OPINION: The transition to low-carbon energy may be the incentive the oil and gas industry needs to put some concrete action behind its persistent calls for greater collaboration.

That was the overarching message from a panel of industry executives in Upstream’s recent Technologies for Energy Transformation online forum.


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(To view a full recording of the Upstream digital event, Technologies for Energy Transformation,click here.)

As Lee Hodder, vice president of upstream digital transformation for Shell, put it: “I am actually seeing a change in attitude and almost a kind of humbleness in saying, ‘we can’t do this ourselves’.”

This is a welcome development. The upstream industry has amassed a wealth of data that can be used to make the execution and operation of projects much more efficient, and thus less carbon intensive.

But the deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that companies are targeting — and investors and the public are demanding — requires a wider development and deployment of digital technologies.

There is a risk that the natural impulse to keep proprietary data sealed off will result in multiple, competing digital initiatives — and more companies working in silos.

There are some encouraging initiatives under way, notably the Open Subsurface Data Universe forum, which is developing a technology-agnostic data platform for the energy industry drawing on data and expertise from a broad range of companies.

This year saw the launch of the Open AI Energy Initiative with Shell, C3.ai, Baker Hughes and Microsoft leading the effort to develop a similar platform to enable AI solutions that initially address nonproductive downtime and reliability.

Co-operative research initiatives and joint industry projects are nothing new, of course. But the urgency of the moment calls for much broader collaboration.

As panellist Valentina Riggins of Worley pointed out, applying digital technology “at scale” across the industry requires a corresponding supply of data.

Many of the technologies needed to further the industry’s low-carbon ambitions exist today.

Greater co-operation can help ensure that they are deployed safely, affordably and at the scale needed to tackle the immense challenge of meeting the growing demand for energy while lowering — and eventually eliminating or offsetting — its carbon footprint.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)