Digital Transformation Energy and Utilities

Exploring digital transformation in the energy industry with Vicki Knott

Transform it Forward with Vicki Knott

On the Transform It Forward podcast, we explore all kinds of transformations within industries like healthcare and distribution. What’s even more significant is that we’re exploring these trends at a time when the whole world seems to be transforming.

That’s why we were so excited to speak with Vicki Knott, co-founder and CEO of Crux OCM. Crux OCM utilizes A.I. in real-time optimization to enable semi-autonomous operation of oil pipelines, reducing risk, and increasing volumetric throughput.

As we anticipate the return of travel and an increase in oil demand, how is Crux OCM helping companies in heavy industries implement digital transformation? And how can they balance that with the global push for renewable energy?

Here are four key takeaways from our conversation with Vicki.

1. COVID-19 is a driving force in an old school industry

The oil and gas industry is very traditional. For Vicki to start automating control operations, it was a matter of timing and familiarity.

When COVID hit, oil and gas businesses were forced to think about their vulnerability to business continuity, which accelerated a necessary shift in technology adoption. Vicky explains:

“If everybody in your control room gets COVID, your asset shuts down because nobody outside of that small pool of people is trained to operate it. And if your asset shuts down, there goes potentially nine figures for a month.”

2. Simplicity is key for the end-user

Regardless of the industry, user experience comes down to ease of use. Like most of us, workers in heavy industries, like oil and gas, use smartphones every single day.

That’s why it’s vital to get these businesses to a point where features are accessible and simple to use. While helping a company transition to new technology, Crux OCM always tries to include the control room members in the conversation.

“Every single end-user I’ve met with has said this is awesome. So I think that’s a testament to just how cumbersome it is to actually operate these assets and how it’s not widely understood what folks that are sitting there pushing these buttons are actually doing and how difficult it is.”

3. Robotic human tasks should be left to the robots

Often, workers with repetitive tasks are cautious of automation fearing job loss. But as Vicki asks, “Why are we giving unhuman tasks to humans? If we can automate repetitive tasks, we can free more time to focus on innovation and improvement.”

To make this automation even more effective, businesses should find ways to implement it across the entire value chain. For the big players especially, this might call for a holistic business change.

“We say this to our customers and potential customers. If you’re an integrated oil company, the best bang for your buck is going to be to get us in your field and on your gathering system and on your transmission line and in your refineries and in your gas plants. You want this [technology] everywhere.”

4. Extract more value from what you already have

Rather than focusing solely on the transition to renewables, we need to consider how we can better utilize our existing energy assets. At the end of the day, investors expect ROI, and that comes from efficiency.

Think about how you can extract the most value out of what you have rather than consistently building for new materials. In an industry as massive as oil and gas, even a 1% efficiency improvement can produce millions in additional revenue.

“Something that a lot of folks don’t realize is that, even if these assets are meeting 100% of their contracted rates, that contracted value may only be 85 to 90% of the actual capacity or the utilization of the asset. So the part that we’re capturing is that little bit that everyone’s kind of forgotten about.”

 At the end of the day, Vicki says that utilization and efficiency are green. By getting the most out of your assets, you can optimize your operations for long-term sustainability.


Listen to the full episode here.

If you missed the prior podcasts, click here.