Digitalization is helping oil and gas companies to get end-to-end visibility

Industries need an ecosystem powered by highly connected, data-intensive digital solutions: Industries need a digital transformation. It makes the industries more flexible, efficient and productive.

This was piece originally appeared on Industrial Automation Magazine


Current status of the process industry, where they are in the digital transformation journey?
Today Process Industries are looking at achieving higher productivity, reducing product lifecycle, increasing operational efficiency and safety. They face the challenges of staying compliant to the regulations and still ahead of the competition in the market. Industries need an ecosystem powered by highly connected, data-intensive digital solutions and services: Industries need a digital transformation. Digital transformation helps the industries benefit with connectivity, compatibility and collaboration, making them more flexible, efficient and productive than ever.

One of the fundamental qualifications for the digital transformation is the connectivity of devices and assets such as controllers, machines, products and even the operators along the entire value chain. Industries are building networks of seamlessly connected digital systems, and controlling and monitoring them over distributed control systems. With digital transformation, industries are improving safety, productivity and efficiency. To achieve operational performance, complete visibility and optimization of the operations is essential. In the digital enterprise, everything is connected. Information flows seamlessly between operational systems and enterprise systems, enabling newer capabilities such as predictive maintenance, process optimization and data-driven decision making.

Traditionally, the management of the operations in manufacturing and process industries has been divided between information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT).  The IT teams provided the top-down view for technology support for management and operations, while OT teams provided the ground-up information for monitoring and controlling the equipment, machines, and processes. Both, IT and OT have lived in silos, with limited communication and knowledge share.

The advances in the plant-wide connectivity, and the expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) with the Industrial Revolution 4.0, have brought in intelligent manufacturing technology, which bridges both IT and OT.

Can digital transformation help the Oil & Gas industry, which is under pressure from alternate energy sources and low prices? 
Many oil and gas companies are leveraging digitalization to thrive in the phase of plummeting oil prices. Digitalization is helping the oil, gas companies to get an end-to-end visibility of the performance with a granular view of their resources, and using the data and insights derived from them, draft quicker and better strategies to gain competitive advantage.

Oil and gas companies are looking at connecting the oil fields, refineries and the pipelines that will seamlessly share the information about the performance and process productivity to the next level, for improving efficiency, security and safety. They are also exploring collaborative and integrated operations with remote management to drive business continuity with reduced costs and risk.

What exactly are the digital trends the industry can profit from?
Some of the benefits that automation delivers to oil and gas customers are:

  • Alarm and safety systems to identify hazardous situations and guide in prioritizing the response
  • Capturing the information from varied sources such as test reports, shutdown reports and alarms, to ensure safe plant operation
  • Pipeline monitoring for identifying any leak or theft
  • Pave the way for virtual commissioning resulting in fewer on-site change, and
  • Configurable I/O reduces marshalling and hardwiring significantly, generating large time and cost savings.

When the connected field devices and machines understand the information because they use the same communication protocol, they understand the message and respond accordingly. This coordinated interaction between devices creates autonomous state and helps the machines perform any task with minimum supervision. Using advanced methods such as industrial artificial intelligence is an area of focus for ABB towards building an autonomous future for the industries.

The digital twin is one of the elements of digital transformation. It empowers industries to shorten development time, testing and production time and even reduce production costs. Having consistent data along the entire asset lifecycle is a prerequisite for the successful use of digital twin technology. The asset itself can be a product, system or factory.

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About the author

G Balaji

G Balaji is head of Energy Industries division in Industrial Automation, ABB India. He is also member of Country Management Committee that shapes critical management strategy. In his role as the head of Energy Industries, Balaji is driving digital transformation for many customers through co-innovation and co-creation with the customers. Balaji brings vast knowledge of Oil and Gas, Chemicals and Energy sector. In his career of close to 23 years, he has held several management positions in ABB India across operations and engineering, executing large complex projects and working closely with Global teams. He has been deeply involved in developing operational excellence and key initiatives within ABB India for our customers in Energy sector. He has a wide knowledge of technology applications in utilities and industries, and has been instrumental in developing and executing solutions around Industrial Internet of Things in plants and factories. Balaji is an engineer in instrumentation and control
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