Future Oil & Gas 2023, organised by Cavendish Group International, brought together over 300 high-level oil, gas and energy professionals from more than 125 organisations in Aberdeen on June 27-28 to assess how digitalisation, disruption and innovation are revolutionising the industry.
The event, held at Robert Gordon University, was the first Future Oil & Gas conference to be held in person since 2019. As such, it provided an exciting opportunity for delegates to catch up on developments on fast-moving topics such as the digital revolution, which was in its early stages four years ago, but which is now fast becoming part of the industry’s fabric.
The A-list line-up of speakers, comprising international oil company executives and other thought leaders, discussed with delegates how AI and other digital technology was underpinning the oil and gas sector’s crucial role in the energy transition by, for example, raising efficiency, capping emissions, improving work life, reducing safety risks through remote operations and bringing exciting new talent into the industry.
Speakers from major upstream players including bp, Equinor, Petronas, Repsol, , Saudi Aramco, Shell, , SLB and TotalEnergies joined experts from other energy companies and technological innovators to share their insights.
Key themes on Day 1 included how to successfully adopt AI and machine learning, the challenges of processing the vast amount of data required to drive digitalisation, the role of collaboration within and between companies to speed up progress and the need for comprehensive cyber security right from the get-go.
On Day 2, the focus switched to the industry’s route to a sustainable future, the role of renewable energy and exciting energy-transition opportunities for the sector, such as those offered through the development of the hydrogen economy and carbon capture and storage.
Shane McArdle, CEO of digital twin developer Kongsberg Digital, told the conference:
“AI, machine learning and concepts such as Digital Twins have a huge role to play in the industry, but we need to change the way we work to take full advantage, matching dataflows to workflows. It can seem scary, but we need to scale this technology, doing it incrementally, so we can build trust in it.”
Adam Soroka, CEO of event organiser Cavendish Group International, said that bringing digitalisation to the oil and gas industry remains one of the greatest challenges as we look to establish and grow a sustainable digital ecosystem.
“Applying agile working methods will change the fundamentals of leadership and, ultimately, preserve the lifecycle of an asset and save costs. But there are clear obstacles we need to pass to move forward and establish effective revenue models.
“At this stage we are past the buzzwords of AI, blockchain and machine learning and need to understand transparently how using artificial intelligence facilitates end-to-end optimisation and which cost savings can be made over what timescale.
“How can we learn from this and how can the industry use real business cases to better implement their own transformation? Sharing best practice, for me, is the first step – industry needs greater collaboration and knowledge sharing, not privacy, to progress.”
Here's what some of our other panellists at Future Oil & Gas 2023 had to say:
Shaun Johnston VP, Digital Consulting at Wood summed up the mood of the conference:
“There has been a flip in the industry. People have realised AI and digital tech are not just nice to have, they are something you must have, if you are going to be successful over the next decade.”
Adrian Blanck, Chief Digital Officer at Saudi Aramco Base Oils emphasised that action, not just words, was essential from the leadership for successful digital implementation:
“Digital is the ultimate way of creating value in our industry, but it requires long-term change management, and you need to walk the talk – people will follow what you do rather than what you say.”
Ila Glennie VP, Subsea Operations at bp, told delegates that digital innovation would make the oil and gas industry a more diverse and exciting place to work:
“Suppliers contractors, operators, all of us need to embrace cultural change, reskilling and diversity of thought. To succeed we need to attract diverse talent, skills and experience. Digital innovation gives us a great opportunity to explore and really challenge ourselves to think differently and learn from each other.”
Taoufik Ait-Ettajer, Subsurface Manager, Technology, E&P, Low Carbon, at Repsol, said the case for digital tech and AI was strong, but it still had to be fought for:
“The industry is changing, there is pressure to get more from existing sub-surface data, but you still need to make the business case for investment in data, and show all the stakeholders what value they can get it from it.”
Brendan Sullivan, CCO of comms company Viasat said a prudent, bit-by-bit approach to introducing AI and digital tech was less risky than going all in early on:
“There are plenty of low hanging fruit that can check in at 1,000% ROI. Get some early quick wins to get confidence up for your operational users and executive sponsors and then move towards the more aggressive models.”
Einar Landre, Lead Analyst IT, and OSDU Focal Point at Equinor, said the industry needed to collaborate on data standardisation and other fundamentals of digitalisation:
“We need to find arenas where we can work together on our common interests. We should have competition where it is desirable, but we shouldn’t compete on establishing the plumbing that we all need to run our own businesses.”