Pipeline industry catching the digital wave

The pace of technological change in our society seems to have gone into warp speed. This means a new set of skills is required for those looking for a career in the pipeline industry.

The next generation of workers entering the industry may have something other than geology or engineering degrees – they may be technologists and computer programmers.

Technology and innovation aren’t new concepts in the pipeline industry. While the basics of building a pipeline haven’t changed much, CEPA members have a long history of embracing technology to improve the safety and performance of Canada’s transmission pipeline infrastructure.

We recently talked with Geoffrey Cann, a consultant who has worked with the energy industry for 30 years and who writes extensively on digital oil and gas, about how the industry needs to prepare for the next digital wave.

“There has never been a better time to be in the industry for those organizations who have embraced digital innovation,” says Cann. “Given the pace of change the energy industry is experiencing due to market pressures, there will be ample opportunity for those workers who can combine digital skills with an understanding of industrial process.”

A recent report by Energy Safety Canada validates this trend in the labour market.

Why should the industry be focused on designing their operations with technology at the forefront?

“Technology will help create ultra-efficient organizations,” says Cann. “By implementing things like artificial intelligence or autonomous equipment, we can reduce the risks associated with humans doing safety sensitive work and optimize operations in real time.”

So, where do these opportunities exist? According to Cann, there are three key areas where these new digital skills (such as programming, artificial intelligence and robotics) can be put to use:

 

Existing infrastructure

 

Much of Canada’s pipeline infrastructure predates recent digital innovation. As such, the industry needs to continue to modernize its pipeline systems to optimize performance, and use and analyze the data it collects through 24/7 monitoring and inspections, to improve the safety and integrity of pipelines.

 

Working together

 

While technology has seen rampant change, the connection between energy producers and service providers (like pipeline companies) hasn’t seen as much. A lot of the data the industry gathers on operational performance remains siloed within individual organizations. By seamlessly sharing this data, all areas of the industry can benefit.

 

Productivity

 

Most of us walk around with powerful computers (aka smart phones) in our pockets. For many industry workers, especially those in the field, those computers can be used to help them complete everyday tasks more efficiently. By designing technology infrastructure to be more easily accessible to those performing the work, the industry can create opportunities for better decision making.

The future of the pipeline industry, like most things, will be influenced by how it adapts to the warp speed changes in technology.

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