Tackling Tech Obstacles at Refineries The oil and gas sector, a powerhouse in the global economy, has fueled the world’s energy needs for many years. However, it faces a significant barrier to further growth and efficiency due to a crucial issue: the poor integration of technology at the refinery level. This problem has broad impacts, from over-reliance on external contractors to the drawbacks of clinging to outdated systems. In this article, we explore the main factors contributing to this challenge and suggest ways to bring the industry into the modern era.
Dependence on External Contractors
A key factor in the technological delay within the oil and gas refinery segment is the sector’s heavy dependence on external contractors. Although these contractors are essential for various operations, they complicate the process of integrating technology. Their transient nature means they take crucial technological know-how with them, resulting in inconsistent technology management and advancement within the refineries.
Protecting Information for Competitive Reasons
Contractors, driven by the need to maintain a competitive edge, often keep vital information, including their proprietary tech solutions for refineries, under wraps. This strategy protects their market value but leaves refineries reliant on external sources for tech updates. This secrecy also obstructs the sharing of innovative ideas and best practices across refineries, slowing down overall industry progress.
The Endless Loop of Repeated Planning
Refineries repeatedly pay contractors for planning routine Turnarounds – designated periods for maintenance and inspection. The absence of internal information control is evident here; refineries find themselves re-investing in the same planning processes due to a lack of in-house planning data. This results in financial inefficiency and reinforces dependency on external knowledge.
Limitations of Large-scale Software Systems
Investments in extensive software systems like SAP and Oracle have not fully met the dynamic needs of the industry. These systems, while thorough, lack the flexibility needed in the fast-moving oil and gas environment. Updating and customizing these systems is often a slow, cumbersome process, which limits the refineries’ ability to quickly adopt new technologies and address new challenges.
Creating a New Direction
To bridge the technology gap at refineries, the oil and gas industry needs to take deliberate action:
- In-house Knowledge Retention: Refineries should focus on keeping crucial expertise internally, ensuring consistency despite changes in contractors. Setting up dedicated tech management teams and promoting knowledge sharing could help.
- Open Collaboration: Contractors and refineries must work towards more transparent collaboration, sharing tech advances that benefit the whole industry. Establishing platforms for knowledge exchange can facilitate this.
- Adoption of Flexible Software: Refineries should shift to more adaptable software solutions, allowing for quick adaptation to new requirements and challenges.
- Enhanced In-House Planning: Rather than outsourcing planning repeatedly, refineries should develop their internal capabilities for Turnaround planning, cutting costs and reducing dependency on contractors.
The path to technological improvement in the oil and gas industry, particularly at the refinery level, is complex but holds great promise. By tackling the issues of contractor dependency, secretive practices, repetitive planning, and rigid software systems, the industry can step towards a more efficient, nimble, and competitive future.