Deploying Robots Upstream: How to Evaluate the Opportunities and Make the Business Case

Tyler Chase, Managing Director Energy and Utilities Industry Global Leader
Evan Campbell, Managing Director Digital — Digital Engagement, Ops and Automation

We recently discussed the potential cost savings, profits, productivity gains and other advantages that oil and gas companies can achieve by adopting robotic process automation (RPA). To illustrate how it worked, we linked to an introductory video. To further the conversation, we are delving into how different sectors within the oil and gas industry can use RPA, beginning with the upstream sector of exploration and production (E&P) companies. Using one example, we will demonstrate how to determine whether a specific process is suited for RPA software, and we will quantify the benefits of deploying a solution. We also have included other use cases that upstream organizations should consider automating.

Monthly production and sales-volume reporting and submission requirements epitomize many administrative and regulatory processes that must be performed periodically. Each month, personnel in production accounting export production and sales-volume information from their respective systems and often manually transfer the data for each well into a separate form and upload it to the state-required regulatory website.

The process checks a number of boxes used to evaluate candidacy for automation:

  • It is completed on a routine schedule (monthly).
  • The data supporting the process is available in an existing IT system (production accounting system).
  • It has been repeated multiple times (done for each well).
  • It takes hours to complete (time-consuming process).
  • It is prone to human error (manual task).

While variables such as company size and the number of wells will affect the results to a degree, we have seen examples projecting payback on the initial investment within a year. Watch our latest video below to see the well volume-reporting bot in action.

Here are other use cases that upstream companies might consider when formulating an RPA strategy. These processes all share, to one degree or another, the characteristics of the example above:

  • Operations Metering and sensor monitoring; capital expenditure budgeting and trend analysis; lease operating statement creation and reporting; inventory and materials management; regulatory reporting; and procurement and vendor screening
  • E&P Accounting Joint interest billing, accounts receivable and revenue netting; depreciation, depletion and amortization calculations; annualized rate of occurrence and accrual calculations; pay-out monitoring; and gas and pipeline imbalances

Upstream companies have numerous opportunities to leverage RPA to complete necessary but repetitive and mundane processes. Not only will the strategy save organizations time and money over the long run, but it will also free workers to concentrate on more productive assignments. E&P organizations that seize RPA initiatives stand to enhance their technological advantage in a competitive market moving forward.

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