Nine “genius” moments with the oil and gas industry in Houston

By | 8 minute read | May 14, 2018

“Everything’s bigger in Texas.” At least that’s those of us who live here like to say. Yet when it comes to the oil and gas, and the petrochemical industries, we’re pretty spot on. It started with the first oil gusher in 1901. And now, Texas produces more than one-third of the nation’s crude oil and 25 percent of U.S.-marketed natural gas. In Houston, the Port of Houston is the second largest petrochemical complex in the world, refining over 35 percent of the U.S. gas supply.

That’s why Houston was the perfect location for a recent Genius of Things event. Guests from the area’s many energy and chemical businesses joined us at Minute Maid Park in downtown Houston. It was an amazing location for a special day of Watson IoT learning, networking and, of course, Texas BBQ.

Did you know that 83 percent of oil and gas execs believe that cognitive computing will have a critical impact on the future of their business? That’s why we tailored the day to meet the unique challenges of those businesses. (Learn how digital transformation is reshaping the oil and gas industry.) Thanks to everyone who joined us. And if you missed it, below are the nine most genius moments from the event.

1. “How do you replace Bob, the guy with 30 years of experience, who knows it just doesn’t sound right?” 

Heather Preu, IBM Vice President, Watson IoT Connected Operations

“Bob” might be fictional but the “Great Crew Change” is real. In the oil industry, many experienced workers are about to retire, leaving a big age – and experience – gap in the workforce. I recently read that engineers are either over the age of 57 or under the age of 37. So how do you transfer critical information to the next generation? IoT and AI can help. As Heather’s “Bob” example highlighted, technology like IBM Watson IoT Acoustic Insights, can take that invaluable knowledge in someone’s head and make everyone an experienced “Bob.”

2. Industry 4.0 made real for the oil and gas industry

David Meek, IBM GBS Partner, Digital Operations Center of Competency, IoT

Oil and gas companies have been optimizing their businesses for years, often without technology. But as David explained, successful companies do more than just optimize. They even do more than re-engineer. Their secret to avoiding industry disruption is to actually transform. With new technologies like AI, IoT, VR, blockchain, wearables and drones, companies can use insights from data to radically change how they operate. And they can also turn those insights into better processes, winning strategies and even new business models.

Where do you start when you’re ready to transform your business? It’s a question David gets all the time. His three-part approach is this: start with your assets and apply the right algorithms to get the right insights. Then optimize the processes. Lastly, take those newly gained insights to control and enhance the customer experience.

See how Australia’s Woodside Energy reinvents business with Watson and IBM


See how Australia’s Woodside Energy reinvents business with Watson and IBM


3. “We think we’re 80 percent optimized. But to get that last 20 percent, we need to do something different.”

Doug Rauenzahn, Weatherford Global Business Development, Production Software

Weatherford is one of the largest multinational oilfield service companies. Operating in over 100 countries, they provide solutions, technology and services to the oil and gas industry. That translates into 460,000 wells globally, 125,000 miles of pipeline and 30 billion data updates per day.

That’s why we were pleased to have Doug join us in Houston as he discussed the transformation of their software products – in partnership with IBM – to be more competitive. First, he explained that their core competency is production; specifically, providing the best well construction and optimizing the performance of those wells. And the typical production challenge came down to reducing the cost per barrel by managing failures and improving production.

When a client asked how to get that last 20 percent from their well, Weatherford knew that Industry 4.0 and new technologies held the answers. “Production 4.0” is the term they coined that married the old with the new:

Production 4.0 is a term coined to show how the traditional and the new come together to maximize production of a well.

The left side is the classic view of the digital oil field; the right is a new concept that includes not just sensors and controls but AI, Big Data and cloud. Add in machine learning and analytics, and that’s the “something new” to get to the last 20 percent.


4. Managing change in Maximo: How ONEOK handled the challenge

Katherine Collins and Delaine Kurth, ONEOK

Based on Tulsa, OK, ONEOK is a leading midstream service provider and owner of one of the nation’s premier natural gas liquids (NGL) systems. The company does business in 18 states, primarily in the mid-Continent region, and is a Fortune 500 company. So we were pleased to have Katherine and Delaine present an in-depth view their MOC implementation in Maximo (learn more about Maximo). It was a detailed and real-life example of the processes involved, as illustrated by their list below:

It's helpful to hear from someone who understand the MOC process in Maximo, like we heard from ONEOK at the Genius of Things event in Houston.

Learning from someone who knows is incredibly helpful.

5. “Even within big Maximo sessions, there are issues of trust that can be addressed by blockchain.”

