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Predicting is the future

Predictive maintenance can reduce costly unplanned downtime by 45pc, according to Lloyd’s Register

Tim Bisley is not the typical employee of Lloyd's Register. The SVP of software is neither an oil and gas nor marine expert; he is a dedicated technologist. Before joining 18 months ago to strategise and build its digital products business, he spent his career creating solutions for leading technology firms including HP and Computer Associates. He is now applying his experience to understanding how technology can replace or enhance arrangements for oil and gas assets. The firm has one shareholder, the non-profit Lloyd’s Register Foundation, which invests in safety initiatives around the world. 

How can oil and gas companies benefit from digitalisation? 

Bisley: We realised that digitalisation was massively important for our clients, but specialist leadership was needed. We already had interesting products, including sub-surface geoscience ones, that have been used by major players for 20 years. We are the market leader in risk and safety software for nuclear—65pc of the world's nuclear plants are operated with our technology—and there were other businesses in the energy space that we could expand into. 

The industry is reluctant to collaborate in using data for fear of losing competitive advantage. Is there a way of securely joining forces? 

Bisley: The important thing about data is what you do with it. There is so much of it, an aeroplane can generate 10 terabytes of asset management data in 30 minutes. Collaboration is important to support understanding, the ability to cut out noise and get to the things that matter.

Data needs to be made available in the way the client wants to consume it. We have pre-configured models for all types of asset, which gives clients the flexibility to build their own models without needing to be a programmer. A 21st century platform needs to be open. 

Technology can be expensive. How large are the potential savings? 

Bisley: It is huge. Grand View Research estimates the global asset management market will reach $24bn by 2025. There is a real need to drive efficiencies in the way these assets are managed and maintained and this is where a platform such as AllAssets can help companies. 

“Asset management requires a blend of technology and people—one does not work without the other”

Unplanned downtime is critical. In North America, $4.6bn was lost last year just in midstream oil and gas despite technology being out there to understanding risks and implement prescriptive maintenance programs. The industry has had a tough time over the last few years—implementing technology to manage assets positively impacts the bottom line. 

How can firms use technology to preserve expertise? 

Bisley: We have an ageing population and ageing assets so there is a double whammy. Some firms do not fully appreciate what walks out the door when people retire—they may have been running a big asset for decades. The knowledge people have around maintenance, reliability and safety is mainly stored in their head so you need to capture it to ensure safety and reliability. It is important to put it into solid processes that allow people to collaborate and share knowledge across the organisation. 

Asset management requires a blend of technology and people—one does not work without the other. There will always be a human aspect, a balance between using technology, understanding data and people interacting. You can never fully take people out of the equation. 

To what extent can downtime be eliminated? 

Bisley: One client [with a non-disclosure agreement] reduced its maintenance bills on one very large asset by 45pc. That is a huge number, they could not believe it. It is a global company and it is now running AllAssets on six more plants. Maintenance optimisation—understanding risk and optimising major schedules—can massively reduce costs. 

Cyberattacks on national assets are frequent. How much of a threat is there to private-sector oil and gas companies? 

Bisley: Cybersecurity is hugely important—we are very aware of threats and our clients need to invest in it. Cybersecurity includes tracking what employees are doing—one of the most vulnerable parts of an IT system is the people that use it. 

Oil and gas is a sensitive sector and an attack on a plant that makes it unsafe could have a huge global impact. Imagine an oil tanker being taken over and controlled—you absolutely do not want that. It is imperative that you look at all threats, from nation states to unhinged individuals, and protect yourself against them. 

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