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Oil and gas industry investment in digital technologies shows resilience despite oil price downturn

Zafirah Salim | April 27, 2015
Big data and Industrial Internet of Things are predicted to grow over the next three to five years, according to a recently released Microsoft and Accenture report.

Despite current lower crude oil prices, most companies in the oil and gas industry plan to invest the same amount or more in digital technologies, according to a new survey by Accenture and Microsoft.

Released at the Microsoft Global Energy Forum 2015, the survey polled global industry professionals from international oil companies (IOCs), national oil companies (NOCs), independents and oilfield services firms.

In the near term during the current low crude price cycle, approximately three out of five respondents said that they plan to invest the same amount (32 percent), or more (25 percent) in digital technologies.

Over the next three to five years, approximately 80 percent of the respondents said that they plan to invest the same amount (18 percent), more (44 percent) or significantly more (18 percent) in digital. Respondents from IOCs and NOCs were the most bullish in the same time period.

It is also found that mobility, infrastructure and collaboration technologies currently represent the biggest investment areas across the oil and gas industry. Over the next three to five years, investments are expected to increase in big data and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and automation.

Digital investment boosts business value 

The key for continued digital investment in the upstream sector is improving operational efficiency - rather than simply reducing cost - as faster, more informed decision making and a more efficient workforce were seen as the key areas where digital technologies are adding value and creating business efficiencies.

However, to get the most value from digital technologies, oil and gas industry leaders said they need to overcome several barriers, with workflows and processes that create bottlenecks and physical and cybersecurity issues topping the list.

According to the survey, approximately 89 percent noted that leveraging more analytics capabilities would add more business value. In addition, 90 percent felt more mobile technologies in the field would increase value, while 86 percent said that leveraging more IIoT and automation would boost value.

Collaboration technologies were highlighted as an area that could be increasingly used in upstream to create a more efficient workforce and to make faster decisions.

"Making the most of big data, IIoT and automation are indeed the next big opportunities for energy and oilfield services companies, and many are already starting work in these areas," said Rich Holsman, global head of digital in Accenture's energy industry group. "They are increasing investments in enabling people and assets, with a growing emphasis on developing data supply chains to support analytics projects that can improve efficiencies, manage cost and provide a competitive edge. Our survey tells us that companies who do not continue to invest in digital technologies risk being left behind."


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