Russell Bee, STSM, Lead Product Architect Maximo Oil & Gas

What is blockchain? In a nutshell, it’s is a digital ledger where transactions and contracts can be securely recorded and distributed (for a deeper dive, read our cheat sheet). Thankfully, Russell was on hand to walk through the effects of blockchain in a Maximo world.

As he explained, it’s creating extraordinary opportunities for businesses to come together in new ways. When new business models are used (and inefficiencies are eliminated), new value is created. There’s also the ability to reduce risk when you replace uncertainty with transparency and a trusted, decentralized ledger.

Taking it one step further for Maximo users, Russell broke it down by specific scenarios (shown below):

How would a Maximo customer user blockchain? Here are some examples.
Learn more about Maximo and how it can keep critical assets operating at maximum efficiency.


6.  “Every 15 seconds, 151 workers have a work-related accident.”

Maria Rios, president and CEO, Nation Waste

Even more concerning, 321,000 people die each year from occupational accidents. Work accidents remain a huge challenge for many service industry sectors, including the oil and gas industry, despite safety regulations and procedures. But as Maria explained, Nation Waste is using IoT to change that.

Nation Safety Net, powered by IBM Watson IoT, is bringing a wearable technology solution to market. With it, you can track personal safety conditions, like falls, excessive fatigue and heat stress. This “predictive protection” also prompts workers to take breaks and alerts supervisors to potential problems. It’s done by using multiple sensors embedded in hardhats, safety vests and wearables, and the power of IoT. Learn more about Nation Safety Net.


7. “Tell the guy, ‘don’t go today, go tomorrow.’”

Wlad Doe Santos Frazao, Client Technical Leader

What is Watson? It’s the artificial intelligence (AI) platform for business. With Watson, you can discover hidden insights, engage with customers in new ways, and make decisions with greater confidence. Eighty percent of all data is behind the firewall. With AI, companies have the best tool to derive value from all that information.

For the chemicals and petroleum industry, that means digitally reinventing the way Upstream, Midstream, Downstream and Chemicals operate. With use cases specific to the audience, Wlad explained it’s all about combining multiple data sources to make smarter decisions. For example, using maintenance history, asset data, work order systems and weather data, you can reschedule your “guy” when you see a lightning storm in the forecast. That makes life safer and easier for everyone.

Watson IoT can provide real value to the oil and gas, and chemical industries, as these use cases illustrate.

8. “We’re like the International Space Station’s corporate office.” 

Robert McAfoos, President, Barrios Technology

If you joined us last year at the Boston Genius of Things event, you were fortunate enough to hear how the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab is managing the Mars 2020 program IBM Rational DOORS Next Generation (DOORS NG). Another advocate for the technology is Barrios Technology.

An IBM business partner, they’re primarily a NASA/Johnson Space Center contractor. And as Robert explained, programs like the International Space Station (ISS) are similar in complexity to putting a deep-water rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Built by 18 different countries, it’s rife with contracts, agreements and requirements. And when you’re the corporate office, doing something this complex in Excel isn’t optimal. That’s why they made the decision to migrate to DOORS NG. This requirements management tool brings all those docs into a single system. There’s even a Rational publishing system, which delivers documents familiar to more seasoned workers. To learn more about the product, watch the demo.


9. “The only birds we don’t like are Orioles, Cardinals and Blue Jays.”

Minute Maid Park tour guide

"Just don't touch the grass." That was the one rule as we toured Minute Maid Park at the end of our Houston Genius of Things event. Full disclosure: this has nothing to do with oil and gas or IBM. But it was a great way to end the day…with a tour of Minute Maid Park. You don’t have to a Houston Astros fan or even like baseball to appreciate just how fantastic this stadium is. Built as a replacement for the original Houston Astrodome, it opened in March 2000, coming in on time and under the $250 million budget at $248.1M. On game days, it can hold up to 43,000 people (it’s standing room only after the first 41,500 show up). The grass is special – custom grown to the Astros specifications.And because Texas summers aren’t for the faint of heart, the retractable roof keeps everyone comfortable when the temperature goes above 85°F/29°C, below 65/18 or it rains.

And the bird comment came after a look at the writer’s press box. There are no windows, only plastic, which is much easier on any bird that loses its way. Although writers have to duck a foul ball on occasion!

Additional resources

I hope you enjoyed these highlights from our Houston Genius of Things event. And if you’d like to learn more, we have these additional resources:

  • Learn more about how digital transformation is reshaping the oil and gas industry.
  • Cognitive analytics can help you turn big data into insights. Take the assessmentto make better decisions faster.
  • Read the report to see how you can access, share and analyze petrotechnical data more efficiently and cost-effectively with IBM Petroleum Solutions for ProSource.