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How Digital Technology is Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry

The oil and gas industry is undergoing a digital transformation, but this is nothing new. According to the 2017 World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation Initiative: Oil and Gas Industry report: “The Oil and Gas industry is no stranger to big data, technology and digital innovation. As early as the 1980s, Oil and Gas companies began to adopt digital technologies, with a focus on better understanding a reservoir’s resource and production potential, improving health and safety, and boosting marginal operational efficiencies at oil fields around the world.”

What is new however, is the industry’s ability to capitalise on digital technologies not only to improve their products, but also to differentiate themselves in the global marketplace.

In 2018, Shell Lubricants introduced Shell LubeChat – the first artificial intelligence (AI)-powered B2B chatbot tool designed to answer questions about oils and lubes 24/7 in real-time. This service is (currently available in the United States, China and India) gives customers and distributors the convenience of accessing information about Shell’s products from any device. They even offer recommendations on Shell alternatives to competitor products. The benefits of automating this service are twofold since users of ShellLubeChat increase productivity and Shell sets themselves apart by meeting their clients’ growing needs.

The application of machine learning i.e. enabling machines such as computer systems to learn from and interpret data without human input through AI technology continues to be a mainstay in the energy sector. More so in the offshore oil and gas industry since machine learning can be used to map out different scenarios, using predictive models therein companies can gauge potential risks ahead of time. This is best seen with British Petroleum’s (BP) AI-platform “Sandy” which according to David Eyton, BP’s group head of technology, “... is expected to unlock critical data for our subsurface engineers at a much accelerated pace...helping us make faster, better informed Upstream decisions.” Through “Sandy” and technologies like it, BP is hoping to spend 90% less time in data collection, interpretation and simulation and instead increase their economically viable offshore exploration.

We can’t talk about digitising the energy sector without mentioning social media and its ability to build brand awareness through unconventional means. Again, BP strikes the delicate balance of highlighting digital technologies while being true to their brand. If you look at their website, they visually take you through the brand’s history in a compelling way in their Heritage section. And that’s just one way the 118 year old company stays as fresh as ever. The other is by humanising themselves through their corporate social responsibility campaigns. Locally here in T&T, BP’s Community Energy social media platforms (@bpttenergy) features paralympic athletes Akeem Stewart and Nyoshia Cain under the theme, “Igniting the Energy Within.” The videos show a moving snapshot of how the families of these athletes supported their journeys through challenges, while never limiting their potential by their disabilities. By associating their brand with equanimity, BP shows their brand as forward-thinking and distinct.

Digital is here and it’s here to stay. The energy sector can only reap potential benefits by embracing the digital transformation to revolutionise not just their own industry, but the world.

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