By Mariana Somensi

In late July, Baker Hughes, a GE company (BHGE), met Egypt’s oil minister Tarek El Molla to discuss the launch of the country’s first national data bank for the oil and gas sector. The Upstream Gateway Project represents a milestone in the modernization of the petroleum industry and a new beginning for another success story for BHGE, which has a long history of successful contributions in Egypt.

Egypt Oil & Gas talked to Matthias Heilmann, President and CEO of BHGE Digital Solutions, about the company’s digital capabilities and how the digitalization of the sector can ensure a brighter future for the Egyptian petroleum sector.

In general, how do you see the digital transformation play a role in the future of the oil and gas industry?

The traditional cycles of our industry have changed, and there is no going back. While things are improving in 2018, the oil and gas industry will continue being pressed to deliver new levels of efficiency. Higher productivity will reign, but that requires a holistic view of nonproductive time and production optimization. Digital is the bridge to this kind of operational excellence. Software solutions that utilize domain-specific analytics can make a huge impact in not just improved asset reliability but the reliability of processes across a business. Imagine an industry without nonproductive time – that is the type of future we envision with digital.

Getting to these big picture outcomes starts with the data. Estimates indicate that less than 2% of the oil and gas industry’s data is being analyzed and used to inform decision-making. Using digital, and drawing on emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, processes like consolidating and aggregating data are no longer roadblocks to getting actionable insights from that data.

In Egypt, the ministry’s Oil and Gas Modernization Program is clearly based on the vision that harnessing data and leveraging new technologies will improve operations and drive the next level of productivity for Egypt.

How do you see the adoption of digitization in the oil and gas industry in Egypt and the Middle East? 

The Middle East has a reputation for large-scale innovation and an appetite for technology. Furthermore, many of these efforts do not require the reimagination of existing infrastructure, allowing leaders to move faster in adopting and improving operations. As a result of these dynamics, there are a series of programs across the region that address the need for digital to improve production, increase efficiencies, and better position the region for success as the industry comes out of the downturn. We’re seeing this direction in countries like Egypt, where there is a need to drive digitalization across all sectors with strong initiatives likes the Modernization Program for the oil and gas industry, as well as in countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Algeria.

How does BHGE’s digital capabilities support the vision of the ministry’s Modernization Program? 

BHGE supports the ministry’s Oil and Gas Modernization Program, and we believe digital will play a big part in helping the ministry achieve these goals. For instance, the ‘people pillar’ comprehensively considers how to build the talent base and ensure the right workforce for innovation in Egypt. Talent acquisition and development will ensure a new generation of workers with the right digital skills are coming into oil and gas. When deployed appropriately, digital technologies will also help us scale the intelligence of the existing workforce. This is about merging the wealth of expertise with the abilities of modern technology, and we share this vision for the future of the oil and gas workforce.

The ministry is also looking at upstream and downstream performance, with production optimization, improving efficiency and adopting new technologies as key areas of focus. Digital can help across the board, from improving efficiency and lowering cost of operations to helping with specific issues like production optimization and reliability. We are committed as a partner in this journey to invest in a sustainable infrastructure and jumpstart these efforts.

BHGE has recently met with Minister of Petroleum Tarek El Molla to discuss the company’s cooperation in the oil sector. Could you comment the project discussions and the topics addressed during the meeting? 

While it is not for us to comment on the specifics of this most recent meeting, we applaud the minister and the prime minister for the effort around the Modernization Program. BHGE is committed to partner with Egypt, and we see this as a tremendous opportunity for long-term growth and wealth creation for the country.

In 2018, BHGE signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the “Upstream Gateway Project” with the Ministry of Petroleum to support the modernization and digitization of Egypt’s oil and gas sector. The MoU, which is aligned to the ministry’s Modernization Program, focuses on driving efficiency across  the oil and gas sector through the management of bid rounds using BHGE’s advanced digital solutions for data consolidation and aggregation in a secure central data lake. The digital transformation of  the ministry’s National Data Center will further support the energy sector’s growth and attractiveness to international investors.

The MoU demonstrates our continued support of the ministry’s Modernization Program, with special focus on the upstream sector as a starting point. In the longer term, the project has scalability to support the digitization of Egypt’s midstream and downstream oil and gas sector, leveraging BHGE’s fullstream capabilities and solutions to drive further productivity and cost-efficiency across the value-chain.

How does the digitalization of Egypt’s upstream data assist in attracting new investments to the oil and gas sector? 

Programs like that of Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum examine new efficiencies and productivity across the board. Digital will enable the country to drive even greater productivity and improved outcomes for existing assets. In furthering the project to expand into onshore and offshore exploration, I believe Egypt will set the tone to sanction projects at break-even points in a way the industry has never seen before.