SAN FRANCISCO — For a company like BP, which has been in the oil and gas business for over a century, adopting new technologies could be a difficult task.
It not only takes years to fully deploy new products, but there are also safety and reliability issues that need to be addressed before making the final call.
Even so, Ahmed Hashmi, BP’s global head of upstream technology, says that shouldn’t stop a company from continuously seeking new investment opportunities.
“If you don’t know what to do next, do something. That first step, it opens up the next three steps for you, and then it opens up the next few…it’s like an exponential effect,” Hashmi said on stage at GE’s Minds + Machines conference on Tuesday.
BP’s latest initiative is in the area of digital transformation. The company wants to turn its ageing facilities into a more technologically advanced platforms using cloud and analytics software.
For example, BP announced a new pilot program that would put GE’s Plant Operations Advisor (POA) software in one of its largest offshore oil production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The new software will enable the offshore production platforms to gather tons of real-time data to prevent the facility unexpectedly shutting down. It’s also expected to improve operating efficiency by up to 4%, which could potentially lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in annual savings if rolled out globally.
“It’s about improving and understanding how the equipment operates. Before something happens, you can intervene and fix it,” Hashmi told Business Insider.
GE Oil & Gas’ Chief Digital Officer Matthias Heilmann likened the POA software to a more professional Fitbit, given how it monitors your performance with real-time data and prevents bad things from happening.
“One of the key objectives is to reduce, if not eliminate, unplanned downtime, which continues to be a major challenge in the oil and gas industry,” Heilmann told us.
Hashmi said BP has gone from investing in big data for seismic technology to 2D and 3D modelling over the past three decades, he said. Now, it’s all about digital.
“We had to get comfortable embarking on digital investments,” Hashmi said on stage.
In fact, BP tells us that the company’s R&D spend on digital initiatives increased last year, despite its overall R&D investments shrinking due to lower oil prices. For example, the company now has the largest super computer in the world for commercial research, and has also developed a Well Advisor tool that helps monitor what is happening in the wells being drilled and prepared for production subsurface and subsea.
All this could theoretically help the company prevent any unforeseen disasters, like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, from happening again. It will also help the company operate more efficiently and effectively by 2050, as seen in the chart below from BP:
Hashmi also said it was important for him to instill a different mindset at BP to keep up its culture of innovation. He pointed to three things to remember for any organisation looking to drive change internally:
- “You know your business better than anyone else”: Focus on where there’s value and go after something that’s big. Something that changes your business.
- “You know yourself best”: Partner with people with complementary skills.
- “Put your best people on the job”: By best, he doesn’t mean just capable people, but those with outstanding behaviour who can hold themselves accountable, and allow others to hold themselves accountable.