by Shawn Freeman

    Technology Will Rule the Energy Industry

    As a business owner, I watch energy companies closely, assessing their growth in Alberta and their impact on the economy and environment. But I watch technology startups more closely, not just because I run an IT company, but because I think our success as a province hinges more on how well they grow and how much they help each other.
    A labour shortage in the Alberta oil patch looms, as a generation of workers prepares to retire. Energy companies will need to fill skilled labour roles, as well as key management positions. At the same time, we see a sustained big push to be cleaner, faster and more efficient in the extraction, processing, monitoring and transportation of oil and gas and their related products.

    A looming labour shortage

    We won’t have enough skilled workers in Canada to fill the gap, nor do we want to fill antiquated jobs that should have been eliminated many years ago. While some workers will be trained or replaced, the smartest companies will optimize the market with technology.

    Each step of the energy lifecycle can be optimized with technology. Data reading about the resources we extract — oil, air power and solar power — can be optimized through automation. Sharing that data with stakeholders like management, government and venture partners can provide a competitive advantage. Even tasks like billing for services and getting the final product to market can be optimized with technology.

    Engineers, chief experience officers, accountants, field staff and marketing officers can use the information they gained from technology to compete better every day.

    Tech leaders are changing the industry

    PetroFeed, a Calgary company, developed a free mobile app that allows users to monitor the location and status of drilling rigs in Canada. Locating rigs is normally something companies would spend a lot of money doing. The app, which also provides data on the rigs performance over the past three months, helps service, finance and E&P operators in the oil industry.

    I chatted recently with Bruce Croxon, a Canadian venture capitalist, entrepreneur and former Dragons’ Den star. He said he sees the intersection of technology and the energy sector playing a big role in the next decade of digital opportunities, especially given the looming labour shortage in the oil patch.

    “The ability to put IP connectivity across any device is allowing information to be curated and to be gathered without the use of feet on the ground,” he said.

    “Instead of sending somebody in a truck to check a leak, if we’re getting information back that tells us there’s a leak, that’s a better use of our time. That would be a small example … there’s opportunities emerging in transportation, and within the oil patch, to make it more efficient and for the first time I’m finding that people in those sectors are starting to pay attention to it.”

    Technology is also being used to reduce our carbon footprint.

    Carbon Engineering (CE), another Calgary company, is working to commercialize a technology that captures CO2 from atmospheric air and thereby reduces emissions. They intend to market the CO2 they’ve captured to produce low carbon transportation fuels.

    Embrace technology; don’t run from it

    Which energy companies will win in the future? The ones that embrace technology; preferably, ahead of everyone else. Employees who are uncomfortable with change or technology will no longer get away with the excuse that they aren’t good with computers or they don’t see the value in technology.

    Many IT departments are slowly enabling business units to become more self-sufficient. Cloud tools are helping with this enormously and because consumer technology has become so much easier to use, staff want to see it in their workplace because they already know the benefits. IT departments, unfortunately, are known for handcuffing employees by establishing cumbersome restrictions on the tools and software they can use, and hogging passwords and control of tech resources. Companies will begin seeking out IT service providers that can lead them into the future rather than keep them stuck in the past.

    The workforce that’s got many years to go before retirement will need to adapt to the new technology, which can be scary. But a huge change like this will be worth it.

    If you enjoyed this article please comment and see my profile below to get in touch!

    Shawn Freeman

    Partner, TWT Group - IT Provider for SMB | Entrepreneur | Thought Leader

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