Future Oil and Gas 2021 brought together oil and gas professionals from around the world to discuss, debate and drive forward digital disruption and innovation in the rapidly evolving upstream oil and gas industry on 16–17 November 2021.
Under the theme "Exploring digital innovation and energy transition", a stellar line-up of operators, energy service companies, and technology innovators determined that while digitalisation is a strategic imperative for a low-carbon future, people must be central and absolutely at the heart of any digital transformation.
Welcoming delegates to the 5th Future Oil and Gas, Adam Soroka, Managing Director of event organiser Cavendish Group International said: "In the aftermath of COP26, it is clear that the oil and gas sector is under more scrutiny than ever before. Fossil fuels have a role in a sustainable energy system, but reducing emissions throughout the value chain will be critical.
"Boardrooms and stakeholders are acutely aware of the dangers of climate change, which brings the question of what role technology will play and what solutions will facilitate energy transition?"
"Future Oil and Gas has grown every year. And we're particularly proud of all the exhibitors who have increased for the fifth year running. We launched future oil and gas as a meeting place for operators and technology companies and a marketplace for the upstream oil and gas sector. It's great to see quite visibly that we're achieving this objective."
Opening the conference and setting a positive tone for the event, Jo Coleman OBE, UK Energy Transition Manager at Shell, delivered her keynote speech titled "We all have a role to play, be part of the solution".
Having returned to oil and gas from a successful career in low-carbon energy, Jo Coleman told delegates that the move back had been a difficult decision. But she was convinced that she could personally make a bigger difference in combatting climate change by being inside the industry rather than outside. She said: "I firmly believe that this industry and the people within it can be part of the solution."
Outlining Shell's Powering Progress strategy, which sets out how the company intends to accelerate the transition to a net-zero business by 2050, in step with society, she shared the company's priorities for reducing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions in the UK.
"It makes sense to continue to produce UK oil and gas for as long as UK demand exceeds supply. But having said that, business-as-usual production is not okay. Our first priority is to reduce our own Scope 1 and 2 operational emissions. We will also support our customers' decarbonisation journeys with low-carbon mobility, an integrated power business, and investments in CCS and hydrogen."
Urging every individual in the industry to act on energy transition, Jo Coleman said: "We know that our products and our industry are part of the problem of climate change. But are we doing enough to be part of the solution? We all have a role to play. And whatever your role, you can contribute to reducing the emissions in your part of your business. Be a part of the solution and be proud of it."
It's clear that digitalisation will drive and support the shift to cleaner energy enabling data-driven insights for the upstream industry to manage and understand its emissions and abatement options better. But with more than 70% of digital transformation initiatives failing to reach their goals, Shane McArdle, Senior Vice President of Digital Energy at Kongsberg Digital, said: "Digital transformation has to be done at scale and adopted broadly in the industry. Leaders must align a flexible technology strategy to the business strategy so it can evolve as the business changes. Digitalisation for digitalisation's sake is a losing game.
"Of course, just having access to data doesn't remove emissions. It's the insights, the actions you take, and the applications you build around that data that will drive change. By linking clean contextualising good data to actual business processes and workflows that are being executed every single day in the plant, digital twin technology can impact disciplines to reduce emissions across assets and fleets of assets, making sure that we have a cumulative effect within our industry."
During the two days, delegates heard valuable examples of workflows and processes from major and independent operators, including Shell, Apache Corporation, Aramco Overseas, bp, Chevron, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Lundin Energy, Neptune Energy, Petrobras, PETRONAS, Repsol, Spirit Energy and TotalEnergies.
By bringing together detailed case studies and specialist workshops from technology and software innovators, the event's carefully crafted programme identified ways to create an adaptive and autonomous organisational culture, combat cyber-attacks, understand blockchain use cases, and achieve maximum value through the unification of digital twin, machine learning and AI.
Brendan Sullivan, Senior Vice President of Intelligent Edge Solutions at RigNet, said: "The pace of digital transformation in the upstream energy industry exploded in 2018, and we're now starting to see some real results. We've moved past supervised machine learning. We're in reinforcement learning, where many digital twins and a lot of the software now know the context of hydraulic, engineering and physics-based models and are creating powerful intelligence for predictive maintenance.
"When I spoke at the first Future Oil and Gas in 2018, there was a lot of trial and error with the technology. Today, machine learning is pervasive in oil and gas. Larger operators and drilling contractors are deploying it throughout their operations because it is yielding results. If we average the bigger operators to just 20 operating rigs, last year we saw them on average improve their multiple-target tracking by roughly 0.5%, resulting in about US$500m operational savings."
While there is real value to be had, the conference heard that the technology is getting ahead of the change management process. Indeed, the difficulty of changing the culture of an operations group was highlighted many times during the two days. Most telling was the case of the chief architect identifying that it would take two years to retrain operator behaviour to fully realise the value of a new app that was 95% accurate and would save the company US$60m a year.
The panels worked well, with open, frank, and honest discussions between all participants, demonstrating exactly how the industry is progressively driving change through open ecosystems, shared knowledge, and industry-wide collaboration.
With innovation and problem solving built into its DNA, the energy sector already holds the key to many of the solutions that the world needs to meet net zero, including offshore wind, CCUS, hydrogen, electrification, and energy storage. The technologies exist; it's all about implementing and rapid scaling-up now, as delegates found out during the event’s newly formed Energy Transition morning. None of us can make this journey on our own. It will be critical to forge new alliances and develop novel ways of working together across value chains and ecosystems.
Ultimately, as Jo Coleman said on Day 1: "The single biggest thing this industry has to offer is its people. We have the skills, we have the experiences, and we have the capabilities. But more importantly, we have the passion and the desire to be part of the solution and to make the change happen."
As the upstream oil and gas industry continues to refuel reinvention, here at Cavendish International Group, we’re looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months will bring. Why not join us next year for Future Oil & Gas 2022 to see how the conversation changes?