Roy Buchan Senior Vice President OPEX Group

Our Senior Vice President, Roy Buchan, contributed to the Society of Petroleum Engineer's Offshore Europe whitepaper. In this article he discusses how digitalisation can help oil and gas companies to improve operational efficiency.

Since the downturn, what lessons have been learned around operational efficiency?

Much good work has gone in to operating more safely, reliably and cost-effectively, but there’s still massive opportunities for transformational change. We can’t continue to do things the same way we have been doing them for decades. New ways of thinking and a more determined and wide-ranging adoption of technology is required to improve operational efficiency. And crucially, the pace of change needs to increase.

We don’t have all the answers and there is a lot we can learn from other sectors by adopting and adapting best practices to suit our industry.

What have been the most significant areas that needed addressing and optimising?

At the last measure there was a 1% increase in production efficiency across the UKCS taking the average to 74%. The industry is continuing to improve and there is scope to do more in this area, but with fewer resources and an aging infrastructure it is not going to get any easier without changing current practices. Almost half of all production losses are incurred through plant losses. The industry is capturing a wealth of data from the plant, but we need to get better at using it.

Through the application of new technologies and techniques this data can now be used in a whole variety of different ways to establish a more proactive approach in operating and maintaining the plant. This will provide the opportunity to significantly contribute to the production efficiency challenge.

Attracting and retaining a talented and skilled workforce continues to be a challenge. What does the industry need to do to improve its image?

Industry and regional bodies are working tirelessly to improve the future of the sector, but collectively we need to do more to tell the world about its potential. The existing talent within the industry - and the future workforce - want to know they have an attractive, exciting and long-term career ahead of them. Here in the North Sea, oil and gas production reached a seven-year high in 2018 and the OGA has revised its estimated production figure upwards to 11.9billion barrels before 2050. So, it’s all still to play for.

More than ever we are going to rely on innovation, ingenuity and engineering excellence to create new technologies that will help to extend field life, economically appraise and develop small pools, and improve recovery factors.

As a company, what areas have you focused on and what impact has this had? Are there other practical examples you consider to be good practice?

OPEX Group provides data analytics and predictive technology solutions to the oil and gas industry. By combining expertise in data science and oil and gas operations with predictive technologies, we work collaboratively with operating companies to maximise the value of their data.

Our X-PAS platform provides data-driven insights that help our customers’ asset teams take guided interventions that have a significant impact on production uptime, operational efficiency, and the safety and predictability of offshore operations. Our customers are achieving substantial reductions in system trips, losses, equipment damage, and maintenance costs. All of this is achieved by working collaboratively and making better use of the data they already have to improve efficiency.

Across the industry just now there are numerous examples of exciting new products and services that are having a huge impact. The creation of the Oil & Gas Technology Centre has been a catalyst for new ideas and there’s more entrepreneurial opportunities than ever before.

Technology and digitalisation will play a key role in improving operational efficiency in the future. What changes do you foresee over the next five years?

In the coming years we will experience not only digital transformation but also a shift in mindset. Organisations will work smarter and more collaboratively by further accelerating the use of data and technology to become less reactive and exploit massive optimisation opportunities. There will be a step change in asset management as we focus on operating ‘Smart Facilities’. Productivity will be significantly increased, and operators will develop new digitally-enabled operating models.