Interview with DNV GL: Digitalization in Oil & Gas

Bartolomej Tomić, OET Editor (Left); Rob van der Spek, Digital lead Continental Europe, Middle-East and India, DNV GL Oil & Gas (right)

Digitalization in the oil and gas industry was one of the most interesting topics on Wednesday during the Offshore Energy Exhibition and Conference.

While people tend to think that fossil fuel companies have a lot of catching up to do, it’s worth mentioning that digitalization and technological advancements have been with the industry for years, be it using the remotely operated vehicles, sensors, deepwater drilling, or something else.

However, there is always more to be done as digitalization is a broad term covering various segments of the industry. This was one of the messages one could take away from the interview with Rob van der Spek, Digital lead Continental Europe, Middle-East and India, DNV GL Oil & Gas, at Community Square of Offshore Energy Exhibition and Conference in the Amsterdam RAI.

Interviewed by Offshore Energy Today, Rob van der Spek said the digitalization was not something new in the industry.

Speaking ahead of the Deep Dive into Digitalization talk-show held at Community Square, Van der Spek said: “We’ve been using computers and algorithms for decades in the sector, but i think there are a couple of drivers which are really accelerating the use of computers and algorithms in the sector.”

“The first one is that we see that computer capacity is abundant and against low cost, in the cloud, and is growing exponentially.”

“The second driver is that we’re now loading our assets with sensors which allow us to get near real time data streams from our assets with regard to integrity and operations.”

“The third driver is going mobile. We’re giving our workforce a whole set of mobile devices which allow them to be very flexible within operations.”

Highlighted the importance of sharing of the available data, allowing for a better collaboration across the oil and gas sector.

Things have accelerated


Talking about how things have changed, Van Der Spek who graduated in Artificial Intelligence in 1998 – “way back” as he puts it – said: “AI has always been there. We had very expensive computers then. It took 24 hours to do a machine learning algorithm. So, it could happen that 24 hours later you had a result which was wrong and then we had to start all over again.

“Basically, a whole set of techniques has been here for decades, the issue is that it’s now much more easier to apply them. They have been improving, and i think AI will be a major part of digitalization.”

Van der Spek acknowledged the importance of the digital initiatives, but he also said the companies should be wary of splashing cash into it just because of the hype.

Change management is also a thing to look at. Van der Spek feels this should not be overlooked, as it is important to ensure the relevant people understand the power and the added value of digitalization, and no only go with a hype.

Talking about the benefits, he mentioned an example where with the help of digital technology, one of DNV GL’s clients managed to predict equipment failures on a drillship, thus cutting costs.

And we all know that cost cuts, of course apart from safety, are of the utmost importance for offshore drillers these days, with some of them being forced to work below the breakeven dayrates, just to keep busy.

“It’s all about the business case. The business case is uptime of our assets ensuring that they’re working 24/7. One of the main elements of the business case is how to be there just in time in terms of our inspection regimes, maintenance regimes and so on…,” Van der Spek said.

Another example highlighted by Van der Spek was the use of mobile devices and drones for inspections of offshore assets, thus removing the need to send offshore workers to hazardous areas, leading to improved safety, as well as to reducing costs.


Big Hype on big data – People still important


Big Data has been a buzzword in the past few years. However, it’s been said that there’s not a lack of big data, quite the contrary, there’s too much data and not enough capacity to analyze it. During the conference, one could hear that the oil companies don’t want just raw data, but knowledge on what to do with it and how to look at it.

Asked to comment on this, Rob van der Spek acknowledged that there is an enormous amount of data coming from the operations and there’s a big hype about Big Data.

“We need to use the sophisticated algorithms coming from eg. artificial intelligence to explore our data. However, we will never be able to really be creating added value without the experienced people in our industry to ensure data quality, but also to ensure that we’re not trying to find the golden nugget in the data without understanding the operations.”

“We strongly believe in the power of combining the experts in our industry with the power of algorithms and machine learning,” he added.



Way in for the gaming generation


Apart from the AI, the DNV GL director touched upon Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

DNV GL is thinking of using the augmented reality on its own workforce to understand how we can apply it for inspection, for surveys, and other activities.

“We will first ensure that our own services are being digitalized and to ensure that we provide our services in an innovative way.”

“Ideally, you would like to have people on the assets really provided with a [augmented] “reality” which allows them to take all the data and information into account when they make decisions or perform the activities,” he said.

VR and AR are also good for training purposes, and Van der Spek expects they will be a major driver for a much more cost efficient and effective training. It’s also a way to attract the young forces – the gaming generation – to the industry.

“We have to attract new talents to the industry which might be in a kind of bad reputation and digitalization could also make it more interesting for new talents,” he said.