The Press and Journal (Aberdeen) - - FRONT PAGE -

I have very much en­joyed a se­ries of sto­ries and quotes used in pre­sen­ta­tions and dis­cus­sions in re­cent months, de­liv­ered to an au­di­ence today, for which there is as much rel­e­vance as when they were first writ­ten in the early 1970s.

One of my per­sonal favourites (and, yes, one I’ve used pre­vi­ously) comes from an ad­ver­tise­ment by Shell for its Brent Field in the 1970s, declar­ing the need for “…a leap of tech­nol­ogy as great as that which placed the first men on the moon”.

Cer­tainly, in my work­ing life, there has never been a more ex­cit­ing time to be in­volved in in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy in sup­port of oil and gas. Tech­no­log­i­cal push is meet­ing in­dus­try pull while fa­cil­i­ta­tors are proac­tively en­abling dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion.

To this end, busi­nesses of ev­ery size are cap­i­tal­is­ing on this en­vi­ron­ment, and throw­ing them­selves into R&D and ad­dress­ing the chal­lenges fac­ing in­dus­try today and to­mor­row.

In­deed, whether you be­lieve we are in the midst of the sec­ond dig­i­tal age or en­ter­ing the fourth in­dus­trial rev­o­lu­tion, the pace of tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment is so fast, we no longer see the leaps our col­leagues from the 1970s wit­nessed, but a more it­er­a­tive, con­stant de­vel­op­ment; learn­ing and adop­tion from other in­dus­tries and mak­ing bet­ter use of ex­ist­ing tech­nolo­gies.

To put this into per­spec­tive, ac­cord­ing to the find­ings of the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum (WEF) in 2016: “It is clear that the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion will ex­pe­ri­ence greater tech­no­log­i­cal change over the next decade than the past 50 years.”

This it­er­a­tive tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment can be just as pow­er­ful and is be­hind the leaps we are be­gin­ning to see in the ways we op­er­ate our as­sets, col­lab­o­rate and ac­cess our data as an in­dus­try; and where we will see the real im­pact of dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion to oil and gas.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent piece by EY: “The Fourth In­dus­trial Rev­o­lu­tion will mark a sig­nif­i­cant change in the way we work. Made pos­si­ble by the emer­gence of dig­i­tal sys­tems, net­worked com­mu­ni­ca­tions, ma­chine learn­ing and large-scale data anal­y­sis, it refers to the in­creas­ing in­te­gra­tion of th­ese tech­nolo­gies into busi­ness and pro­duc­tion pro­cesses to make them self-sus­tain­ing and more ef­fi­cient.”

It goes on to state that “this lat­est shift will see sys­tems that blend web con­nect­ing and dig­i­tal con­trols with real-world tools”.

It’s an en­er­gis­ing time, but one we can’t for­get was forged by cri­sis and a col­lec­tive bat­tle to se­cure the fu­ture of oil and gas. Tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion are not panaceas and dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion brings with it its own chal­lenges to in­dus­try.

From the word “dig­i­tal” be­ing at­tached to ser­vice lines overnight, to mis­in­for­ma­tion and on oc­ca­sion dis­in­for­ma­tion, over the ca­pa­bil­i­ties of mar­ket of­fer­ings, we must be mind­ful of en­dan­ger­ing the pos­i­tive dis­rup­tion oil and gas has now, quite rightly (read even­tu­ally), recog­nised the ne­ces­sity for.

I re­cently re-read an ar­ti­cle I first read in Forbes back in 2015. The piece struck a chord with me at the time, (a year into our own R&D into the lat­est it­er­a­tion of our own tech­nol­ogy) and it con­tin­ues to res­onate.

It re­lated to the launch of Ul­tra HD 4K tele­vi­sions and how, even though at that time, 4K con­tent was so rare that com­pa­nies were still de­liv­er­ing some­thing that could be watched in 4K, the ex­is­tence and prom­ise of 4K alone ren­dered de­mand for the cur­rent but now “old” tech­nolo­gies all but ob­so­lete.

For an in­dus­try that is still frag­ile, and one that his­tor­i­cally had lengthy R&D cy­cles and a time to mar­ket process for new tech­nolo­gies of 15-20 years, fail­ure to de­liver on the pos­i­tives of dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion has the po­ten­tial to be detri­men­tal to in­dus­try and sig­nif­i­cantly set back tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment and in­no­va­tion in ways of work­ing.

In short, propos­ing the­ory as so­lu­tion, util­is­ing the mar­ket to re­alise said the­ory or go­ing to mar­ket in­com­plete, are not op­tions. With greater de­mands for value be­ing put on the sup­plier, the risk to the cred­i­bil­ity of in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses, the ac­cep­tance of tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions and wider in­dus­try, are real and sig­nif­i­cant; facts in­ten­si­fied by the in­creased speed of adop­tion en­cour­aged by the con­cur­rent need for and prom­ise of tech­nol­ogy. Quite sim­ply, those play- ing this game will be found out quicker than pre-down­turn and with greater con­se­quence all round.

We’ve seen a mea­sur­able up­surge in col­lab­o­ra­tion and knowl­edge ex­change be­tween com­pa­nies in this tech­no­log­i­cally dis­rup­tive space – which is in­cred­i­bly promis­ing. Sadly, we’ve also wit­nessed com­pet­i­tive neg­a­tiv­ity and dis­in­for­ma­tion; un­nec­es­sary and with the po­ten­tial to im­pede the wider pos­i­tive im­pe­tus across oil and gas.

As an in­dus­try we con­tinue to prove the chal­lenges can be over­come. I am con­fi­dent those I men­tion above are not in­sur­mount­able and with the sup­port of fa­cil­i­ta­tors like the Oil & Gas Tech­nol­ogy Cen­tre (OGTC) en­abling project pi­lot­ing and fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies, there are mit­i­ga­tion tools in the in­dus­try ar­se­nal.

Ref­er­enc­ing the pace and scale of tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ment, the 2016 WEM con­cluded “…lead­ers from all walks of life must pre­pare for a fu­ture of ex­po­nen­tially dis­rup­tive change.”

Dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion is some­thing that we need to em­brace for our in­dus­try’s fu­ture and one, which iron­i­cally, the down­turn pro­vided us the mo­men­tum and op­por­tu­nity to lead the way on.

■ Bob Don­nelly, MD Re­turn To Scene Ltd

Now is an ex­cit­ing time to be in­volved in in­no­va­tion and tech­nol­ogy in sup­port of oil and gas

Dig­i­tal dis­rup­tion has many pos­i­tives for the oil and gas in­dus­try, and a fail­ure to de­liver on its pos­si­bil­i­ties could prove very dam­ag­ing

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