Like many industries, Oil and Gas has been impacted by the negative effects of COVID-19 on the economy and the corresponding changes in consumer behavior. But unlike other industries, managing in an uncertain economic environment is not something unprecedented. The Oil and Gas industry has weathered many boom and bust cycles through the years and can be a leader in modelling how to recover quickly from this downturn.
Technology Supports Faster Recovery
It’s only a matter of time before crude demand begins to bounce back. In fact, according to data on TradingEconomics.com, oil prices have largely recovered to pre-pandemic levels, reflecting both demand and market optimism, with rig count and increases in other production measures potentially to follow. As recovery happens, finding qualified employees might be a challenge because some may have left the industry during the downturn and others have retired.
Edge Computing technology will help Oil and Gas companies meet increased demand before needing to ramp up hiring. The primary ways this will happen is through migration of applications to the operational edge with the purpose of increasing autonomy and supporting remote operations. Yokogawa recently published The Outlook for the Shift to Industrial Autonomy, which surveyed more than five hundred respondents across 5 regions covering industries including upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas. It’s estimated that these industries will see demand bounce back to pre-COVID levels by 2023, making it imperative that investments in automation happen sooner rather than later.
Yokagawa found that 89% of companies are planning to increase automation, with the goal of improving operational efficiency and productivity. The applications getting the most investment post-COVID are those that support increased autonomy. IT is investing in cloud, AI, and cybersecurity. There is also investment in applications for remote servicing and operations. These applications are allowing companies to automate tasks that in the past would have required a worker on site. Automating these tasks also improves worker safety by having fewer workers exposed to potentially hazardous conditions, including future pandemics.
How Will Existing Roles and Responsibilities Change?
The move to increased automation and remote operations means that roles and responsibilities for existing staff will change, and job requirements for future hires will be different as well. Yokagawa found that 50% of current employees are required to travel long distances, 40% perform repetitive tasks, and 38% are exposed to hazardous conditions as part of their job. Automated, unattended operations can solve these problems, and tasks like quality control, process monitoring, asset monitoring, and process operations are already being increasingly automated with Edge Computing technology.
It’s not only physical tasks that Edge Computing and automation can help improve. Through the use of digital twins and AI, decision-making tasks like running potential scenarios can be done without human interaction. Almost half of those surveyed said technology investment priorities over the next 3 years include AI, intelligent sensors and machines, cyber security, and big data.
Another area where automation and remote monitoring can save work hours and overall costs is predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance uses data like temperature, vibration, and throughput, collected by sensors, then analyzed for any red flags or abnormal results. This data is then used to forecast when maintenance should be completed to avoid decreased efficiency or equipment failure.
Freeing up Innovation
In today’s volatile market, agility and flexibility can make or break a company. Everyone is trying to figure out how to do more with less. Edge Computing technology allows organizations to maximize asset performance while also increasing the efficiency of employees and assets. Decreasing repetitive, manual tasks requiring human monitoring means that employees can focus more on analyzing business results and finding ways to innovate and drive future success.