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Philip Whittaker, partner and director, oil and gas at the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), said that digital technology could speed up the recovery of the offshore oil and gas sector

Participating in an online ADIPEC Energy Dialogue Webinar, Whittaker said that coronavirus has prompted offshore oil and gas businesses to ask how they can extract greater margins and use technological differentiation to create more stable, less cyclical businesses from their exposure to exploration and production.

While discussing the latest developments and impacts on offshore verticals in the oil and gas industry, Whittaker said offshore companies have had to adapt rapidly to the changing work environment created by the coronavirus. Projects have been shut in, crews withdrawn from offshore platforms, and work limited to core production operations.

“At BCG, we are having a lot of conversations around, first, responding to the crisis quickly and, secondly, being ambitious and using the events of the last few weeks as a springboard to create a stronger, really sustainable offshore business in the mid-term,” Whittaker said.

“A great example is one of our clients, working in North Sea operations, which has had to demobilise about 40 per cent of its traditional crew from their platforms but due to the application of wearable technology, digitised remote viewing and remote work planning, they are still able to liquidate 90 per cent of the plant maintenance and integrity activity they have planned.

“So it starts to drive us towards the use of technology to do more with less, which has to be good for everyone.”

However, Whittaker said, the wider adoption of digital technology across the offshore value chain would create a recruitment challenge for offshore businesses. “At the moment, the sector faces two very distinct talent crisis. The first is the demographic crisis of attracting younger people into what they see as a sunset industry. And the second is around the type of talent required.

“Beyond geoscientists, beyond traditional engineers, we need to attract the data scientists, the digital scientists, those who are leading the digital revolution and to be frank they are very, very mobile. We have to make offshore exciting for them, but at the moment, what we offer them is a cyclical and insecure environment, so that is going to be a tough job.”

The ADIPEC Energy Dialogue is a series of weekly online thought leadership events created by dmg events, organisers of the annual Abu Dhabi International Exhibition and Conference. Featuring major stakeholders and decision-makers in the oil and gas industry, the dialogues focus on how the industry is evolving and transforming in response to the rapidly changing energy market.