Oil and gas refiners—regardless of whether they are pureplay operators or downstream segments of integrated oil companies—are facing pressure from all sides. They’ve been struggling for years, with business and operating models that haven’t changed in generations. As the global energy system expands and the energy transition accelerates, so do the challenges they face.
Overcoming the obstacles in their path requires a new operating approach aimed at building resilience—and maintaining relevance—in the energy transition.
Strengthening, connecting and optimizing operations can deliver margin improvements of $0.5-1.5/bbl, which could translate into yearly profitability gains of $60-180 million for the average refiner.
The future-ready refinery
Refiners’ operating environments will likely be characterized by increasing pressures on margins, operational performance and safety, and diminishing talent pools as existing workforces are pushed to their limits. Winners will stand out by activating four levers of resilience:
Asset and operational optimization. Resilient businesses use analytics to determine how to get the most from their assets. And they adopt an empowered workforce model and introduce agile ways of working to enable workforces nearest an asset to take action.
Active cost management. Resilient downstream companies apply real-time insights and data-driven process improvements to keep costs down and asset utilization up. A data-based analytics approach can provide the visibility that’s needed to pinpoint cost-reduction opportunities that, in turn, translate into bottom-line impacts.
Optimized workforces. Resilient organizations have the right people in the right roles, doing the right things with the right tools. Importantly, they augment their human capabilities with analytics, automation, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to continually drive performance improvements.
Commitment to change. Leaders not only understand the potential value at play, but also are willing to invest in building resilience. They also aren’t content with incremental improvements; they take bold and comprehensive actions to realize the true value potential.
Resilience = Adaptability + Responsiveness: A resilient refiner adapts to new conditions and seizes new opportunities to grow in the energy future.
We have seen resilient refiners achieve up to:
improvement in production yields
improvement in working capital
reduction in maintenance costs
reduction in asset lifecycle costs
Connected and optimized operations
We believe connecting and optimizing operations is the prerequisite for the resilience that’s now required to successfully navigate the energy transition. Piecemeal solutions are no longer enough. Unlocking competitive advantage—and the full value potential of the organization—calls for an end-to-end approach. There are three primary components that underpin a fully connected and optimized refiner.
A connected data foundation. Resilience depends on granular visibility into the performance of onsite assets. That visibility—and the insights it enables—can only be gained with a mature data foundation. Leveraging cloud technologies, artificial intelligence and other digital solutions, refiners can share and manipulate data across silos, thereby creating a truly “intelligent” refinery platform.
An integrated operating model. Resiliency leaders have little use for functional silos. They are moving toward fully connected operations with standardized processes and centralized functions. Access to integrated data and digital tools plays a big role in ensuring collaborative ways of working.
Intelligently managed assets and workers. Leveraging the right resources at the right locations can boost the bottom line without sacrificing performance—and also free funds for additional investments in growth. Ecosystem partnerships can give downstream companies access to new capabilities, talent, innovations and even new sources of diverse data. Moreover, a refreshed talent strategy can help them attract and retain the best and brightest.
The journey to resilience starts here
We believe refiners looking to build resilience should take the following six steps:
Ground their strategy and operations in their purpose and their approach to creating value.
Set a vision for what can be accomplished.
Assess the transformation requirements.
Conduct a reality check.
Assess their talent needs.
Identify their starting point – quick wins are best.
Once refiners have addressed these issues, they can move forward to develop an execution blueprint, with projected milestones and metrics. Communications, governance and change management programs will be critical to managing the change—and generating value—over the long term.