Sak Nayagam, head of alliances and channels for digital oil and gas at Baker Hughes, A GE company (BHGE), has spent the vast majority of his career thinking about the interlocking of digital and technology and how it can enable a cleaner energy future. The future, he tells IoT News, is an exciting one – but there are plenty of complex areas to navigate first.
“It’s generally accepted that the sector is facing challenges,” Nayagam (left) explains. “In an environment of continued cost pressures, we as an industry are relying on smarter technology and progressive innovations, both from an equipment perspective as well as from a digital perspective, unlocking greater insights through data.”
These approaches need to be combined with a need to meet growing global demand for energy while reducing the environmental impact. This is where BHGE is looking to be a technology leader for the industry. At the start of this year, chairman and CEO Lorenzo Simonelli laid out the company’s commitments at its annual meeting – to reduce emissions by 50 percent by 2030, and be carbon net zero by 2050.
With long-term commitments in place, the company is also exploring current technology innovation that will help customers across the industry to meet similar goals. Many of the initiatives came about during the meeting; the company launched LUMEN, a wireless ground-based methane detection system, as well as introduced a new carbon management practice through Gaffney, Cline & Associates. In addition to that, BHGE’s NovalT gas turbine is due to go live in Australia in 2020 and will be 100 percent hydrogen-powered.
“We are the first major oilfield services and equipment company to commit to achieving net-zero carbon emissions,” explains Nayagam. “Certainly, managing carbon emissions is an important focus for the oil and gas sector, and BHGE is fully committed to playing our part, as well as investing in a portfolio of low carbon technologies to support the energy transition.”
With the combination of GE’s oil & gas business with Baker Hughes completed in 2017, the company formed BHGE and presented itself as the first and only ‘fullstream’ organisation. It still does today; providing a diversified portfolio of solutions to serve the downstream elements of refining and petrochemicals; the midstream of logistics and distribution; and upstream being the oil and gas production.
Even further upstream, to continue the analogy, is the company’s digital efforts. “Our fullstream capability is comprehensive across the oil and gas value chain. Digital in this context is working with large data sets from the sensors of large-scale industrial equipment, using edge computing, through to the cloud and using the power of AI deep learning and analytics to drive new insights and behaviours. The insights help oil and gas operations perform more effectively – to reduce non-productive time and to improve the efficiency and profitability of operations,” says Nayagam.
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), of which this is most certainly a part, has a clear role to play in reducing environmental concerns. In January, a study by the Environmental Defence Fund and Accenture Strategy examines how innovations such as automated asset management, predictive maintenance and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology can help prevent the annual loss of $34 billion a year in leaked, vented and flared methane, the primary component of natural gas. Also according to the research, digital innovations have the potential to unlock more than $1.5 trillion in economic, environmental and societal value across oil and gas operations.
Getting the data in the first place, in an industry as complex as oil and gas, is a significant challenge in itself. “If there is a perception of complexity, I think that’s fair enough,” Nayagam says, laughing. “If you look at the international oil majors, these are massive organisations where the individual business units are huge entities in their own rights.”
Yet digital has changed the game in plenty of respects. “Because there is more intelligent use of data through digital, there is better opportunity I believe – compared with five, 10, 20 years ago – to be able to look at much more consistent sets of data across an enterprise,” says Nayagam.
“There are certainly many different use cases, whether it’s being able to use digital technology to optimise the upstream operations of an offshore oil and gas platform somewhere – or using digital technology to perform predictive maintenance on a downstream refinery somewhere else. Digital is playing an increasingly important role in day-to-day operations for our customers, including with the use of digital integrated platforms, such as LUMEN, to provide continuous and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) methane monitoring for oil and gas operators.”.
Nayagam is speaking at the IoT Tech Expo in Amsterdam on June 19-20 – and those who see his session will recognize his passion for energy change remains undimmed. “I’d love [for] the audience to be able to understand the journey that BHGE is on in terms of our excitement around the power of digital,” he explains. “Improving the efficiency of our customers’ operations in the oil and gas sector, but also, hand-in-hand with that, is the ability for digital to drive greater efficiencies around low carbon technologies, to help progress and accelerate the energy transition.”
“I think it’s hugely important that we respond to the industry challenge of growing demand for energy in a period of climate change,” adds Nayagam. “I think that digital technology can play – and will play – an increasingly important role in maximising recovery, reducing non-productive time, improving overall safety and operational efficiency, and of course reducing emissions and accelerating the low carbon energy transition.”
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this? Attend the IoT Tech Expo World Series events with upcoming shows in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.