Improving working conditions in the oil and gas industry
Operating in remote and sometimes hostile locations, it can be challenging working in the oil and gas industry. Information and communications technology (ICT) promises to transform working conditions, thereby encouraging a new generation of workers to join the industry.
The oil and gas industry is experiencing a resource crunch as an aging workforce is not replaced quickly enough with new talent. This is a particular concern given the length of time it takes to train specialists in areas such as geology and petro-physics, to make independent decisions. They are needed to more safely explore and exploit oil wells in increasingly challenging environments.
India’s oil and gas industry alone is expected to require an additional 25,000 workers over the next five years, according to a report from Ernst and Young. This represents a staggering attrition of almost 50% of its workforce, as workers retire and are not replaced. The average industry retirement age is 58, according to figures from Schlumberger Business Consulting, but in some regions it is as low as 56.
To bridge this gap, oil and gas companies need to reach out to workers who have been traditionally under-represented. They can use information communications technology (ICT) to attract new talent that may have been put off by the sometimes extreme working conditions in the industry.
“ICT creates a better working environment by connecting workers to the world and improving welfare,” says Martin Denari, Director, Global Oil, Gas & Mining Vertical, Orange Business Services. “This connectivity can minimize the isolation that workers feel when working a long way from home.”
It provides both communication to friends and family and entertainment to help them enjoy their free time. Activities like watching the latest movies, playing online games or simply browsing the Internet are essential to improving staff morale and welfare.
ICT can also help employees work more effectively. The oil industry relies heavily on scientific experts, including geologists and petro-physicists, to provide advice on crucial matters such as drilling direction and oil well analysis.
“It costs $60,000-$70,000 a day to operate a drilling rig, therefore it is essential to make the right decisions quickly,” explains Denari. “Real-time video collaboration provides quick access to skills and second opinions, wherever experts are located.”
In addition, communications can help with plant safety. Most accidents in the oil and gas industry are caused by human error and can have an enormous environmental, reputational and financial impact. Proper training delivered online on the latest standards and operating procedures can prevent these mistakes. In addition, ICT allows onsite staff to call on extra help from offsite experts to ensure that even the most difficult situations are dealt with correctly.
Human error is exacerbated by staff fatigue, and with long shifts common in the industry, it is essential that staff are not suffering from overwork and lack of sleep. Short-range radio technology, such as RFID, can track employee working patterns and help enforce adequate rest.
GPS-based tracking technology can also track vehicles in remote locations and alert the company if the vehicle stops or takes an unexpected route. This may be a sign that the driver is injured or in distress. Getting help to them immediately can make the difference between life and death in hostile environments.
So, ICT isn’t just for improving operational processes. It plays a key role in improving working conditions to ensure that oil and gas companies successfully overcome the resource crunch.