Roger Klausen – COO, Exprosoft
The COO of ExproSoft, a Norwegian niche player in the UAE, highlights the potential of digitalization for oil majors and explains how entering the region helped the company to develop their portfolio.
You have joined in 2014 as COO, how would you define what ExproSoft is today?
“The most significant aspect for us is, that by working with Operators here in the Middle East we have been able to improve our product offering.”
I would characterize us as a truly international company. Many of our clients are outside of Norway and our current business is evenly split into the four regions Australia, US, Middle East and North Sea each accounting for a quarter of our revenues. Initially we used to be focused on the Norwegian Continental Shelf (NCS) but in the past five years we had a very strong internationalization focus as we realized that our services and products were applicable in many other areas of the world.
The Middle East produces 32.5 million BOD and as such is one of the most important for hydrocarbons in the world. What is the significance of the region for a niche player such as ExproSoft?
The most significant aspect for us is, that by working with Operators here in the Middle East we have been able to improve our product offering. When we entered this region, we discovered that the operators’ focus is not only on the compliance side of well integrity but more on the risk and performance management side. Ever since, there has been a lot of focus on how to optimize resources, prioritize activities between different assets and wells and more; all with the aim to improve production and reduce downtime.
We had originated as a compliance driven business, offering solutions to help operators to stay in compliance with rules and regulations. Coming to the region has certainly developed part of what we are doing, which in turn help us establish ourselves in other markets around the world. Frankly speaking, I do not think we would have had the same opportunity in Australia if we had not had the experience gained in this region. What’s more, the increased focus on ‘getting the last barrel out of the field’ which we learned here is certainly also applicable in the NCS.
Given these ambitions and considering that the UAE serves as launching platform for your regional endeavors, what are some of the advantages of using the UAE as a hub – instead of cheaper countries such as Oman for instance or larger markets such as Saudi Arabia?
It has been very easy to do business here as a Norwegian company including all the different steps you have to go through: establishing a fruitful relationship with an agent, being able to fly people in and out swiftly and more. What’s more, in Abu Dhabi we had the pleasure of signing our first contract of the region so for us it really was the natural country to start. It has been very good to be here, which also allowed us to launch into the region.
Which of your solutions and products are most in demand in this region?
The biggest demand in the region surrounds well integrity. That translates into products and services which are helping the operator to maintain control of their assets. There are also other solutions in maintenance and reliability optimization we are currently working on as we have seen the interest of operators and we believe we can gain traction there.
The reason well integrity is so high on the agenda of the operators here is quite simple: it allows more uptime and thus more production. And we have excellent solutions and products that allow operators to do exactly that!
On your homepage, it says that the WellMaster products are based on 40,000 years of historic well data. If all this data is historic, how can it be useful for new wells which are being drilled with new technology and equipment which was not available in the past?
A significant amount of the equipment and technology which is used in newly completed wells todays has been developed many years ago, hence we have the needed data. To use reliability data, you need history which provides information about the equipment’s performance. Even for new equipment, you will need historic data as reference to predict downtime, failures, intervention needs and more. A possible here is to use historic data of similar equipment under similar configurations and environment to make these predictions. The whole philosophy is to try and find the most equivalent and relevant set of data where you can do reliability analyses with, then use the statistical number for survival probabilities, failure rates and so on when planning new operations. Then, when you have your well with the new equipment operate for a couple of yours you update the data with what you have gathered from operation your well.
You have recently acquired Miriam AS, the provider of Miriam RAM Studio. How does the acquisition of ‘Miriam RAM Studio’ complement your portfolio?
Miriam RAM (Reliability, Availability, Maintainability) Studio is an analysis tool which is capable of sophisticated analyses of complex systems rather than just single component types. In other words, it enables you to simulate the complex set-up of a subsea facility or a gas process plant for instance. Modeling whole facilities from reservoir to selling point will allow you to have a wholesome perspective on all the relevant performance factors –including financials — when you are planning or modifying your facility. However, you will need historic data for that, of which we already have a combined 40,000 years.
Oil and gas companies were pioneers of the first digital age in the 1980s and 1990s. Oil executives were making use of 3D seismic, linear program modelling of refineries early on, being one of the first industries to embrace such emerging trends. Today, however, we are at the vanguard of the next digital age surrounding phrases such as “big data”, “advanced analytics”, and “the Internet of Things”. The hydrocarbons industry seems to be rather slow to embrace this trends. What do you consider to be the reasons for this lack of momentum to embrace these topics?
I believe it has to do with the ways the oil and gas industry has been doing business for the past decades. There has been plenty of money which eradicates the urgency of the need for digitalization; they simple did not have to engage in digitalization in order to still be profitable. However, the landslide in commodity prices has already led some of the operators to engage in the new era of digitalization and I am confident that this trend will continue its current trajectory—especially if oil prices remain where they are now.
Oil majors especially need to focus on digitalization. There is a significant amount of data available and being able to identify this data, share it in between departments and process stages will allow them to derive significant value out of it. And this is what we focus in! It is all about finding the data, normalizing it and bring the business value out of it by applying the right analytics. This sums up our value proposition really. We believe in making decision based on data and we happen to do this with reliability data and combining it with availability and maintainability simulations in the well area.
Oil and Gas Executives typically have an engineering rather than an IT background. Would you say these executives are open for innovative IT solutions?
In my experience, oil and gas executives have a genuine interest and certain level of understanding of what we are doing. It is very rare to come across people that are not interested or do not believe that what we are doing bares the potential to add significant value to their business. The challenge we encounter is to show that they have the data, that we can find it and that we can use it in a way that allows them to make data based decisions. For many companies, it is challenging to see that they typically already have gathered the necessary data and if not that there is plenty of generic data applicable to their specific problem.
What would you consider to be the defining characteristics that make ExproSoft and its products unique?
I am confident that the long-time experience of working with reliability data in combination with well technology really makes Exprosoft unique. Most of the senior people in our companies have been in this specific field since the 1980s and we obviously train new people, transferring the accumulated knowledge and experience of years.
What we have added on this experience in the past few years is on the digital side of the equation. Thus, being able to take this knowledge and transform it into a software as service in addition to the provision of data as service. Our software solutions really enable operators and people working in these companies to utilize data for their benefit; whether it be planning, using real-time measurements or assessing the integrity status of their wells.
What are your future ambitions for the development of Exprosoft?
Year on year we have expanded on the solutions we are able to provide; the new focus this year is within the area of maintenance optimization and I see ExproSoft swiftly established in that area. Moreover, we plan to spend a lot of time in machine learning technology which well significantly ease the process of obtaining data from a multitude of sources and translating these into meaningful reliability data. This will limit the time operators and ourselves have to spend on collecting this data—an exciting topic for the future of our company!