It’s time for the East Coast to embrace integrated operations

It’s time for the East Coast to embrace integrated operations

Atlantic Canada needs to go all-in on the integrated operations trend

The new buzzword in oil and gas these days is integrated operations or IO. Globally, major oil and gas companies and their service providers are embracing this way of doing business, introducing new ways of performing oil and gas exploration and production. It brings together realtime data, multidisciplinary teams and work processes to allow for a tighter integration of offshore and onshore personnel, as well as operator and service companies. So terms like big data and analytics, digital oilfields, and secure cloud computing are on the agendas of industry leaders globally.

Driven by the massive decline in the price of oil in recent years, the oil and gas industry was forced to reduce its ever-increasing cost of doing business. In response, leading petroleum companies streamlined their operations to manage costs and increase production through the use of new digital tools and techniques. Ironically, the highly technical oil and gas industry has been slow to embrace this new way of thinking. Industries like the automotive and aerospace industry were early adapters and are now global leaders in this space.

What do integrated operations look like? Common examples of IO initiatives include the use of robotics, always-on videoconference rooms between offshore platforms and land-based offices, 3D-visualization and the use of remote controls. A key component of IO is the use of onshore support centres whereby tasks that have been traditionally performed on offshore platforms are moved to land. Therefore, fewer people are needed to work offshore.

However, there is much more to IO than the development and application of new technologies. The human side of implementing IO is a major challenge. It affects employee work situations by introducing new business models and changing the way they do their work. These employees must learn new behaviours. A big part of IO is breaking down silos, which are culturally entrenched in large oil and gas companies. It requires increased cooperation and collaboration between everyone involved in an operation—operators, maintenance people, managers and suppliers— regardless of where they are located.

But are we in Atlantic Canada ready to embrace this new business model? And what can we learn from this collaborative way of thinking and behaving?

While some local companies are already embracing the new digital frontier, others need to do their homework and learn from industry leaders and other sectors to find their way. These sweeping changes are happening in real time, so we need to learn, find our place, and we must do so quickly. The reality is every area of the petroleum industry will be influenced or driven by the application of digital technology.

Fortunately, Newfoundland and Labrador has a strong connection to Norway, a global leader in integrated operations for the oil and gas industry. I’d like to see learning missions for our business community and more collaboration between Norway and other leading IO jurisdictions when it comes to digital technology. This could be a win/win on many levels.

And it could be mutually beneficial because while we have much to learn, we also have much to offer. Newfoundland and Labrador has an exciting, burgeoning technology industry. We are global leaders in ocean technology and marine operations. I’m incredibly impressed by the simmering entrepreneurial vibe and startup culture that is blossoming in our province. I’m also delighted to see increased communication taking place between our information technology, environmental, ocean technology and petroleum sectors. I am hopeful that we will see more collaboration across all sectors, particularly as it relates to the development and integration of new technologies and ways of doing business. I’m a firm believer that together we are stronger.

Regardless of the industry you are in, most of us must make the leap from old school practices of the past and adopt new ways of thinking and digital solutions to remain relevant. This is no silly trend. This is opportunity knocking, and it is time for Atlantic Canada to open the door.

Caron Hawco, ABC, PMP, is a communication and business strategy consultant and project manager, specializing in natural resources, public affairs, business development, trade missions, diversity, facilitation and media relations.

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