The deployment and adoption of digital technologies across the oil and gas value chain could help scale the impact of industry's methane reduction efforts, finds a new report by Environmental Defense Fund, in collaboration with Accenture Strategy. While early adopters are using digitalization to gain a competitive advantage operationally, few of the world's major oil and gas companies are using these solutions to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.
The paper, Fueling a Digital Methane Future, examines how innovations such as automated asset management, predictive maintenance and industrial internet of things (IIoT) can help prevent the annual loss of $34 billion a year in leaked, vented and flared methane, the primary component of natural gas.
"The oil and gas industry has embarked on an exciting digital transformation that will make operations more efficient and reduce waste across the board," said Isabel Mogstad, a methane mitigation expert with EDF+Business and former management consultant at Schlumberger. "Leaving methane mitigation out of this evolution would be a major oversight and a tremendous missed opportunity to improve operations and address stakeholder concerns."
According to the research, digital innovations have the potential to unlock more than $1.5 trillion in economic, environmental and societal value across oil and gas operations. As more operators set methane targets or begin their methane management journey, digital innovations can support the realization of company goals.
"As the oil and gas industry seeks to deliver affordable and sustainable energy in a disruptive and low carbon context, managing methane emissions intentionally and effectively needs to be a priority," said Muqsit Ashraf, senior managing director, Accenture Strategy, Energy. "Digital technologies can accelerate methane reduction; delivering significant economic, environmental and societal gains that will boost the industry's trust quotient and competitive agility."
The analysis defines four stages of digital methane maturity– ranging from having no methane mitigation strategy to using advanced capabilities such as big data analytics, machine learning and advanced sensors to enable prediction and prevention of leaks before they even occur. After a company diagnoses its position on the methane maturity continuum, the authors recommend opportunities for digital projects at every stage.
The paper also identifies three ways companies can incorporate methane management into their existing digital architecture:
- Predictive asset management: shifting from time to condition-based management using historical and real-time data
- Ecosystem convergence: integrating digital platforms between vendors and customers to improve accountability, reduce costs and provide operational transparency
- End-to-end network management: optimizing gas systems through automated interventions and pattern analysis to minimize leak-inducing events
"Momentum to reduce methane emissions is building through industry commitments, a growing market of cost-effective solutions and sensible regulations," added Mogstad. "But it's not enough to solve one of the oil and gas sector's biggest challenges. For companies to stay competitive in a decarbonizing world, they need to integrate methane solutions now, while they are deploying or scaling their broader digital initiatives—not after their digital agendas are set."
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