Panelists at the webinar organised by Microsoft and Africa Oil & Power and African Energy Chamber, yesterday in South Africa, agreed in part that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated technology adoption as an integral component of oil and gas projects.

The webinar held under the theme ‘Leveraging the Power of Technology for Oilfield Optimization,’ examined how digital applications are capable of uniting real-time data with advanced analytics to improve decision-making and boost efficiency and sustainability.

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They held the opinion that as oil and gas companies continue to face threats to efficiency, sustainability and profitability, digitalization and optimization of oilfield assets have emerged as principal cost-cutting mechanisms in the wake of the COVID-19 era.

Participants agreed that lower production costs are paramount to a revamped global oil sector with technology to spearhead cost reductions.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated technology adoption as an integral component of oil and gas projects,” Vaseem Khan, Global VP Digital, Analytics and Innovation and Chief Innovation Officer, McDermott, Africa said in a release by African Energy Chamber.

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He said technology has the opportunity to leapfrog traditional oil and gas operations. “Technology is an enabler for sub-Saharan Africa to become more competitive and become one of the most prominent producing area globally,” he said.

Multi Cloud Specialist at Microsoft, Dizando Norton, presented to the large virtual audience Microsoft’s initiatives to boost technology adoption in the oil and gas industry while lowering carbon emissions footprint in line with Paris Climate Agreement.

“By 2030, Microsoft will be carbon negative, reducing emissions by more than half. By 2050, Microsoft will remove all the carbon the company has produced since its founding in 1975,” he noted.

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Microsoft is collaborating with Chevron and Schlumberger to deploy optimized technology-based processes looking to accelerate data analyzing, thus triggering new exploration opportunities and speed up time to first oil.

According to Norton, there are a number of transformative projects currently taking place in the eastern and southern Africa energy space. “These projects are supported namely by Microsoft’s enabling cloud services allowing customers to increase efficiency while reducing operational costs.”

Looking at the perceived high cost of entry to technology, Dr Babajide Agunbiade, Business Development Director at National Oilwell Varco believes the long-term vision is a crucial aspect of technology deployment.

“Customers need to move away from the short-term financial aspect and look at the entire lifecycle of the project which can have up to a 30-year lifespan.”

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Finally, the panel touched upon the role of technology in a post-COVID environment. According to Vaseem Khan, “COVID-19 has acted as a technology accelerator. Technology adoption has dramatically increased during the pandemic. It has allowed many projects to continue or resume faster and has shown many operators than remote work is an efficient way to maintain operations while lowering costs.

“The new normal is to use technology in order to deliver projects efficiently, in a cheaper manner. Technology is not an option for the future, it’s necessary at the present,” Vaseem Khan said.

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Dr. Agunbiade stressed the importance of lowering costs thanks to technology in a context of long-term lower demand for oil: “COVID-19 has brought peak oil closer. Demand for oil is set to decrease continuously from here.

“This situation stresses the importance of lower costs in all aspects of the petroleum business: material selection, improved research and development, remote work. All these crucial topics can and must be supported by technology.”

By Chibisi Ohakah, Abuja

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