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ENGenious Event for Upstream Innovation

17 Sep 2018
Laura Brownhill

Engenious Aberdeen

Eden Scott at the ENGenious Event for Upstream Innovation

The first ENGenious Symposium and Exhibition was held at the AECC between 4th and 6th September 2018. It brought together representatives from the offshore and onshore upstream oil and gas industries with the goal of driving radical digital transformation across the upstream oil and gas,  focusing on cutting edge technologies to help businesses thrive in a changing digital landscape.

Leading suppliers, buyers and speakers from over 45 countries attended the event to share knowledge, explore new ideas, network and conduct business. With more than 90 presenters and 30 exhibitors taking part in the first ENGenious event, the international discussions gave an insight into what the future holds for the oil and gas industry and it certainly looks positive. Our consultants from the Aberdeen office- Laura Brownhill, Jai Reynolds and Alexa Reilley - were present on the opening day to find out more about the innovation being discussed.

Opening Plenary

The Society of Petroleum Engineers launched this event in response to increasing demand from the upstream oil and gas community for an event focusing on emerging products, services and techniques with the ability to transform the efficiency of exploration and production activities.

Darcy Spady (2018 SPE President) kicked off the session by discussing the four key pillars of activity across the industry:

  • Automation and control systems;
  • Data analytics;
  • Robotics; and
  • Smart communications.


Binu Mathew (SVP Global Head Digital Products – BHGE) noted that the rate of change in these technologies is “truly exponential.”

With a focus on collaboration as the way forward for the industry, digital transformation was hailed as equitable ‘business transformation’ during discussions at the event. Emphasis was laid on the many benefits of integrating digital technologies with the business, most notably maintaining the affordability of products.

Ahmed Hashmi (symposium co-chair and Global Head of Upstream Technology at BP), posited that it was time for the oil and gas industry to find a higher productive gear and embrace everything digital transformation offers.

The Keynote speaker Khalid Al-Buraik (Vice President at Saudi Aramco) agreed and added that the timing of the event was apt due to the technological revolution the oil and gas industry is experiencing.

He said: “We are meeting during a period of tentative recovery from a major downturn that was partially the result of an over-abundance of oil supply”.

He recounted how Saudi Aramco has witnessed an over 50% increase in research and development in upstream and how the number of patents has more than doubled.

Potential Challenges

Al-Buraik highlighted the industry’s inability to exploit the advantages of digitalisation, in spite of the massive amount of data accumulated by the industry and the significant benefits to be gleaned from it.

Certain factors, in addition to timely development of new technologies, were highlighted as the key to addressing challenges in the industry.

Behaviour – Organisations must develop programmes to change the mindsets of their team. It is imperative to get their teams to work together irrespective of seniority as, in a long-standing industry when new partnerships arise, it can be difficult to get used to new ways of working - making it important to break down hierarchies.

Cyber Security – As technology advances, it also presents new risks. This is evidenced by the fact that annual costs associated with cyber security threats have more than doubled over the last five years.

Software and firmware can mitigate risks, but uninformed users still present a problem which is why it is important to not only invest in cyber security, but also run training and awareness programs for the employees.

Flexibility – Since the rate of change is so fast in technology, it is imperative that organisations be flexible and adaptable to keep up with the new innovations.

Lack of Diversity – The oil and gas industry and the technology industries are male dominated. Currently only 3% of engineering apprentices are female and only 6% of applications made to the OGTC last year were from female co-founders/founders. Evidently, there is massive headroom to improve the industry on a global scale in terms of increasing the involvement of women in the industry.

What’s being done now?

Two solutions to tackle the barriers to digitalisation of the oil and gas industry were discussed frequently at the event:

Universities – Organisations all over the world are working closely with universities to recruit young talent. Young graduates are bringing in new ideas for collaboration, accountability, and the use of technology – making graduate programmes an increasingly popular way to recruit digitally savvy professionals. Another benefit of recruiting and training young graduates is that they have a learning mind-set which allows innovation within the workflow every day.

Training – Training from the top down is key to changing mind-sets and cultures within organisations. Teaching new skills to the current employees is as important as recruiting fresh talent with the required digital skills. As a result, many organisations have started change management programs to help their employees with the dramatic changes underway - technological or organisational.


The oil and gas industry lost more jobs than most other industries, so as experience a period of tentative recovery and, hopefully, transition back into an upturn, technology must be used to make jobs more stable, safer and productive.  A great deal of innovation was created through the downturn in 2014, but there needs to be a commitment to making a change and embracing technology and digital innovation to secure the future of the industry and its workforce.



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