How does Digital Transformation create business value for energy producers? That was the focus of a CERAWeek 2019 panel, Digital Transformation: Creating value. This session explored where value has been captured to date, value yet to be created, and the path to maximize returns.
Emerson Automation Solutions executive president, Lal Karsanbhai joined the panel to offer perspectives on the role of automation as a strategic lever to business performance in digital transformation initiatives.
The oil & gas industry has been a pioneer in embracing control and monitoring. One of the oil & gas producers on the panel noted that while they have collected the data, they have not taken advantage of using that data to improve decision-making and optimizing operations. The challenge is to take the next step to use this data to improve the decisions that need to be made.
Lal highlighted the need to stay focused on the key business objectives that companies are trying to drive. This will help prioritize where transformation efforts should begin and provide the returns to justify further initiatives. Taking a scalable approach means that successes can won to help influence the cultural changes required. The returns can be made quickly when you make the selections based on the opportunities for improvement.
Another key consideration is the training of the people to take advantage of the technology. As much investment may be required in upskilling personnel as the digital technologies such as sensors, analytics and communications. The subject matter experts must be engaged to transfer knowledge into the work processes to drives change.
Lal noted that energy producers know their most challenging assets and the ones where a better way needs to be considered. Experience, also known as pattern recognition skills on data, needs to be captured and automated.
Is there a digital transformation roadmap? There is no one way since companies must start with their business objectives and current challenges. These challenges are often in one or more areas—safety, reliability, energy efficiency & emissions, and production. Starting with an analysis on the current state and then developing a vision of the new state can help identify the steps to move forward.
Compare current practices versus best practices. Lal shared an example of corrosion in piping in a refinery. Globally refiners spend $9B in corrosion inhibitors using a manual process of coupons inserted in piping to gauge the rate of corrosion. By using Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) based corrosion sensors, the measurements can be done with the outputs feeding how much corrosion inhibitor is required. A 2% savings in the use of these inhibitors is a real, reoccuring business return.
One challenge discussed by the panel is the cultural divide between Information Technology and Operation Technology organization in companies. Often they are organized in silos and not incentivized to collaboration. Part of a digital transformation initiative must involve a cross-functional approach and a reexamination of the incentives in place to collaboration. The skills required for success are in both organizations.