Oil and gas companies in Australia are the backbone of our economy, contributing an astounding $130.6 billion in revenue in 2023. But just like every other industry, the time is ripe for embracing digitalisation opportunities to streamline processes and enhance the bottom line.
We’ll explore the most important forms of digitalisation across the industry, the benefits it brings, and the potential it has for creating an exciting raft of new oil and gas jobs.
The Benefits of Digitalisation for Oil and Gas Companies in Australia
Embracing digital evolution offers a smorgasbord of benefits for oil and gas companies in Australia, not least of which is remaining competitive in a high-pressure market. Let’s take a look at six key advantages:
- Transitioning from legacy processes enables increasingly responsive operations and data-driven decisions, particularly important for upstream companies.
- Harnessing automation and analytics unlocks efficiencies.
- Advanced technologies like AI, IoT sensors and machine learning, allow for conditions-based maintenance, minimising costly outages and improving safety.
- Perceptive data modelling resulting from digitalisation transformation helps companies quickly adapt to ever-changing regulations, customer preferences and market conditions.
- Collaborative platforms break down internal silos and empower cross-functional productivity
- Nurturing digital skills in the workforce secures the industry’s technical foundation going forward, an essential in the current dynamic energy transition environment.
Key Digital Transformation Measures
With the rewards of digitalisation clear, here are some examples of how it’s currently being used to enhance the operations of oil and gas companies in Australia:
Connected assets and automation: a boon for operational productivity.
Adding oil and gas infrastructure to digital networks allows companies to leverage their real-time production data and unlock major productivity gains. Onshore and offshore sensor arrays coupled with automated analytics identify efficiency gaps asset-by-asset, while guiding corrective actions without the need for deploying workers in every instance.
Machine learning algorithms can predict equipment failures before outages occur, while automated drones can inspect difficult-to-access wells and remote facilities, freeing up engineers for higher value analysis work.
Meanwhile, advanced process control (APC) software can handle automated adjustment of operating parameters across production facilities and equipment. Rather than engineers needing to manually track metrics and tweak every valve, pump or compressor, APC makes optimisations based on advanced algorithms and set constraints. This allows engineers, technicians and managers to focus their expertise on higher-value analysis, rather than getting manually involved in every single operational adjustment or equipment check.
Beach Energy installed this technology in 2023 in their Otway Gas Plant. Aside from the efficiency gains noted above, it’s also a large contributing factor to their emissions intensity reduction target of 35% by 2030.
Here is a deeper look into some of the automation technology that enables connectivity for improved oil and gas productivity:
- Sensors: Devices like pressure, temperature, vibration and flow meters provide critical data on asset health and performance. Newer analytic sensors also offer real-time equipment diagnostics.
- Supply chain automation & analytics: Some tech solutions now use AI to model supply/demand fluctuations, optimise logistics, and identify bottlenecks across end-to-end value chains. This allows dynamic recalibration based on equipment performance, predicted demand shifts and market conditions. An example of this automation in action is Accenture’s work with an Australian national oil company on their digital transformation. This involved implementing process digitalisation through automation and analytics, resulting in a 10% reduction in operating, material and maintenance costs.
- System control and optimisation: Software like ABB Ability and AVEVA PI System automate data analysis to model ideal operating parameters, identify inefficiencies and take corrective actions like opening valves or adjusting pumps.
- Predictive maintenance: Machine learning platforms like SparkCognition and Seeq mine historical sensor data to identify abnormalities and failure precursors, allowing for proactive repairs.
- Drones: Automated aerial drones equipped with thermographic cameras and scanners conduct visual asset inspections and data collection across distant wells and flares. This has an important safety advantage, reducing the need for skilled divers to perform inspections in bad weather conditions.
- Robotics: Robots with snake arms perform onsite inspection tasks in hazardous environments. There’s future potential for automated drill rigs and intervention robots.
- Industrial Internet Of Things (IIoT) Connectivity: Secure communications infrastructure ties together disparate equipment, control platforms and software tools under a centralised architecture.
Unlocking value from data with advanced analytics
Managing vast volumes of technical, operational and market data remains a key challenge for oil and gas companies in Australia. New technologies like machine learning, AI and digital twin modelling can shift companies from reactive to predictive planning, forecasting demand shifts and optimising supply chain dynamics. For instance, Accenture’s case study said the use of predictive analytics is on track to reduce the number of health, safety and environmental incidents by 15%.
In particular, digital twin technology holds immense promise for the sector. A digital twin is a virtual representation of a physical asset that uses real-time data and other sources to simulate performance.
In oil and gas, companies can create digital twins of key infrastructure like offshore platforms, LNG facilities, and even individual pieces of equipment like compressors. By feeding data from sensors and past operating logs into integrated AI software models, engineers can monitor conditions, predict failures before they occur and track changes over time.
Enhancing agility and decision-making through cloud platforms
Migrating data and applications to the cloud gives oil and gas companies in Australia the flexibility to spin computing power and storage up or down. With the use of tech like blockchain, cloud computing also provides a centralised platform for collaborative reporting and planning across business units.
As an example, when an oil company drills a new production well, all associated data like geology reports, drilling contracts and government permits get recorded securely onto a shared ledger. As the well gets transferred between various operators, these custody exchanges also get logged on the blockchain, ensuring accountability. Smart contracts can even automate periodic tax and royalty payments tied to metered oil output.
By creating a tamper-proof single source of truth, blockchain allows more transparency, automation and optimisation of complex industry workflows.
Addressing the Digital Skills Gap in Oil & Gas
As investment in new technologies rises, there are worries about a worsening skills gap in oil and gas when it comes to critical digital capabilities, especially in data science, analytics and cybersecurity.
Forward-looking companies are acting now to build digital fluency and retain scarce talent. Woodside Energy is one. They created a ‘Digital Academy’ for its workforce, allowing employees to digitally upskill.
Such initiatives help oil and gas employees expand their capabilities to support and maintain increasingly high-tech operations, but also come with an added bonus – they significantly contribute to higher employee retention rates. Employees who have access to stimulating career development opportunities naturally experience a boost in motivation, as well as their desire to stay.
Digital transformation is creating a whole new cache of upstream oil and gas jobs, with the industry eagerly welcoming geophysical data analysts, drilling automation engineers, and remote operations specialists.
Entire companies are also being formed to service the sector. One example is Sensiahe first fully integrated digital oilfield automation solutions provider. They utilise real time and IoT technologies, combined with software and analytics, and employ over 1000 people.
Discover More Oil and Gas Insights
It’s clear many Australian operators are investing heavily in connectivity, automation, analytics and cloud to drive improvements in safety, sustainability and performance in the oil and gas sector.
For more oil and gas insights, support with building a workforce for digitalisation projects or help with landing your next role in Australia’s oil and gas sector, please feel free to connect with one of our Patch Personnel recruitment specialists.