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Scotland can be ‘disruptor’ of energy industry

Colette Cohen is chief executive of OGTC
Colette Cohen is chief executive of OGTC

Over the past two years we’ve created more data than during the whole history of life on planet earth. The digital revolution is disrupting almost every industry and every home, in every country across the world. It’s affecting every part of our lives.

Already, artificial intelligence is pervasive, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that can translate languages or invest your money for you.

Germany is now testing autonomous, personal heli-taxis with vertical lift capability.

Disruption is all around us. Uber disrupted the taxi industry. Amazon disrupted shopping. Companies like Spotify disrupted the music industry. Kindle disrupted the book industry. Blockchain is disrupting the banking sector.

Many of these digital disruptors hail from California, but Scotland and the UK have the potential to be the disruptors of the energy industry. At the Oil & Gas Technology Centre we’re working with companies and academic institutions to make it happen.

Less than two years since launch, we’ve welcomed 14,000 visitors to our Innovation Hub in Aberdeen, and our solution centres have co-invested £80 million in more than 150 exciting technology projects and with over 70 field trials active or planned with our industry partners.

Watch: OGTC in 2018 film

From the world’s first autonomous offshore robot, seismic in the cloud and rust eating paint, to the offshore facility of the future, thermite well abandonment and buoyancy barges for offshore jackets, our projects extend across the entire sector.

We’re also creating a new subsurface solution centre to accelerate technologies and data analytics capability that help the industry discover more, develop more and recover more. Several companies are already onboard and we’re on the lookout for more members.

In TechX, we’ve designed a unique oil and gas technology accelerator and delivered an inspiring Pioneer programme for 10 entrepreneurial companies with the potential to disrupt the energy industry. And we’re now welcoming applications for our 2019 programme.

Creating new industry-led R&D capability is vital. In January 2019, in partnership with the University of Aberdeen, we’ll open the National Decommissioning Centre and later in the year we’ll create The National Subsea Centre in partnership with Robert Gordon University.

As we look to the year ahead, it is very clear technology is the not the only disruptor. The transition to a lower carbon economy means we are having to rethink the fundamental design of our global energy system. And this is an opportunity for the oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas will be a vital part of the world’s energy mix for decades. But that’s only half the story. Arguably, the more exciting part is the opportunity to use our expertise and ingenuity to help deliver the transition, in partnership with other parts of the mix.

This is an opportunity to transform how we operate and for our supply chain to diversify into related activities such as renewables and carbon management. Driving a lower carbon footprint through increased automation and subsea technology will create new highly-skilled jobs, capitalising on both engineering and data analytics.

During 2018, to achieve these goals, I’ve seen major operators setting out long-term strategies and service companies identifying new low carbon markets.

Think hydrogen. Think carbon capture, usage and storage. Think digitisation. Think technology and the positive impact it can have in helping decarbonise our operations.

These are the inspiring challenges that will encourage young people to seriously consider a career in our industry.

Yes, it presents a risk to our core exploration and production activities. Yes, it means we must adapt our commercial models. Yes, it means we need to develop new skills and embrace new technologies. But as the business author Alan Deutschman put it: change or die.

And there’s a huge prize at stake. By delivering Vision 2035 our offshore oil and gas industry can generate £920 million of revenue for this country. There aren’t many sectors that have the ability to make such a significant contribution to the UK economy.

That’s why the UK and Scottish Governments are encouraging the creation of an innovative sector deal, focused on extending our position as the global leader in underwater engineering and technology and becoming a leader in energy transition technologies.

Change is difficult. But disruption is a good thing. It creates opportunity, inspires innovation, encourages diversity and generates value – both financial and societal. Now is not the time to sit back do as we have always done. Now is the time lean in and make a difference.


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