Technical advance helps downstream negotiate the petrochemical switch
19 Mar 2019
“Global energy demand is growing… fuelled by a bigger middle class coming on the market with more consumers. To become an oil company of the future we have to change.”
So said the senior vice president, digital of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, Abdul Nasser Al Mughairbi, at the last Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum.
It captures well the challenge to the sector and the central role played by downstream oil and gas, where raw material is processed into product.
A large part of that later stage is accounted for by refining. Its fortunes are fluctuating because there is pressure on traditional sources of supply – whether because of diminishing reserves in more easily accessible locations or competition from other sources. Plus, there is growing demand for cleaner fuel and energy from the consumer and industry.
At the same time, the burgeoning global middle-class demand for goods is boosting the petrochemical side of the downstream equation. Good news then if companies can demonstrate the agility to switch focus as circumstances demand.
But, as our feature discusses, agility is not a concept that one always associates with the oil and gas sector. There are sound reasons for this – they are called ‘risk’ and ‘uncertainty’.
Global demand for goods is boosting the petrochemical side of the downstream equation. Good news if companies can switch focus as circumstances demand
Too much rides on the consequences of reckless change for the industry in terms of downtime and safety for it to embrace innovation without substantial caveats.
Digitalisation and Industry 4.0 should provide the transformative improvements that eliminate risk – extracting the necessary data and analysing it to previously unforeseen levels of sophistication.
If nothing else, the opportunity to move from a paper records-bound arena where decisions are measured by experts in days, to a system where information is accessed by even the least technically astute in seconds, promises vast savings of resource.
Provide the assurances the industry needs and oil and gas will not be found wanting for agility and innovation.