Technology Trends in the Energy Industry

Greg Berlocher discusses technology trends that are being utilized by the energy industry to improve productivity, efficiency and safety.By Greg Berlocher
September 21, 2020

The Energy Industry constantly adopts and leverages advanced technologies in the search and production of hydrocarbons.  The technologies employed stretch from underground to outer space.  As computing platforms predicted by Moore’s Law come to realization, existing technologies are making giant leaps in productivity and disruptive technologies are being introduced at a rapid rate.

The Energy Market is multifaceted, and is generally broken into three major segments: Upstream, Midstream, and Downstream.  For simplicity sake, if you think of an oil refinery as midpoint, the terms upstream and downstream are easier to conceptualize.  The upstream market segment includes all the activities that happen before oil reaches a refinery.  This includes exploration, drilling, and production.

Midstream is a relatively new term that replaced Refining as the middle segment of the Oil & Gas Market because it is more inclusive.  The Midstream Market Segment includes: gathering pipelines, refineries, and natural gas plants, as well as a transportation options, such as pipeline, rail, ships or barges, or trucks, for moving crude, refined products and natural gas to downstream distributors.  The Midstream Market Segment also includes storage and wholesale marketing.

The Downstream Market Segment includes the marketing and distribution of products derived from the processing of natural gas or the refining of crude oil.  Transportation and Retail are large segments in the Downstream Market.

Let’s take a look at some of the hottest technology trends in the Energy Industry:

Digital Oilfield

The Digital Oilfield is a concept where energy companies merge Information Technology (IT) with Operations Technology (OT) to automate business processes and maximize operating efficiencies.  IT and OT have been distinct and separate systems for many decades, complete with distinct hardware, software, and staffs.  SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a good example of an OT system.  SCADA networks are used to remotely control pipelines and other industrial assets, and while they excel at their mission-critical tasks, SCADA don’t share data with other computing platforms, such as SAP, making them a silo of information.

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