ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates—The oil and gas industry should embrace the Fourth Industrial Revolution and harness technological breakthroughs to serve the energy sector, according to panelists speaking at various sessions this week at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (ADIPEC).

Panelist discussed what they called “Oil and Gas 4.0,” which will allow oil and gas companies to access undeveloped reservoirs and further capitalize on unconventional resources.

“This era, known as the Fourth Industrial Age, is creating a paradigm shift in global growth and driving demand for our products. Our industry must step up to enable this massive step change in global development,” said Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (ADNOC). “In short, this mission can be given a simple name: Oil and Gas 4.0.”

The push toward incorporating digital tools to improve efficiencies, lower costs and expand production has triggered the Oil and Gas 4.0 era. The evolution is linked to the broader Industry 4.0, driven largely by technology of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, namely artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things.

“Today, we are able to make this happen by thinking outside the box, leveraging technology and reframing our business model,” Al Jaber said. “This has finally unlocked the commercial formula that will enable the UAE to attain self-sufficiency and transition to becoming a potential net exporter of natural gas. We are also taking steps, never taken before, to realize our comprehensive gas strategy.”

A key element of the Oil and Gas 4.0 is harnessing artificial intelligence. Panelists also discussed the benefits of applying artificial intelligence and predictive analytics, mainly to reduce maintenance costs, and increasing efficiency and safety.

“Digital innovation is delivering unparalleled levels of progress and prosperity across the world as we enter a new age of opportunity and growth,” Al Jaber said. “At ADNOC, we are embracing Oil and Gas 4.0 and helping the Fourth Industrial Age, by using artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain to enhance our operational efficiency, maximize our performance, drive profitability and empower our people.”

Joining with industry peers and technology developers became essential for oil and gas players.

“Oil and gas is very unusual in terms of partnerships because we are competing but also partners in various projects around the world,” said Bob Dudley, group chief executive for BP. “We work with national oil companies, but now there is also new partnership. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is coming so fast, and we have to work together for things like standardization and developing more models of working with suppliers.

“Climate change is another area to respond with partnership,” Dudley said.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi said partnership has been a fundamental step in creating synergies to reduce costs, share technology and ideas. “We have to exchange ideas in order to achieve our objectives,” he said.

Panelists admitted that in some areas the industry is lagging behind other sectors such as automotive, airline and retail, which are faster moving and quicker to change. “The world is moving at a very fast pace and our companies need to adapt,” Dudley added.

Integrating business units to gain operational efficiency and standardization are among the opportunities oil and gas companies need to seek.

ADNOC wants to make production in its upstream segment more profitable, said Abdulmunim Al Kindy, director, upstream directorate, for the company. He added that ADNIC has thought about how to “move an already efficient operation one step beyond” and shared some of the company's experiences. 

“Some of the assets being managed are supergiant. Today the Zakum Field is the largest offshore reservoir in the world, and we have made significant savings on operation costs,” Al Kindy said. “We have also thought of how we can make a step change in the most expensive cost driver in our operation and that is drilling and how can we turn around a company from basic drilling experience to an integrated drilling services company” in a quick, efficient way.

High capex is putting a stress on upstream and downstream parallel operations, where service companies are considering ways to support customers to integrate their upstream and downstream business, according to David Dickson, president and CEO of McDermott International Inc.

One of the key challenges the industry faces following the downturn is the exodus of skilled people toward more “secure industries.”

“During the downturn period, we lost a lot of experience as people moved to other industries or simply retired,” Dickson said. “We have to look at how to deal with that without increasing cost in order to remain competitive.”

Highlighting the importance of artificial intelligence, Dickson shared McDermott’s experience with artificial intelligence standardization. Having a digital twin for a project like Australia’s Ichthys LNG helped the company address issues before they arose, he said.

Speaking about key industry trends in the Middle East, Mortimer Buckley, general manager SPX Flow Industrial’s Middle East region, said localization and digitalization are shaping the industry’s future. Countries in the region require technology and service providers to have a local presence, he said.