Refining & Petrochemicals Middle East - - KNOWLEDGE PARTNER - Ron Beck, en­ergy in­dus­try mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Aspen­tech

The push to­wards dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and the ad­vance of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and an­a­lyt­ics based tech­nolo­gies are open­ing a whole new range of op­por­tu­ni­ties for the oil and gas in­dus­try, com­ments

Dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion con­tin­ues to be the key­note of the com­ing year for op­er­a­tors across the oil and gas sec­tor. Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion is noth­ing new to the sec­tor, of course. Re­finer­ies have, for ex­am­ple, been pur­su­ing it for more than thirty years, with tech­nolo­gies like ad­vanced process con­trol (APC) well-es­tab­lished as part of the op­er­a­tional mix of many op­er­a­tors.

What is dif­fer­ent to­day is how quickly the mi­gra­tion is ac­cel­er­at­ing. The trend is be­ing led by the Asian re­fin­ing in­dus­try. Or­gan­i­sa­tions in In­dia, Malaysia, Thai­land, In­done­sia and China are push­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion ag­gres­sively be­cause they un­der­stand this can be a com­pet­i­tive and eco­nomic ad­van­tage for them against slower-mov­ing, tra­di­tional ri­vals in other re­gions. Re­finer­ies in Europe must en­sure they are not left trail­ing in the wake of their Asian peers.

Be­yond the re­gional tail­winds though, the rate of tech­no­log­i­cal change is al­ready driv­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion the world over. The vol­ume of con­nected data avail­able to op­er­a­tors con­tin­ues to grow quickly. Much of this is be­ing driven by the on­go­ing ex­pan­sion of the In­dus­trial In­ter­net of Things (IIOT) mar­ket, which ac­cord­ing to re­search firm, Mar­kets and Mar­kets, is ex­pected to grow from $64bn in 2018 to $91.4bn by 2023, at a CAGR of 7.39% dur­ing that fore­cast pe­riod. Cou­pled with this, we are see­ing rapid growth in ma­chine learn­ing, mak­ing in­sights about plant and equip­ment avail­able faster to se­nior de­ci­sion-mak­ers; and in mo­bil­ity, vi­su­al­i­sa­tion and an­a­lyt­ics, pro­vid­ing sim­ple in­ter­faces and in­sight to data and mod­els.

As­set re­li­a­bil­ity

The abil­ity to ex­am­ine and model data and trends rapidly helps op­er­a­tors make op­ti­mal eco­nomic trade-offs, max­imis­ing sus­tain­abil­ity and profit. Dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion also helps them build in the flex­i­bil­ity to utilise as­sets close to de­sign ca­pac­i­ties in the face of un­cer­tain and chang­ing prod­uct de­mands and eco­nom­ics. But per­haps the most ur­gent driver is around as­set re­li­a­bil­ity and the way it can be im­proved through pre­dic­tive and pre­scrip­tive main­te­nance tech­niques. This is key be­cause these tech­nolo­gies have huge po­ten­tial across the sec­tor, of­fer­ing a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive to the tra­di­tional cal­en­dar-based ap­proach to as­set main­te­nance.

With this ap­proach, the fo­cus is analysing is­sues known to cause a prob­lem such as vi­bra­tion in a pump, or com­pres­sor. Sonic mon­i­tors can be added to the de­vice and when vi­bra­tion ex­ceeds a cer­tain level, alerts can be sent to ad­vise op­er­a­tors that re­me­dial ac­tion is needed.

Pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics

Pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics adds a new layer of so­phis­ti­ca­tion to the method­ol­ogy, mov­ing it from a prod­uct-based to a broader process based ap­proach. In de­liv­er­ing pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics, there has to be a recog­ni­tion that pro­cesses, ac­tiv­i­ties and sys­tems used in the plant are in­ter­con­nected. Pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics looks at data streams across these, and pin­points so­phis­ti­cated sig­na­tures and pat­terns of data that are hap­pen­ing in ad­vance of an event.

Crit­i­cally too, the ap­proach also tells the op­er­a­tor the root cause of the prob­lem. It can in­form them not only that the com­pres­sor is go­ing to fail but also that its im­pend­ing fail­ure is di­rectly linked to the leak­age of liq­uid into the gas lines at a cer­tain con­cen­tra­tion, or even just a slow change in the pres­sure recorded. That ef­fec­tively is the pre­scrip­tive el­e­ment of the ap­proach. It not only high­lights the im­pend­ing prob­lem, it also high­lights ac­tions that can be taken to avoid it. It is still in its in­fancy to­day but over the course of 2019, we ex­pect to see the level of in­ter­est and ex­cite­ment around it gath­er­ing pace all the time.

Scop­ing out the re­sults

Ul­ti­mately though, pre­scrip­tive an­a­lyt­ics is just one ex­am­ple, al­beit an im­por­tant one, of the drive to dig­i­tal across the oil and gas sec­tor. In terms of out­comes, we see three key trends play­ing out across the sec­tor as the march to dig­i­tal gath­ers pace. First, the na­ture of work will change. As re­fin­ery and as­set tasks be­come more au­tonomous and Ai-as­sisted, sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tiv­ity gain can be ex­pected. In­di­vid­u­als and the busi­nesses they work for need to un­der­stand that the re­quire­ment for work­ers will evolve. Or­gan­i­sa­tions and peo­ple will need to re­train them­selves.

We also ex­pect to see 2019 wit­ness the con­tin­u­ing roll-out of a new trend, which we term here: ‘net­works of in­dus­try coope­ti­tion’. The op­por­tu­nity to seam­lessly con­nect el­e­ments of the value chain will give com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage to com­pa­nies, which recog­nise that and can take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­nity to build busi­ness al­liances across the value chain. Much as Ama­zon has done with con­sumer goods ship­ping and de­liv­ery sup­ply chains, process man­u­fac­tur­ers will do to re­act to mar­ket op­por­tu­nity and man­u­fac­tur­ing and pric­ing chal­lenges.

The fi­nal key trend across this sec­tor will be around or­gan­i­sa­tional change. Knowl­edge-au­tomat­ing and pow­er­ful pro­vi­sion of data and mod­els across re­fin­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions will democra­tise the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. The peo­ple who em­brace this will make them­selves more em­ploy­able while the or­gan­i­sa­tions who em­brace it will be most able to achieve dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion in a mean­ing­ful way and com­pete in 2019 and be­yond.

As we move ahead into 2019 then, prospects look bright for op­er­a­tors across the oil and gas in­dus­try. These are ex­cit­ing times for the sec­tor. The fu­ture prospects for this in­dus­try and the op­er­a­tors who work in it look pos­i­tive in­deed.

Ron Beck, en­ergy in­dus­try mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor, Aspen­tech.

As re­fin­ery and as­set tasks be­come more au­tonomous and as­sisted by ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, sig­nif­i­cant pro­duc­tiv­ity gain can be ex­pected. (Image for il­lus­tra­tion only)

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