AVEVA Roundtable Insights: Digitalization Reenergizing Industry

AVEVA Roundtable Insights: Digitalization Reenergizing Industry
AVEVA Roundtable Insights: Digitalization Reenergizing Industry

AVEVA hosted a virtual roundtable panel discussion Aug. 26, 2020 with key people from the world’s largest oil & gas organizations to understand how technology is reenergizing industry. Technology is not only positively impacting business continuity and lowering carbon emissions but also improving supply chain, production planning, sustainability, and energy efficiency. Participants included Alan Nelson, CTO of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC); Bill Johnson, CTO of DCP Midstream; Darren Martin, CTO of Wood PLC; and AVEVA’s CEO, Craig Hayman. Craig Resnick, VP Consulting at ARC Advisory Group, moderated the discussion.

Craig Resnick discussed ARC surveys that indicate the pandemic has been accelerating the digitalization of industry with faster adoption of cloud collaboration, remote workers, virtual & augmented reality, and digital twin. He emphasized that using cloud services to host software is an essential foundation for digital transformation to maintain a competitive advantage.

Craig Hayman cited the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) seven lessons from companies on the other side of the pandemic curve list:

  1. Stabilize Manufacturing & Supply Chain
  2. Manage Costs, Cash & Liquidity
  3. Organize Your People for the New Reality
  4. Manage the Top Line & Drive Customer Engagement
  5. Accelerate Digital & New Ways of Working
  6. Drive Strategic Advantages in Adversity
  7. Partner with Government & Society
Hayman described enablers of digital resiliency and long-term stability: connected worker, digital twin, artificial intelligence, cloud, big data, and convergence bringing the edge into the enterprise. He said, “We think these are more critical than ever before.” He described the challenge as “finding a way to use data to take risk out of capital projects and optimize performance.”

Craig Hayman discussed the idea that changing environment requires retraining people as things change. Looking back at how things change he noted, “It wasn’t so long ago that you had an editor, copywriter, spellchecker, and typesetter that were all really productive and efficient.” He described with technology process changed to drive maximum efficiency and the roles had to change making retraining workers essential.


Dr. Alan Nelson, CTO ADNOC

Dr. Alan Nelson, CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) discussed the integration of technology sustainability and how they working around current pandemic situation, and challenges around energy prices.

ADNOC is one of the world’s leading energy producers and a primary catalyst of growth and development within the United Arab Emirates (UAE). “Technology, including digital and sustainability, are in our foundation and spirit since day one. . . . Today, sustainability and technology function align under the CTO; it’s a very unique opportunity and position to bring the best of digital technology together with the best of sustainability to drive and deliver growth for ADNOC and the U.A.E.,” Nelson said. The sustainability and innovation strategy rests on three pillars:
  • Drive More Efficient and Profitable Innovation
  • Carrying the R & D flag for Abu Dhabi and the U.A.E.
  • Build on Our Strong Legacy as a Responsible Oil and Gas Producer
He described a guiding spirit of these efforts is focused on “Innovation is an investment and innovation must pay off.” The investment and innovation strategy last year in particular helped the company navigate through a fairly difficult time over the past several months. They identified a number of technology road maps and specific deliverables out to 2030. There was a lot of rigor to define what they will do and what they will not do as a guide. Example cited include reservoir management, drilling efficiency, reservoir production optimization, process optimization, and product development. Today there are also 234 ongoing Environmental, Social, & Governance projects throughout their value chain.

Regarding the pandemic coupled with oil & gas industry issues he noted has been challenging but digital investment are paying off in these areas:
  • Production and Margins
  • Business Continuity
  • Sustainability, Health, and Safety
  • Human Interface
  • Financials & Forecasting
  • Access to Real-time Data

Digitalization investments over the past several years around access to real-time data has allowed them to maintain business continuity and have the information immediately available to the executive leadership team to make informed decisions through the last several months. “We leveraged our digital capability to help us analyze and monitor analyze and navigate through the spread of Corvid across all of our operations and sites,” Nelson said. “We maintain from day one live monitoring and situational development with daily updates and user interactive visualizations, dashboards, and heat maps. . . . We modeled using SIER (Susceptible - Exposed - Infected - Recovered) modeling the spread and size of infections and this allowed us to formulate decisions and mitigation actions based on life developments. This is something we had even contemplated a year ago but because we made these investments in digital capabilities, analytics, statistics, and real-time data analysis we were able to leverage all of that and really maintain a high degree of business continuity over the past several months.”

Nelson provided final thoughts based on what they have learned:

·       Technology strategy cannot be considered in isolation and must be developed alongside global strategic partners such as ADNOC and UAE.

·       Support and encourage research and development with partners and ecosystems that have the capabilities to innovate at scale to reduce the risk of technology commercialization.

·       Despite many of the challenges over the past months we continue to pilot, develop, and deploy technology across all of our assets.

·       Focus technology strategies and investments on a few impactful platforms including new energy technologies, manufacturing processes, and materials the future.   ADNOC innovation and sustainability strategies have paid dividends this year.

·       Develop skills that underpin the successful translation of science from laboratory into manufacturing and support the free movement of highly qualified talent.

·       Design a procurement and trade policy that supports technology and a mechanism for supporting industrial and government partners as well.

