Emerson Automation Solutions‘ CTO Peter Zornio joined a CERAWeek 2018 panel, How Will the Innovation Tsunami Change the Energy Sector? The panel, moderated by IHS Market’s Paul Markwell, included leaders from Statoil, Amazon Web Services, Schlumberger, and MIT Energy. Here was the focus of the panel:
Today’s energy sector challenges have never been more complex, as the sector seeks to supply energy to meet growing demand with increasing focus on decarbonized, socially responsible, efficient extraction processing and distribution of energy, and to serve new models for energy consumption; for example, in developing economies and in relation to transportation. Yet across the sector—from fossil fuels to renewables and end user markets—there is an “Innovation Tsunami” bearing down. It offers perhaps more opportunities than ever before to learn and from which to design solutions to deal with these challenges. Its elements include AI, robotics, automation, IoT, predictive analytics, cloud computing, battery technologies, and more. This session will explore how the sector can learn to surf this “Tsunami”—how to select the relevant solutions it offers without getting engulfed by it.
The panel opened up with the question what does an innovation Tsunami mean. Peter answered that a Tsunami means you can just stand still, or you will be overwhelmed. One of the things we are seeing today is much more research going on around energy. Most universities have focused research around energy to look at ways to reduce carbon impact and more efficient ways to deliver energy across the globe.
As material science advances, its impact on energy efficiency will be significant. The amount of data is ever-increasing, but companies are trying to figure out how to make changes based on this data. It just takes time to sort out how to make use of all the data in valuable ways to advance business results.
One of the innovations is a digital twin which is a digital model of the running process. This allows the running process to be compared with the ideal model to find optimization opportunities. It also allows training and scenarios to be presented to operators to improve their performance by practicing against various abnormal situations. The result is safer and more reliable operations.
Peter noted that the place to start with innovation is what can provide the biggest business value. Start with big issues such as reliability, energy efficiency, and/or safer operations. Technology must help to not only solve these business problems but do it in a way that is intuitive for the people interacting with the technology.
He noted that data is the new gold ore. It takes some work and processing to get the value out of it. Because saving the data is so cheap, it’s worth keeping and then going back and refining to find the valuable nuggets to improve business operations.
One prediction made by the panel was that oil & gas drilling could be automated to the point that the machines perform all the drilling with human oversight. Just imagine an autonomous drilling rig driving to the spot and beginning drilling operations, like how an autonomous automobile drives to a new location.
Peter noted that technology has opened new business models where the suppliers will grow to become outcome-based suppliers instead of equipment suppliers. Instead of buying and owning capital assets, the mode would change to a stream of operational expenses to derive the value that the equipment provides.
It’s clear that the pace of technological change will not slow down soon and standing still is like waiting for the tsunami to come engulf you.