Industry 4.0: Three trends impacting upstream producers

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As of June 1st, 2017, the current price of West Texas Intermediate crude oil is $48.36USD a barrel. This is the world that the Oil & Gas industry appears to be living in for the foreseeable future. Over the last few years the fluctuating price has forced producers to take a laser like focus on operational excellence. This is central to addressing their core challenges addressing ways to lower lifting costs and improve decision support all in the context of continuing to ensure environmental and public safety.

According to a recent Accenture study of Upstream Oil and Gas companies, “72% believe cost reduction is an important or the most important challenge digital can help address” (Accenture, 2016). In the same study, respondents believed the biggest benefit of digital technology is “faster and better decisions”.

Mobile Workforce Solutions

Many producers have started looking to Industry 4.0 to help them navigate through this digital evolution and create a competitive edge for their operations. The question that is often asked is what exactly is “Industry 4.0” as it can mean many different things to different people. Simplified, Industry 4.0 can be thought of as the connection of physical devices and the incremental value that is achieved by having them connected. This translates into some of the big trends in process-oriented and manufacturing industries like Big Data Analytics, Mobility and the Convergence of IT/OT.

Big data analytics

“Doing more with more”, is essentially what the analytics side of Big Data is all about. The industry has recognized that the sheer amount of data that can be and is being captured needs to looked at in simple and meaningful ways. Really, what value is data if it just sits in a database without providing valuable insight that drives timely business decisions.


Technology is becoming increasingly mobile. It only serves to say that the upstream industry that is spread over a significant distance continues to explore any efficiency they might gain through further adoption of upstream mobility solutions. This is driven both by the connection of field devices and equipment as well as the connectivity and enablement of the field workforce.

IT/OT convergence

The boundary between information technology and operational technology continues to be blurred. This has been going on for several years already within the Oil and Gas sector and will continue for the foreseeable future as the drive to become more efficient with better visibility drives this. This convergence is occurring in the traditional supervisory control and up into advanced process control and optimization.

Over the course of the coming weeks the intent of this “Industry 4.0 and Upstream” blog series is to build on how these big trends are helping to align the industry to address some of their key challenges as they strive to:

  • Maximize assets,
  • Optimize processes, and
  • Enable people.

What other Industry 4.0 trends have you observed in Upstream? Let us know your experiences in the comments section.

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