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Harnessing digital technology for a sustainable energy future



By Sashi Mukundan, Regional President and Head of Country, bp India


The sixth edition of the SPE Oil and Gas India Conference and Exhibition took place in Mumbai recently. This conference is an opportunity for the technical community to come together to share best practices, discuss the impact of emerging trends and new technologies to help each other improve our understanding and maximize value in our oil and gas fields.


I had the signal honour of speaking to an august gathering at the opening ceremony. The conference theme this year was on 'Driving India’s Energy Future - Excellence Through Sustainable Growth'. This gave me the opportunity to briefly touch upon a few salient issues which flowed from some interesting insights in the recently published bp Energy Outlook – 2019 edition. I think these issues need to be discussed at various forums to build a consensus amongst all the concerned stakeholders. And the digital platforms that we have available today make for a good start!


The distilled points from the Energy Outlook 2019 relevant to the topic are:

  • Global energy demand is set to increase by around a third by 2040.  India, China and the rest of Asia together account for two-thirds of this increase.
  • Around two-thirds of the world’s population in 2040 will still live in countries where average energy consumption per head is relatively low, highlighting the need for ‘more energy’ as they achieve prosperity.
  • Natural gas grows robustly, supported by broad-based demand and the increasing availability of gas, aided by the continuing expansion of LNG.
  • Demand for oil and other liquid fuels will continue to grow before gradually plateauing in the 2030s.
  • Renewables are the fastest growing source of energy, contributing half of the growth in global energy supplies and becoming the largest source of power by 2040.
  • Electrification of transport will accelerate but liquid fuels will still play a major role.
  • Carbon emissions continue to rise, signalling the need for a comprehensive set of policy measures to achieve ‘less carbon’.
  • With this context, India’s share of the global primary energy demand is set to double to ~11% by 2040. In other words, India is projected to account for more than a quarter of the global primary energy demand growth out to 2040.

As you will note, all the above statistics point in one direction – up.


This means increasing the intensity of how we find, develop, and use oil and gas in a responsible and sustainable manner along with all other forms of energy to drive India's energy future, and fuel the growing economy.

As an industry, we need to move at a much faster pace, specially since we are in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution - the digital revolution - which is changing every aspect of our lives. Clock speed, big data capture and analysis, ability to tailor consumer experiences – coupled with the climate change debate will change the way we do business. At bp, we are committed to seeing this phase transform challenges to opportunities through some of the latest digitization tools. . .


bp Plant Operations Adviser - a digital tool that integrates real-time operational data from oil and gas fields and facilities bringing the Internet of Things to our industry. This gives us more time in predictive analytics to manage the overall health of the plant.


Apex - one of my favourites - is a highly sophisticated simulation and surveillance system that creates a virtual copy of all bp’s production systems throughout the world. It means every pipe, valve, and vessel is modelled allowing us to do simulations offline, prepare for maintenance and upgrades – thus minimizing operational impact.

Digital Twin – it is the latest digital modelling technology to create 3D visualizations of our offshore facilities allowing us to complete detailed plans of activities on our normally unmanned installations without having to go offshore.


Remote Inspections – we are ensuring safety and adding incremental value through deploying remotely controlled inspection tools such as ROVs, drones, and crawlers.


Our digital toolkit has added over 30 thousand barrels per day of production in 2018.  We have already reduced inspection costs by $200 million since 2016, while improving quality and safety, as well as completing our projects more efficiently and ahead of time and budget.


From an engineering and a business perspective, harnessing the technology of energy has the potential to deliver a more sustainable future. For me this is a game-changer for our industry. No doubt, it will be challenging. But those who embrace it will be the winners and those who don’t – well, you know what happened to the dinosaurs!


Views expressed here are personal.