Canadian oil and gas isn’t moving fast enough to seize the digital oilfield opportunity: GE Canada president

GE Canada president Elyse Allan. Image: GE

Oil and gas producers and service companies can benefit from digital solutions ranging from pipeline leak detection to avoiding cost overruns and delays on capital projects.

That was the message Elyse Allan, president of GE Canada, delivered to the Propel Energy Tech 2017 conference in Calgary on Wednesday.

The senior GE executive was talking about the rapidly growing ability of digital technology to connect myriad different devices.

“The opportunity we have connecting devices in the business world is creating just huge, huge opportunity for growth. From a GE perspective, we see over 50 billion machines that will be connected on the internet by 2020,” she said.

“And we can now access the data from all these machines quickly and cost effectively.”

GE describes the industrial internet’s coming connectivity boom as “the fourth industrial revolution.”

“The pace by which this is happening is incredible,” said Allan.

“It’s creating all this uncertainty in a lot of different industries as to whether they have to get on the bandwagon or not: Is it going to impact them today? Or can they retire first and hopefully it impacts the next generation?”

She said all the changes are making companies of all sizes “nervous and uncomfortable” which can make companies hesitant to adopt new technologies and new business models.

Every year, GE does a 13-country survey of executives who lead companies, or lead the innovation agenda within companies.

“Through this survey we learned that in Canada, business executives believe in the power of innovation but display less excitement towards the fourth industrial revolution than their peers in emerging markets,” Allan said.

“Canadian executives feel less empowered, and they say they don’t feel in control to really manage the industrial Internet.”

Asked why they’re hesitant to adopt new technologies, business leaders cite internal inertia, incapacity for understanding or taking risks, lack of sufficient investment capital and lack of talent.

“And so these are key barriers that need to be addressed,” Allan said.

But the good news, she added, is that last year almost 90 per cent of the Canadian executives were very concerned about the risk of what GE calls Digital Darwinism, or the idea that they don’t want to become obsolete as technology evolves faster than they believe they can adapt.

The GE Canada president cited JWN’s recent survey of oil and gas executives’ views on the digital revolution.

“Their research reaffirmed our finding and showed that while companies see the cost-savings opportunities in the digital oilfield, they’ve been slow to adopt them,” she said. “So they’re recognizing they’re not moving fast enough.”

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