Overcoming digital disillusionment – where we’ve come from and where we’ve got to go

Welcome back to AIS Answers – the series which sees our experts answer the most pressing questions within the energy industry. We’ve previously heard from Adeshina Adebusuyi and Chinenye Amorha, on topics ranging from energy security in Africa to barriers to digitalistation of operations.

In this latest installment, we’re talking to Mercy Ahabue, our Client Success Manager about how our industry can overcome digital disillusionment to unlock its fullest potential.

Mercy, could you start by explaining your career background so far and what excites you the most about the future of oil and gas in West Africa?

Having an academic background in chemical engineering and advanced chemical process design, my career has spanned various roles in the oil and gas industry including process engineering on a major capital gas project, project engineering & management, gas commercial, plant operations and technical services in the downstream oil and gas sector.

In terms of the future of oil and gas in West Africa, I am firstly excited about the abundance of resources and untapped potential in the region. The awakening of this region to digital transformation and technological advancements is also something that I am passionate about because it gives organisations in this space an opportunity to not only digitally transform their operations and improve decision making but also, be on par with their global counterparts.

Overall, this is a promising sector with uncharted territories that can provide room for growth, innovation, and investment that can shape the industry's future and contribute to the overall development of the region.

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West Africa is already primed for oil and gas success, so why should operators invest in digital technologies now?

The region is on the cusp of a big infrastructure boom, which could see the country finally unlock the economic prosperity residing in its abundant natural resources. This could lift millions out of energy poverty by augmenting domestic supply as well as boosting exports.

Without investing in digital transformation, West Africa will continue to trail behind its global peers and even when domestic supply and exports rise, economic prosperity will fail to reach its fullest potential. In order to capitalise on the opportunity ahead, the oil and gas sector in West Africa needs to repair its relationship with digital technology or risk missing out on the benefits.

Why has oil and gas in West Africa typically resisted digitalisation up until now?

Most oil and gas decision makers will have at least one story to tell of how they were sold a vision of digital transformation only to be left with an inferior product and no support to assist with implementation. It’s become an all-too-common pitfall, engineered by unscrupulous salespeople that are only interested in quick wins rather than value addition and supporting the clients in accomplishing their digital transformation goals.

Understandably, this has led to distrust and hesitance in adopting innovations that would have a positive impact. In this regard, we are working with our colleagues across the industry to alleviate these concerns and rebuild trust in digital solutions.

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How can West Africa overcome this digital disillusionment to truly reap the benefits of technology in oil and gas?

Working as partners in innovation and taking a consultative-style process that puts the emphasis on solving a company’s problems, even where there are no clear solutions, is how we approach any new customer relationship. With the investment almost equal for both partners, Nigerian oil and gas companies can have renewed confidence in adopting emerging technologies.

This collaborative approach requires a culture shift away from the traditional business model that relies on quickfire sales of point solutions. Instead, this allows us to establish long-term partnerships with oil and gas companies to jointly solve their complex issues through consultative engagements which are scalable and adaptable. This way, those who may be hesitant to give digitalisation another try can start with a small amount of change, and progressively, scale that up on the back of success.

And finally, where do you see digitalisation impacting the region most over the coming years?

For companies that have already taken the leap towards adopting digital twins, they now have the capability to present 2D data, visual data, and real-time data in a real-world context allowing teams from various departments to plan better and make important operational decisions more swiftly. Data that was once siloed, outdated and disconnected has become useful, robust and accurate, providing visibility to the remotest of assets through a visually immersive information experience.

To see this replicated on an even larger scale across West Africa, would really put the region on the map. It would empower our decision makers with the data to back up their thought processes, encourage the highest levels of safety and bolster our results.

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