It’s only a day away…
There is a desperate need for innovation in this industry. Technology advances allow for better operational monitoring, which can drive efficiency and head off issues before they evolve into problems.
In the musical Annie, the heroine signs with boundless enthusiasm about her favorite day in the show-stopping tune, "Tomorrow." The often-quoted line at the end is, "I love ya, tomorrow. You’re only a day away."
We like that sentiment because it offers optimism and promise of a better future, but it’s tinged with the thought that today wasn’t that good. The oil and gas industry can relate. After some of the days the industry fought through since 2014, a little optimism is a good thing. We’re not wide-eyed kids with hopes and dreams, of course; we’re pragmatists with a clear view of what can happen and a historian’s memory of what did happen. Our optimism is fed through a prism of reality, and unlike Broadway musicals, there’s no guarantee of a happy ending.
Still, the industry could stand a little good news, and here it is: We’ve found a solid place to build from, and that foundation can lead to a return to growth. Oil prices have stabilized, and even with some global strife thrown into the mix, prices have settled for now between $45 bbl and $50 bbl. That’s a good base from which to begin.
There is a desperate need for innovation in this industry. Technology advances allow for better operational monitoring, which can drive efficiency and head off issues before they evolve into problems. These technologies can stretch more life from aging equipment and deliver better insights into what is happening.
Oil and gas industry leaders already understand the value of remote monitoring. A key provision of the FAA funding bill passed by Congress in July was a provision to continue the use of drones to monitor remote utility sites. For some, remote monitoring means hundreds of miles away, but Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology means that monitoring can be done hundreds of yards away in a remote part of your refinery or processing plant.
There are other technologies waiting to be deployed and new strategies to drive efficiencies. In an industry reluctant to change, and at a time when the industry is reluctant to invest, such innovations are put aside for another day—like tomorrow. Striving for a better future means tackling that mindset. It means getting prepared to change. And it means risk, which is not something most folks want these days. Playing it safe gets us through today, they surmise. Tomorrow will take care of itself. I don’t think we can wait that long. I’m sure there are folks who want to wait for the U.S. elections to end, and for the world’s geopolitical strife to settle down, or for the markets to signal an end to the uncertainly. I’ve been waiting 60 years for that. It hasn’t happened yet.
But we don’t have to think that big. Look at your own operation. Where are the opportunities for improvement? If you can see them, you can fix them. If your team can identify them, they can address them. What’s the hold-up? What are you and your team waiting for?
Investment in operational excellence takes a strong strategy, some capital investment, and a little confidence that there is a bigger payoff down the road. There also has to be the sense that investing in your operations—and by extension, your people—does not yield just a dollar-for-dollar return. Investment in your operation provides compound benefits, and it provides a newer, stronger base to build from for the future.
Little Orphan Annie was right; tomorrow is "only a day away." But you must embrace tomorrow, rather than simply hoping that it turns out better than today did. The act of preparing for the future is a completely dynamic act of leadership. It is an essential element of every great achievement of mankind. Don’t wait for tomorrow to start. It all begins today.
Bob Vavra is content manager for Oil & Gas Engineering, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Original content can be found at Oil and Gas Engineering.