“We are seeing reskilling of the workforce as we streamline operations with digitalization and automation,” he noted. “When companies consider a digital strategy, they also need to think about the training component of this as well.”


Darren Martin, CTO of Wood PLC

Wood operates in more than 60 countries with more than 45,000 employees focused on the energy market providing consulting, projects, and operational services putting it in a good position to understand the entire asset lifecycle. Before Covid, we are on a quest to unlock digitally enabled solutions around our clients biggest challenges. With the pandemic, many projects particularly upstream oil and gas have been put on hold, and there is a renewed focus on optimizing existing assets and  on alternative energy including wind, hydrogen, and solar.  Throughout these projects a focus on continuity and keeping people connected.

Martin described their CoLab approach to foster innovation that combines the collective ingenuity of Wood’s industry experts their wealth of our industry-leading data, digital and technology capabilities co-creating solutions to clients’ biggest problems. CoLab aims to facilite collaboration amongst the right people in order to co-create the right solution to a defined challenge--be it with peers, clients, or partners. 

Watch the CoLab Video.

Watch the CoLab Experience Video.

The company is actively helping clients achieve ambitious sustainability and emission reduction targets. Wood has committed to 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030. “We see key technologies in this area including visualization, analytics, machine learning, cloud-based technologies, harnessing artificial intelligence to make decisions, digital twins and empowering the connected worker,” Martin said. “Automation is a focus and Wood has a robotics digital twin capability, for example the company was involved in design and optimization of car production for Jaguar Land Rover.”   Martin would like to see further advances in the versatility of robotics so they could be applied to environments such as oil platforms. The company has invested in artificial intelligence that does 50% of initial upfront design up allowing employees to spend their talent on the more complex aspects of design.


Bill Johnson DCP Midstream, Group VP and Chief Transformation Officer

Bill Johnson described his focus at DCP Midstream on transformation and sustainability. DCP Midstream is a Fortune 500 energy infrastructure company that is one of the largest gas gathering companies and NGLs ( Natural Gas Liquids  ) producers in the United States operating 49 gas processing plants and almost 60,000 miles of gas pipelines. The company midstream company is positioned between production and end use markets connecting at the wellhead, transporting gas to treatment facilities, and selling finished products to utilities, chemical operations, or refining. Bill Johnson’s full-time job for three years has been focused on innovation and digital transformation to meet company objectives and goals.

In the past year, the company has published its first sustainability report based on their commitment to be a responsible operator. Sustainability and business outcomes go together, and the digital transformation program supports the goals with a focus on creating the future in field oil and gas operations. Three main focus areas supported by creation of the company’s Integrated Collaboration Center using data from throughout the company and outside sources to get real-time insight into what’s going on with assets and drive best optimum profitability and efficiency improving margins. The platform is built using digital twin concepts up and down company’s entire value chain. “This platform has been invaluable to us and continues to be a focus of a lot of development,” he Johnson said.

“Digitally enabling our workforce and our customers is part of this strategy,” he noted.  This is been accomplished by creating multiple platforms for connecting the workforce in real-time that are in highly dispersed areas and many times requiring overcoming poor communications in areas in the country that are hard to reach. “There are still places that are very difficult for people to connect. . . . We’ve overcome those challenges enabling our workforce to have all information all the time and access to experts to do the right things with our assets and create the outcomes we want. We do technology for the sake of reducing risk, operating more sustainably, and delivering value for customers and shareholders.”

Bill Johnson also discussed outcomes achieved with digitalization that provides insight into all assets in real-time from anywhere. “We do have an integrated collaboration center and decision support system but now in the post pandemic period we are think about the virtual collaboration center. For example, they have people collaborating from different parts of the country operating plants from their homes. Connecting the field workforce has been great benefit leveraging a range of technologies including augmented reality, virtual reality so they can collaborate with remote experts has paid off in a big way.”

He continued, “Using Internet of Things (IoT) technologies we are getting better insights into our assets, all the pipelines we operate and all the large industrial equipment including compressors, and gas plants in real-time to be able optimize to create better business outcomes and sustainability.”  For example, pipe leak prevention and identifying energy optimization opportunities.  “At the end of the day these technologies and our platforms have helped us reduce our emissions and create tens of millions of dollars of enterprise value and incremental margins,” he said. “Very proud of the progress we made in looking forward to much more to come in the future.”

“We have a big effort around workforce of tomorrow and are now transitioning calling it workforce of today inside the company.” He described how they are focused on reskilling, enhancing skills, and multi-skilling people emphasizing they want people to be analytic problem solvers that can work across the business. “Focused on what humans can uniquely do and let the machines to most of the rest of the work.”

About The Author


Lydon brings more than 10 years of writing and editing expertise to Automation.com, plus more than 25 years of experience designing and applying technology in the automation and controls industry. Lydon started his career as a designer of computer-based machine tool controls; in other positions, he applied programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and process control technology. In addition to working at various large companies (e.g., Sundstrand, Johnson Controls, and Wago), Lydon served a two-year stint as part of a five-person task group, where he designed controls, automation systems, and software for chiller and boiler plant optimization. He was also a product manager for a multimillion-dollar controls and automation product line and president of an industrial control software company.


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