Digital services are helping to revolutionise the oil and gas sector, but is it still challenging to get companies used to decades-old working practices to embrace digital services and tech such as Digital Twin?
Yes, managing change is usually a challenge. Many people in the industry are used to operating according to traditional practices, they don’t want to change their workflow and they can be resistant to leaving their comfort zone.
Another barrier is that implementing new digital technologies may require significant capex investment both in terms of money and employee time. That means companies may hesitate to adopt digital services if they think they might not have a successful tool at the end.
But this view is changing. As energy companies, and especially the oilfield services companies, introduce technology like digital dashboards, people can see the benefits of being able to see data like pressures, rate of penetration, or density changes all in one place -- on your phone, for example. That’s a lot more convenient than having to refer to Excel sheets in the traditional way. People can easily see how digital technologies can benefit them in that way.
How has Digital Twin technology benefitted Chevron?
Digital Twin technology has enabled Chevron to monitor and optimize business operations in real-time. It has been instrumental in identifying potential bottlenecks and inefficiencies, which has helped improve operations considerably.
The adoption of digital tools enables Chevron’s different business units to reduce downtime and maintenance expenses through identification and prevention. Digital Twins have also helped Chevron identify potential safety hazards by simulating hazardous scenarios and testing safety protocols without putting employees at risk.
Additionally, Digital Twins provide an excellent platform for collaboration.
Could you expand a bit on how that collaboration works?
Digital Twins enable teams to collaborate more effectively by providing a common platform for employees and stakeholders to share information and work together to solve problems.
Everybody shares this Digital Twin. So, you might have groups of people working subsurface, subsea, on surface operations, topside facilities, wherever – they can all now collaborate on one platform for a given asset. It’s not only accessible for those employees, but also for other stakeholders. Managers can more easily see important information, and everyone can work together to solve problems.
How has Chevron incorporated digital tech into its activities?
Partnerships have been vital in helping to accelerate the adoption of digital tools at Chevron. We are partnering with technology providers at different scales to develop and implement innovative solutions. Of course, we partner with Microsoft, using their Azure cloud-based services, and with other big firms, but we also have important partnerships with smaller or medium-scale companies, such as Kongsberg, which has a Digital Twin solution.
Collaboration within Chevron, reaching the business units across the world, is another important part of the digitalization process. Every function is working together to promote the use of digital technologies and establish best practices for the digital implementations across the enterprise. Linked to that is educating employees by equipping them with digital tools and promoting their use, so they recognize the benefits.
Chevron continuously monitors and measures the impact of digital technologies on the business outcomes to ensure that the company is achieving its business objectives.
How important is taking a user-centred approach to developing tech like Digital Twin to ensure employees buy in to the process?
This is crucial to ensure successful adoption. When employees are involved in the design and development process, they are more likely to adopt and use the technology, making investment in the technology worthwhile.
A user-centred approach can also help ensure that the technology is designed with the end-user in mind, making it more intuitive and easier to use, leading to improved efficiency and productivity.
Also, employees can provide valuable feedback during the design and development process, helping to identify potential issues and areas for improvement ensuring that the technology meets their needs and expectations.
Implementation of digital solutions requires high-calibre specialists. How does Chevron go about recruiting data scientists, AI specialists and so on from a graduate pool that may not view the oil industry as an obvious long-term career move?
Chevron adopts several strategies to attract and retain top talent.
Firstly, the company is not investing only in traditional oil and gas, we invest in emerging lower carbon energy through our Chevron Technology Ventures and New Energies teams. We are committed to having a significant role in the future energy system that powers the world, promoting sustainability initiatives, and highlighting the potential for career growth as we attract the next generation of leaders.
Then, as part of the overall company culture, we provide opportunities for innovation and creativity, allowing data scientists and AI specialists to work on cutting-edge projects that have a significant impact on the industry. This is particularly appealing to young graduates who are eager to make a difference.
Chevron also partners with universities and research institutions to attract top talent and provide opportunities for collaboration on research projects. This helps build relationships with young graduates and provide exposure to the industry.
Chevron’s Digital Scholar Program sends emerging leaders to MIT and Rice University each year to earn Master of Science degrees focused on data science, systems design, and management. This is a paid, full-time, one year commitment starting in August, with temporary relocation to attend courses at the university campuses. Upon completion, employees have skills to help Chevron accelerate the integration of digital tools and mindsets into our business.
And this is not just about recruiting from petroleum engineering departments. We also recruit people with a pure data science background and then train them for our industry. At times, we have faced strong competition for this type of talent from Microsoft and the other specialised digital tech companies, but they have been downsizing recently, so some of their talent is now coming to us as well.
Last, but not least, by emphasizing diversity and inclusion in its hiring practices, Chevron can attract a wider pool of talent and create a more inclusive workplace culture, which also makes it more attractive to potential employees.
Where are the other big challenges regarding implementation of Digital Twin and other digital services?
The saying “you put garbage in, you get garbage out” still holds true – Digital Twin and other digital services rely on high-quality, real-time data to function effectively. Ensuring that data is available, accurate, and reliable can be a challenge, particularly in sectors with complex and diverse data sources.
Another important challenge is on security and privacy. Using digital services can increase the risk of cyber threats and data breaches. Ensuring the security and privacy of sensitive data is essential and may require additional investments in cybersecurity measures.
All this requires significant changes to existing systems and workflows, which are challenging in themselves and often require extensive training and support to ensure a smooth transition.