New year will see more oilfield mergers and digitalization

The new year will bring more mergers and acquisitions in the oil patch with still too many services companies fighting to survive in a world of limited oilfield spending, said Haynes and Boone partner Chris Wolfe, who leads the oilfield services practice group

That change will lead to the integration of lots of individual data systems as companies combine, creating more need for data analytics investments even if there are fewer rigs and workers, Wolfe said. In essence, more brains and less brawn.

This is coming at a time when drilling rigs and automation and software technology can do more of the work that previously required people moving parts. Much of work can be done in control rooms, said Chris Papouras, president of Nabors Industries drilling solutions. And companies need to adapt and move away from old ways of doing things.

“This is not a technology challenge. This is really a culture shift,” Papouras said, noting there’s often a disconnect in getting the right data to the right people, leading companies to offer more integrated services. That essentially means fewer companies and contractors working at each well site.

While oil prices are rebounding, the downturn has spurred many companies to adopt new technologies, creating new efficiencies beyond discounted costs from services companies, said Ahmed Hashmi, BP’s global head of upstream technology

“Things are changing and the oil price has a lot to do with it,” Hashmi said.

The industry is evolving and improving. After all, the world will still need 35 percent more energy by 2035, Hashmi said. While the demand rate is slowing and renewable power is growing, the majority of that additional energy will still come from oil and gas.