Amazon has a cost-cutting plan for the boom-and-bust oil enterprise

Big companies like Shell can quickly scale up processing power if there’s a significant change in the oil price.

“The price of oil goes up, so they want to explore faster. They want to do production faster. They want to use machine learning to increase their yields, to improve their maintenance, to reduce their cost. They want to do all those things, so they can they can scale dynamically to the cloud, and then if the price of oil goes down and they want to reduce their expense, they can just literally turn it off,” Vass said.

Energy companies have been under particular pressure to contain costs, but the move into digital technologies also is a differentiator.

“The whole technology wave was driven by costs. Now it’s being driven by value creation,” said James Rosenfield, senior vice president of IHS Markit and co-founder of the annual energy conference. “Most executives in the industry have come to the realization that technology is the single driver of competitive advantage in the future.”

Rosenfield said now it’s being applied to things like enhancing supply chain, reducing CO2 and it’s attracting more young people to the industry.

“We’ve been in the data world forever,” said Chevron’s Shellebarger. “You think about artificial intelligence. You think about digital processing, data science, anything associated with that. We’re really complex in terms of how we’re tackling it. There’s no one company that’s a solution, or provider for that, so we have to see a portfolio of companies to put the pieces together to actually enable the business the way we’re trying to do that.”

Shellebarger said maintenance is one area that has evolved with technology. “We have maintenance out there so in a big oil field maintaining the wells, maintaining the equipment, maintaining the reliability of the system is a big piece of it. That’s a very labor intensive position with lots of people looking at lots of different things, putting schedules together. We have decision support centers now that are automating a lot of those tasks,” he said.

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