While the oil and gas industry has typically been slower to embrace the era of digital transformation than other sectors, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these efforts at many of the world’s leading oil and gas companies.

It’s no secret that the virus has decimated much of the oil and gas industry. Demand hasn’t been lower in decades, as people stay at home and traveling temporarily becomes a thing of the past.

This confluence of factors has crushed even the most well-established oil and gas players. Shell, for example, was forced to slash its dividend for the first time since World War II!

But it’s not all bad news. While the virus has forced oil and gas companies to rethink their strategies, it also presents the perfect opportunity for them to reassess their infrastructure and make smart investments in technology to bring their systems into the modern era.

For example, the right investments in information and communication technology (ICT) and other digital solutions can go a long way toward boosting profitability and driving organization efficiencies to create a more robust operation. According to McKinsey, investing in digital technologies can save gas companies as much as 20 percent on capital expenditures and 5 percent on upstream operating costs.

With that in mind, let’s take a brief look at seven of the technologies oil and gas companies are increasingly pouring money into.

1. Big data and analytics

Oil and gas companies don’t have the luxury of being able to make decisions based on gut instinct. Drilling projects are massive undertakings requiring tons of capital and heavy machinery, and organizations can’t afford any margin for error.

This is why an increasing number of organizations are collecting more and more data and running analytics to determine the smartest way forward. With big data, it’s easier to make the right decisions.

2. IIoT and edge computing

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) promises to optimize much of the oil and gas sector, with connected devices collecting data at the source and running edge computing workloads to give organizations the information they need to ensure efficient operations.

3. Cloud computing

Oil and gas companies continue to leverage the power of the cloud, increasing data accessibility and availability while creating redundancies in their networks.

4. AI and machine learning

AI and machine learning are changing all industries, including oil and gas. Huawei’s Ascend Artificial Intelligence IP and chip series, for example, enables organizations to turn AI into a practical reality—one that’s accessible for every person. Using the platform, customers are able to accelerate the pay zone identification process considerably, reducing total time spent by 80 percent while increasingly accuracy by 5 percent.

5. Robotics and drones

Due to the operational efficiencies they provide, more and more oil and gas companies are investing in robotics and drones. This category is projected to be the fastest area of growth for the industry over the next three to five years.

6. 5G networks

In the digital age, speed matters most. This is why more and more oil and gas organizations are investing in 5G networks that provide unrivaled speed and connectivity.

7. Collaboration tools

Global oil and gas companies have operations spread out across the world. By investing in collaboration tools, they are able to ensure all employees can stay on the same page—no matter where they happen to be.

Case Study: Daqing Oilfield

At 60 years old, Daqing Oilfield — the largest oilfield in China, situated in Heilongjiang, the country's northernmost province — has faced enormous challenges in terms of reserve replacement, stable production pressure, cost reductions, and efficiency improvements.

At the Huawei Oil & Gas Virtual Summit 2020, Zhang Tiegang, former Deputy Chief Engineer of the Exploration and Development Research Institute at Daqing Oilfield, explained that seismic exploration technologies to detect oil and gas reserves have been the method of choice for most oil companies. Increasing seismic exploration while decreasing well drilling, he noted, has become a new measure widely used in the industry. However, high precision and massive data processing have brought their own challenges to seismic exploration and oilfield exploration and development. With a single seismic exploration work area now expanded to over 2000 square km, the volume of data collected through the broadband, wide-azimuth, and high-density seismic data collection technology has exceeded 1 TB per square km.

To help Daqing Oilfield address these issues, Huawei built a dedicated oil and gas exploration cloud. The cloud data center improves computing power by eight times and has similarly improved pre-stack seismic data processing capability by five times, from 400 square km to 2000 square km, matching work area requirements. Elsewhere, AI and big data capabilities have been used to re-analyze 10 PB of the customer's historical exploration data, to mine new value from it and support extraction decision-making, bringing huge additional value to the oilfield.

Interested in learning more about how ICT is transforming the oil and gas industry?

Check out a replay of Huawei’s 2020 Oil & Gas Virtual Summit to see how some of today’s more influential oil and gas companies are using technology to build more efficient operations and deliver more value to their customers and shareholders—all while becoming more sustainable organizations. Watch the virtual event now.