Under the theme of Exploring Disruption and Digital Innovation, the conference determined that people and skills are just as important as processes in the transformation of the upstream oil and gas sector.
Opening the conference, Alexander Burnett MSP, Aberdeenshire West and Shadow Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy said: “Digitalisation is bringing forward a new wave of technologies that will change the way we do business, run operations and in particular the skills required by the workforce.
Cllr Douglas Lumsden, Co-Leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “Future Oil & Gas revolves around innovation, which is something that is close to all of our hearts in Aberdeen. We’re a city that has been built on pioneering spirit and I’m proud to say that there’s no sign of that changing.
“We cannot rest on our laurels and must continue to look for new opportunities to grow and evolve. Future Oil & Gas is an event that helps to foster the collaboration, innovation and ingenuity that is so vital to Aberdeen’s exciting next chapter.”
Much of the conversation focussed on skills issues and the challenge of preparing for a work force of the future, many of whom will hold jobs that don’t yet exist.
David Rennie, Head of Oil & Gas, Scottish Enterprise said: “Technology convergence around automation and AI, alongside digitisation, data and advanced analytics, is transforming the economy, jobs market and how we work.”
Matthew Astill, CEO of Cavendish Group said: “We believe that technology lies at the centre of new efficiencies, new business models and organisational structures, new skills, and new investments. We also believe that it lies at the heart of the energy transition, with both the immense opportunities this offers and the adjustments it will in time present.
“This event has more than doubled in size from last year, with participants from many different countries. Our ambition is to build Europe’s most important technology focused exhibition for the upstream sector at the world-class TECA events venue, with a series of high-level conferences running alongside.”
Janet White, UK&I Chemicals & Petroleum Industry Leader at IBM said digital technologies will play a substantial part in helping the industry combat its four main challenges – increasing efficiency, accelerating sustainability, meeting customer expectations for new services and bridging the knowledge gap created by the loss of skilled workers over the past five years.
“This next chapter of digital transformation will be driven ‘inside out’ through the core of the enterprise across mission critical processes enabling us to leverage exponential technologies such as AI, blockchain, IoT and 5G with data that was previously hidden and deemed not accessible or available.”
Luca Corradi, Innovation Network Director at the Oil & Gas Technology Centre supported the UK CCC (Committee on Climate Change) recommendation to target net zero carbon emissions by 2050. “It is not just an energy transition but an industry transition, building on the oil and gas industry to expand into CCUS and hydrogen” he said. “Technology can get us on the right track for 2050 if we start now.”
Rodrigo Becerra Mizuno, Chief Information Officer & Corporate Vice-President at Pemex explained how the NOC was digitally transformed in just two and half years following a profitability crisis. “There is a saying that every crisis creates an opportunity. We leveraged that crisis to drive this transformation, to use digital as one of the key forward-looking initiatives to help us become more profitable, more competitive and better positioned.”
There was acknowledgment throughout the conference about workforce fears that digital transformation will lead to job loss.
Chris Rivinus, Digital Transformation Programme Lead at Tullow Oil said: “The best way to move people past the fear of AI is getting them involved in the conversation, in the decisions about digital. They often get excited about how what’s possible today can make their lives just a little bit easier.”
Brendan Sullivan, Chief Technology & Chief Information Officer at RigNet discussed the importance of protecting legacy systems against cyber threats. “Attackers have never had more weapons that now to break in. We are under siege by state-level hackers who have access to million-dollar quantum computers. It is a war.”
Chris Ullah, BlackBerry Solutions Expert at BlackBerry – and former Police Superintendent of Greater Manchester Police – focussed on the vital importance of communication technology in ensuring organisations are prepared for major incidents.
“We now have the tools and platforms to replace the cumbersome, linear and often phone-based means of communicating in an emergency or time-critical situation,” he said. He went on to explain how the BlackBerry AtHoc critical communications platform enables organisations to communicate much more effectively, both internally and externally, to dramatically improve response times and outcomes.
The conference also addressed the issue of how far behind other industries the oil and gas sector is in its digital journey and the need for greater collaboration in the industry at all levels. Steve Johnson, Vice President Digital, at Petrofac, said: “What we are doing to gain a leg up is to work with other organisations that have been on that journey with them to find out how to adapt those technologies into our own business.”
Dr. Satyam Priyadarshy, Technology Fellow and Chief Data Scientist at Halliburton said: “Hidden features in oil and gas data collected over decades is the cause of capital waste, data waste, and time waste,” he said. “The future of oil and gas cannot afford to continue to grow its capital waste, and time Is ripe to mature the digital journey through talent transformation."
Running alongside the main Future Oil & Gas conference and exhibition this year was the Technology Innovation Showcase, a series of curated presentations delivered by technology experts from IBM, Blackberry, OPEX Group, Microsoft, Immerse, Electrosonic, Kongsberg Digital, GHGSat and Darktrace Industrial. There were also contributions from OGTC’s TechX Pioneer technology accelerator programme and Strathclyde University’s Advanced Forming Research Centre.
Blue Gentoo, a young start-up company supported by OGTC TechX, was one of the innovative new companies taking part in the event. “Future Oil & Gas provided a fantastic opportunity for companies such as Blue Gentoo to engage with, and demonstrate their products, to key decision makers who are at the forefront of digital transformation,” said CEO Jeanette Forbes. “The oil and gas sector is going through a huge transformational change to embrace the era of AI and digital technology."
Future Oil & Gas addresses the opportunities and concerns of the upstream sector and takes place annually in Aberdeen. Addressing the downstream sector, Future Downstream takes place in London on 1-2 October 2019.