Predicts the future with digital technology – and can save customers millions

The oil crisis and recession opened new digital doors for the engineers at Siemens in Stavanger.


“Warnings of a new oil crisis” and “are you prepared for a chilly Christmas?” A few years ago, there was little optimism in the headlines about the Norwegian oil and gas industry.

But while commentators and journalists wrote about a downturn, others rolled up their sleeves. Following this seismic change, engineers set about creating new technology and new opportunities.

According to Torbjørn Bøe, Head of Siemens Stavanger, the conservative oil industry was forced to rethink.

“After some difficult years for the oil industry, we now find that more customers are looking for new ways to work and we are challenged to devise completely new solutions that cut customer costs,” says Bøe.

Eirik Harstad, Jostein Sand Kjellsen and Torbjørn Bøe in the demonstration room at Siemens Stavanger, where they showcase new technology. Photo: DNX

Bøe believes integrated partnerships and digital solutions are the way forward for the oil industry in the years to come. Currently, he is looking for more colleagues with digital skills.

“We have started recruiting and are still looking for new people who can carry digital development further,” says Bøe.

The brain behind

The man who gets credit for kick-starting digitalisation is Portfolio Manager Torstein Dalen. 

Now, we find him in a big room surrounded by the hum of closely packed computers. Red, yellow, green and blue wires twist their way out of the machines, up the walls and along the ceiling.

“This is the automation system, the brain of the oilrigs. It sends and receives signals from the entire facility at sea. It controls engines, valves – everything possible. If an undesirable development occurs, the equipment will shut down and we will be notified,” says Dalen.

He explains:

“Everything that exists in the PC world can be found here. Here, we control everything from backup and access to IT security. This is absolutely exceptional and unique to Siemens.

Now, Siemens is building a brand-new data centre, known as ‘TechHub’, for interaction between customers and engineers in Siemens.”

“It should be easy to configure things in a fast way, but it should also be safe, quick and open to remote access from all locations. I think the harvesting of data from multiple installations is the future.

Siemens focuses heavily on digitalisation and the use of artificial intelligence.

“For example, we can use artificial intelligence and smart algorithms to optimise operations for processing facilities, drilling plants and electrical systems,” says Dalen.

Engineers Eirik Harstad and Jostein Sand Kjellsen follow the data flow from a North Sea oilrig. Photo: DNX

Change of pace

Head of Siemens Stavanger, Torbjørn Bøe, believes there is a major shift taking place in the oil and gas industry. The offshore worker is no longer a man with a wrench wearing grubby workwear. Likewise, an electrician is not “just an electrician”. Roles, tasks and knowledge are tightly braided and cross-discipline. This not only changes the way the oil platforms are operated but also the actual work on board.

“The personnel on the oilrigs and the transportation of staff constitute the absolute greatest cost for the oil companies. We have helped Aker BP with a solution where the Ivar Aasen rig can be managed from their offices in Trondheim. In the future, we will be moving more and more in the direction of unmanned or limited-staffed oilrigs,” says Bøe.

A wall is covered by screens in one of the rooms at the Siemens facility in Stavanger. From here, engineers can follow ‘live’ data collection from the customers’ oil platform in the North Sea.

“What you see on the displays here is data from a customer oilrig shown using Siemens’ Cloud solutions for Industry, MindSphere,” says Eirik Harstad, Senior Engineer at Siemens Stavanger.

“The system can collect hundreds of thousands of unique data points in real-time, including pressure, temperature and throughput,” says Jostein Sand Kjellsen, Technical Director of Digitisation at Siemens Stavanger.

Time travel

“The digitalisation of the oil platform allows engineers to return in time to the plant’s startup, and see how different scenarios have influenced operations over the years. But they can also anticipate possible future scenarios, and find out when and where maintenance needs to occur – and avoid the entire oilrig experiencing a blackout.”

“When things grind to a halt offshore, you lose money straight away. Millions gush out both ends,” says Harstad.

With the new technology, engineers can minimise potential damage.

“We connect immediately, wherever we are. This makes it easier for us to take advantage of each other’s knowledge in real time. It may sound a bit banal, but the critical timeline has become much shorter because we have better interaction,” says Harstad.

But the likelihood that something will go wrong is minimised by the new system, explains Kjellsen. Now, engineers can identify vulnerabilities and thus predict mishaps many months into the future.

“We will no longer receive a warning about something that needs to be repaired at the last moment. Because we know what’s going to happen and therefore we can perform predictive maintenance,” says Kjellsen.

According to the engineer, the work days are hectic in Stavanger.

“In the ten years I’ve worked for Siemens, I can say with my hand on my heart that I’ve learned something new every single week. Something happens all the time. You have to keep up to stay on top,” says Kjellsen.

Maria Aveledo is specialised in IT security. Photo: DNX

Out of the bubble

The new work method means that Siemens has access to the customer’s data and vice versa. It requires both parties to ensure that the information is processed in a proper manner.

“Because our systems are integrated with the customers’ systems, we require that we are always alerted when it comes to IT security,” says Maria Aveledo.

She is a systems engineer and works with IT security for Siemens. For Siemens, security is a priority, and Aveledo is a specialist in the field.

“When exchanging information with external partners, there are also further potential areas from which we can be attacked,” says Aveledo.

One way of preventing this, says Aveledo, is to let external partners try to “hack” Siemens’ systems, then report to Siemens where they found any weaknesses.

“We know what hackers are thinking before the hackers themselves,” says Aveledo.