digitization of energy FEATURE

What does it take to stay ahead of the curve in digitizing energy?

If the benefits of digitizing and automating any business landscape are efficiency and a decrease in the ominous carbon footprint, what better sector to reap this harvest than the energy industry? Industry shaping technologies such as big data, sensors, and machines talking to machines provide oil and gas companies with methods for automating dangerous undertakings and improving their bottom line—a win-win for all employees and stakeholders.

Cutting carbon

The energy sector has undergone huge changes over the last years, mainly due to the decentralization of energy systems and the increasing role of renewables. While the industry’s defining characteristics continue to shift, a new trend has emerged: the digitization of energy.The transition from offline energy processes to online processes is feeding a lion's den of energy components—including energy management and the emergence of energy-focused software applications The transition from offline energy processes to online processes is feeding a lion's den of energy components— including energy management and the emergence of energy-focused software applications, which are cultivating more energy efficient enterprises across sectors and producing less carbon.

The UK-based energy management company Schneider Electric has set a target to be carbon neutral by 2030. As part of the company’s environmental commitment and its grasp of the ubiquitous Internet of Things ecosystem, the corporation is pushing out a new business plan and product portfolio supporting smart technologies, while focusing on its building management and energy verticals that provide 60% of Schneider’s global turnover.

See also: Efficiency and security for the energy industry

The company’s new CTO, Prith Banerjee, says the new strategy “would involve delivering a definite percentage of energy savings on a yearly basis for an establishment like a large mall or an airport. Schneider would bear the cost of installing energy savings equipment and would charge the company on the basis of energy it saves."

Who's leading in digitizing energy, and what will it take to stay ahead of the curve? 

For oil and gas companies, integrating data into their strategies is posing a great challenge. According to a study by Accenture, only one in five data energy industry respondents report using an organization-wide approach to analytics. Energy professionals are hoping to change this, as more data coming from oil and gas sites can yield better insight on practices leading to greater efficiency and ultimately producing more for less.

With a major crude slump in effect, oilfield analytics companies are experiencing renewed interest from customers. 

Intelligent oil fields are ripe with digitally wired systems, sensors and data tags. WellAware, Welder Exploration & Production, Inc. has created an application that facilitates the tracking of oil and water levels via sensors that attach to collection tanks. By attaching the sensors to different components tracking can be done remotely. 

See also: How harvested energy will shape the Internet of Things and smart cities

Across the globe on the West coast of the US,  the San Diego energy tech startup GroundMetrics, uses electromagnetic sensors to capture subsurface images and the movement of fluids, which allows oil and gas companies to have a greater chance at drilling success.

GroundMetrics CEO George Eiskamp says a small operator his company is working with in Texas used GroundMetrics data to find a large prospect on an oilfield they have been producing for over 20 years. 

“We tied our data to 3D seismic, geology and production history,” says  Eiskamp. “They are now starting to plan a multi-well drill program to produce the previously undiscovered oil. By providing new insights into what’s actually happening underground, our technology allows operators to improve efficiency and optimize production.”

Eiskamp says that without using new technologies to improve electrical transmission and distribution, an enormous amount of waste will continue to be made in the powerline infrastructure across the energy sector.

“This will compound and eventually limit the adoption of electric cars and intermittent renewable generation,” says Eiskamp.

And no one wants that.


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About Melissa Jun Rowley

Melissa Jun Rowley is an award-winning journalist, on-air host, and content strategist with a passion for all things tied to social innovation.