Schneider Electric - A new horizon of possibilities using smart solutions
Updated: Nov 14, 2018
In the present, oil and gas sector is strongly focused on the digitization of traditional equipment. The industry follows the trend of producing digital equipment that can be connected online and has software layers linked to it. “Schneider Electric is at the heart of that since our company has delivered energy distribution solutions, shift gears, drives, and hardware infrastructure in energy management for many decades,” says Dagfinn Ringås, the Country President at Schneider Electric. “These technologies have been delivered to buildings, boats, platforms, among many other areas in the oil and gas sector,” he adds.
With the use of these technologies, the equipment can be operated, monitored, and serviced remotely while collecting large amounts of data to analyze and predict energy consumption and usage. However, the oil and gas sector had doubts if traditional equipment could be operated remotely. Not only can it be done, but remote operations save substantial sums of money and allow hazardous energy distribution equipment to be serviced safely. “The merger of information technologies and software with energy management solutions makes “dumb” products “smart” and saves the oil and gas sector significant operating costs,” says D. Ringås.
The oil and gas sector is a very energy-intensive industry and companies are becoming increasingly aware of their carbon footprint. In addition, companies are analyzing their use of energy to find solutions that allow them to mitigate emissions while increasing efficiency in their operations. The trend of digitization is spreading the use of technologies such as energy automation, the Internet of Things, and smart operations. “There is much more traditional equipment in energy automation. This is one area in which companies are lagging behind,” says D. Ringås. He explains that traditional tenders for energy automation are, to a large extent, based on old technologies, which leads companies to favor traditional equipment with the cheapest prices instead of opting for smart technologies. “It is essential to raise awareness of the fact that companies can reduce energy consumption in an oil rig very quickly, saving up to 30% and, by using smart equipment, see results in a very short period of time,” says D. Ringås. Furthermore, there is still room for improvement in ship control systems and service equipment, which has been a priority in the maritime sector for a long time.
New field projects have great potential to adopt digitization trends because projects can be designed based on smart equipment from early stages. Digitization and innovation are quickly moving forward; therefore, keeping up as a customer may prove to be challenging. Moreover, D. Ringås mentions that, in the present, technology companies and vendors are often involved in tendering processes at a later stage, especially in the Norwegian oil and gas industry because the sector depends strongly on Statoil’s activities. “In order to take advantage of new technologies, it is necessary to work together with our customers before the buying process, provide information on what is available and the benefits that new technologies yield,” asserts D. Ringås. Technology companies are able to play a crucial role in educating their customers by participating in tendering processes at an earlier stage, ensuring that the clients acquire the right equipment. Understanding the available technology, its benefits, and how it can be implemented, customers are required to get acquainted with a considerable pool of new developments.
The Norwegian oil and gas market is based on public tendering rules. Due to the strong role of Statoil and the EPC companies, other players pay close attention to them. While this system proves to be an effective anti-corruption measure, it restricts technology vendors. The participation of technology companies is limited since the public sector is careful not to break any rules. “I can understand how difficult it is for our customers; they need us to help them understand what we have and what we can do, but at the same time they have to comply with all these rules,” says D. Ringås. “Oil companies should consider having companies such as Schneider Electric, ABB, Siemens, among others in their advisory boards to enhance the communication between us and show them the available technology,” he suggests. He mentions that this challenge is typical of the Norwegian market; companies tend to base their decisions on acquiring the lowest-cost equipment, limiting the opportunities to smarten their facilities.
Despite these challenges, Schneider Electric has developed the EcoStruxture platform, which covers the entire digital equipment and product portfolio of the company and can be applied to various fields. In the present, Schneider Electric is actively participating in the digitization of different industries using the same framework to connect all its equipment in the healthcare, construction, oil and gas, and marine sectors. The framework is supported by analytic and control software layers. However, the company is witnessing a great ramp-up in the construction industry, smartening buildings, schools, and hospitals. “These sectors are following the digitization trends more closely compared to the oil and gas sector,” says D. Ringås. Schneider Electric deliveries in the Norwegian oil and gas sector have been limited to traditional equipment, but the Country President mentions that the attitude of the oil and gas sector towards digitization is starting to change.
Schneider Electric and Kongsberg Maritime created a partnership in July 2016 to promote the digitization of the industry. In their ships, Kongsberg Maritime is using energy distribution solutions: electrical switchgear with Schneider Electric equipment inside to achieve smarter energy distribution and automation. “We had several wins together during the first half of 2017. This is probably the best example of smart energy distribution solutions entering the market with Schneider Electric and Kongsberg Maritime,” claims D. Ringås. Kongsberg has developed remarkable technologies using GPS balancing and technology in this field is being monitored and upgraded constantly.
In addition, another hot topic is the merging of the oil and gas and electricity sectors; Schneider Electric is closely following this trend. The oil and gas industry is a very dominant pillar of Norway’s economy; however, the CO2 emissions of this sector have to be cut in half. This is a major dilemma for the oil and gas sector, leading the government and the companies to explore the opportunities offered by renewable energy using wind and solar technologies. “The oil and gas sector is diversifying by including alternative energy sources in their portfolios, becoming energy companies or energy providers instead of oil and gas providers,” says D. Ringås. Oil and gas will remain essential to society for many years, but it is necessary to provide oil and gas solutions in a more environmentally friendly way.
Furthermore, the Internet of Things and digital operational technologies allow companies to discover new revenue opportunities. The end users will look for alternative energy sources and shared opportunities in their neighborhoods using existing technologies. “The fact that these technologies exist creates the opportunity for oil and gas companies to participate in this new energy scheme, allowing the companies to build wind farms, solar parks and offer a new set of digital services,” says D. Ringås. “Many utility companies are exploring these opportunities, looking for ways to provide services with added value in addition to electricity,” he adds.
Utility companies are exploring the possibility of designing a subscription plan offering their clients the possibility to have smart homes that control lighting, heating, and have integrated EV charging bays. In addition, these technologies use energy more efficiently and allow swapping energy between neighbors. The use of this business model brings remarkable advantages to the oil and gas sector. “Oil and gas companies would have new customer relationships and new ways of entering the market. If utility providers exploit these technologies and services, the oil and gas sector will have to be able to provide energy using this new model,” says D. Ringås. He emphasizes the importance of using the Internet of Things and digitization to create new opportunities rather than just moving digital technologies from one sector to another. “When the oil and gas sector realizes that remote operations and monitoring are possible, they will try to implement these technologies in their new line of business. If these technologies allow them to cut costs, the savings can be used to invest in wind or solar energy.”
Schneider Electric aspires to play an active role as a trusted advisor in the industry and educate them on the available technologies. The company, directing EUR 1.2 billion a year to R&D activities, aims to create solutions and fulfill its responsibility by delivering cutting-edge technology. “As an adviser and innovator, we can show oil and gas companies how these products can support them in achieving environmental and operational savings,” concludes concludes the Country President at Schneider Electric Norway. One of Schneider Electric’s priorities is to fully transfer digital technologies to the oil and gas sector as a trusted adviser and sparring partner.