five years ago. “Dig­i­tal is the rare tech­nol­ogy that al­lows us to do more with less,” he says.

Even so, it’s not al­ways an easy sell. “A lot of guys in the oil and gas in­dus­try are older, and they don’t com­pletely un­der­stand the tech stuff,” says Ken Sig­mon, sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager of Bluet­ick, a North Carolina com­pany that of­fers re­mote mon­i­tor­ing and au­toma­tion ser­vices for oil and gas com­pa­nies. Sig­mon chuck­les about a re­cent con­ver­sa­tion he had with a Texas oil pro­ducer who still used a flip phone. When “they see that their com­peti­tors are mak­ing them­selves more ef­fi­cient and prof­itable, then they’ll buy into it,” he says. “We used to use spears, now we use guns.”

U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives (R-LA.) July 2014-present Ma­jor­ity whip, U.S. House

May 2008-present Mem­ber, U.S. House

Jan­uary-may 2008 Mem­ber, Louisiana Se­nate

1996-2008 Mem­ber, Louisiana House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives

Ed­u­ca­tion B.S., com­puter sci­ence, Louisiana State Univer­sity The bot­tom line The col­lapse in oil prices is stok­ing de­mand for tech­nolo­gies to au­to­mate oil­field func­tions once per­formed by hu­mans. Edited by Cristina Lind­blad and Dim­i­tra Kessenides

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