The ongoing mass adoption of latest technological trends in the energy sector came to the front burner of discourse recently when companies in the industry began gathering data across every element of their supply chains from oil fields and pipelines to refineries, power stations and manufacturing using artificial intelligence.
It became more significant as expert estimated that 90 percent of the data in the world today were generated in the last two years alone through technology.
It was perhaps for this reason that the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), Nigeria Council converged on Lagos recently for the Nigeria Annual International Conference and Exhibition (NAICE) at Eko Hotels and Suites to examine the theme ‘‘“Artificial Intelligence, Big Data and Mobile Technology: Changing the Future of the Energy Industry”.
On the part of stakeholders at the event, the petroleum industry is speedily moving towards the advancement of artificial intelligence, big data as well as mobile technology.
For instance, in a presentation, titled ‘‘Digital Transformation and Emerging Trends in Artificial Intelligence: Implications for the Energy Sector and Future Outlook, Managing Director, Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo), Mr.Bayo Ojulari, said digital technology is one of the mega trends re-shaping the world’s energy system.
He noted that the development is changing the entire landscape with technology becoming faster and cheaper over the past ten years.
Specifically, Ojulari said the cost of censors has dropped from $1.30 to .60 cents, while cost of processing power has equally dipped 50 times alongside cost of Megabytes(MB) of cloud infrastructure which also dropped 20 times.
He added that this exponential growth in technology, data and capability was enabling unprecedented transformation as well.
The SNEPCo boss disclosed that massive investments in oil and gas sector over the years have generated enormous data which can be leveraged to transform operations and create new business models, noting that market analysts have identified digital technologies as a significant safety and environment value contributor with lowering emissions and water usage creating a value of $460 billion to industry and society, avoiding oil spills by 230 Kbbl of oil and improving safety performance with over 20 per cent reduction in accidents and injuries.
Challenges with data
According to the Chairman, SPE Nigeria Council, Mr. Debo Fagbami, big data is a key enabler for exploring business insights and economics of services in the petroleum sector.
But despite this unique attribute however, he argues that the challenges associated with the wave created by big data in our industry would stem from the fact that big data in itself is a complex terrain.
‘‘Obvious challenges would come during its integration with existing business processes and methodologies as well as the uncertainties created by management of large and complex data by an industry only beginning to adopt it.
Added to this would be the in-house talent gap as well as the complexities associated with migrating existing data into a big data structure suitable for use in the artificial intelligence(AI terrain). Synchronising data across multiple sources and user groups or functions also creates a challenge and added to this would be costs associated with migration and providing solutions for specific scenarios and end-user applications.”
Having submitted thus, he also affirmed that big data and Artificial Intelligence in the energy industry would open doors for new talent as well as cross-training and skills conversion which is not unfamiliar territory for petroleum engineers to explore and exploit.
He opined that, as more organisations recognise the importance of big data as a means of achieving and entrenching competitive advantage, it would be used as an in-road to gain insight and make more informed decisions.
Addressing security concerns
Fagbami explained that, big data in itself presents a powerful means of storing large amounts of data that can help analyse, examine, observe trends and irregularities within a system or network.
Big data analytics tools, he said, can be used to identify and combat a cyber security threat which remains a concern for most organisations today, advising that, having an in-house structure and talent pool that is adequately equipped to utilise the concept of big data for business process enhancement as well as to protect the system is a fantastic bargain for any serious organisations.
According to him, cyber threats remain a clear and present danger and oil and gas companies generate and store large volumes of data on a daily basis in support of the energy value chain from exploration to production and a threat to any remains a threat to all, hence the responsibility lies with all industry players to ensure that standards are set to utilize robust analytical tools to combat the threats imposed by cyber-crime.
Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr.Mele Kolo Kyari, in his address at the occasion said he was already agreed with the theme of this year’s conference, especially at a time the industry was becoming increasingly ambitious and challenged.
No doubt, he said, the emergence of artificial intelligence has altered the dynamics of the industry’s operations by providing quicker processes and interventions in the conduct of petroleum operations, adding that, this also is on the back of big data that provides the platform for an effective AI system.
According to him, the combination of AI and big data are complemented further by mobile technology that enables real time access to information and the execution of apparently complicated operation from remote locations.
‘‘Today, single data platforms exist that link large amount of information to create robust decision support across variety of industry operations which include; to grow reserves, increase production at the lowest possible UTC, compete for market with emerging alternative production sources.
Others are; to take market position in renewable energy and address the challenges posed by; regional security issues, market volatility, activities of vandals and saboteurs and oil thieves and pirates .