People, Processes, Technologies for Integrated Operations

Having to do more with less resources seems to be a common issue throughout the process industries. Process manufacturers are re-examining their people, processes, and technologies to look for ways to accomplish their business objectives more efficiently.

I bring this up because I recently had a discussion with Emerson’s Mike Boudreaux after he attended the SPE Intelligent Energy International event in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

Mike’s take away from the conference is that there is an oil and gas industry initiative for what our Emerson team is calling integrated operations, or iOps for short. For global energy producers, iOps is an initiative to implement operational excellence as a business strategy in the oil & gas industry. It is more than just an advanced operating center, remote operations, or improved collaboration.

It is a top-down business strategy that spans the entire corporation and integrates people, process, and technology. iOps is being implemented in the petroleum industry by adopting information technology, improving access to real-time data, integrating people and organizations, and changing work processes. By doing so, it enables better and faster decisions.

Mike noted that iOps is being implemented across all major oil and gas companies with subtle twists based on their company culture, assets, and maturity of implementation. This business strategy is known by many different names among these companies including Integrated Operations (IO), Smart Fields, Field of the Future, i-Field, Integrated Digital Field, Intelligent Energy, Digital Energy, Digital Oil Fields, Smart Wells, iWells, and e-Field—and that’s probably just a short list!

Many of the programs at different companies are arriving at their 10-year anniversary, having gone through multiple phases of evolution and maturity. A major theme of the event was to explore where the industry will be going in the next 8 years leading up to 2020. An online collaboration space was provided, so that participants could discuss ideas about their vision for 2020. Video interviews of participants at the event have also been shared online.

The industry-wide focus on iOps is driven by the fact that the major oil and gas producers share some common issues. At the conference, a speaker from Baker Hughes noted, “Going forward, there are simply not enough personnel with the required skills to cope with the increasing workload the industry is now experiencing. This is a challenge for service companies, contractors, and operators, and puts constraints on operational ability.”

Another issue is that the days of finding oil that’s easy to drill and produce are largely gone. Recovery is more difficult in mature fields and in new unconventional developments such as oil sands and shale oil.

With these challenges and others, iOps provide a strategic path to work through these issues. While much of the technology exists to address these challenges, Mike noted that a large part of the discussions focused on change management, training, culture, automating workflows, and situational awareness for people and processes. In plenary session discussions, it was acknowledged that driving organizational change is required to reduce the technology gap between what is commercially available and what is actually adopted effectively. Some stated that engineers are great at implementing the technology, but we are often not the best at considering the people side of things.

Change management was discussed as a way to help to reduce the technology gap. It was defined by a speaker from Petrobras as, “A structured process to prepare the organization, with a focus on the people involved either directly or indirectly in the changing process.”

It also means having the people have a stake in the results. Change management is not a choice between technology, organization, or people-oriented solutions, but rather a combination for the best fit—integrating design strategy to produce results. The scope of the change management must address organization, behaviors, and rewards.

One speaker suggested beginning with a roadmap to understand both the current state and the desired state. An effective approach is incremental—starting at a pilot level to hone what works and what doesn’t and building enthusiasm and momentum.

The enterprise architecture to help address these changes typically includes data capture and remote activation, communications infrastructure, information access, information work spaces, collaboration work areas, and organization and networking to facilitate the use of real-time data, collaborative technologies, and multidiscipline workflows. Since the architecture extends into the control of the oil and gas exploration, production, and transportation processes, Emerson provides Intelligent Field technologies to be part of this enterprise architecture.

There was more to our iOps discussion around situational awareness, reservoir management, collaboration centers, and other areas that I hope to share in future posts.

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Update: I updated the phrase “intelligent operations” to “integrated operations” per the standard industry terminology.

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