New tech in Oil & Gas – takeaways from IES 2019

New tech in Oil and Gas – takeaways from IES 2019

We greatly enjoyed speaking on the panel at the Society of Petroleum Engineers and meeting innovative energy tech companies and leaders inO&G operations.  A few takeaways:

Market Adoption

From new automated tools in exploration to well operations, modern tech enables smarter workflow, provides access to real-time data, and offers better safety, reliability, and transparency.

With high emphasis on testing the reliability of new tech, one of the biggest questions is how to champion innovative solutions within large operating businesses.  Experienced operators offered advice on leading the adoption of new tech within an organization and the consensus was that (1) there is no one stop solution and (2) it helps to find an interested party a “champion” within the company who would benefit from the innovation and help drive it; yet even then it could be a long process to deploy.  Can the process be made easier? 

Some operators prefer to pay for equipment upfront (CapEx) while others favor the SaaS model (OpEx) and it is important to know their preferences when introducing new tech.  It was interesting to see that certain companies appear frequently on the lists of tech startups as “early adopters”of pilots


A big concern is what will happen to the jobs as the oil price fluctuates and whether technology will replace humans.  The ultimate role of tech is not to replace the workforce, but to enable it by automating mundane high-risk tasks and free people’s time to analyze and enhance the process.

During the down cycle in the 90s fewer young professionals entered the industry resulting in a leadership gap and now there is a struggle to attract the next generation to the sector.

Millennials in O&G

There is a stigma that O&G sector is old, messy and undesirable.  While it is imperative for the environment to adopt alternative energy sources, there are numerous ways to make the traditional O&G sector more efficient.  There is a great opportunity for the younger generation to be at the forefront of the market transformation and for experienced engineers to guide the change. New tech offers easy-to-use dashboards for real time data, remote well operations, predictive analytics on condition of the equipment and pipeline, and tools enabling higher drilling accuracy in multi-zone development.

As more data becomes available through new tech, new jobs will be created in analysis of big data. There is a demand for development of high performing tools powered by AI and robotics, which lead to better safety, accuracy, reliability, and stronger operating margins.

More efficient waste/recycling workflow management and analytics is an interesting “hot” vector leading to safer disposal, higher environmental compliance, and reduced costs.

What Millennials Want

The strong drivers for Millennials and Generation Z are to live a meaningful life, have a great experience, and to learn a lot (not just to earn a paycheck).  Millennials like to:

  • Learn by doing and on the fly – they wish to receive information and guidance “on demand” instead of memorizing it in advance, as a result they need WiFi everywhere.

  • Have transferable skills and move jobs easier.  They don’t have a “do as you are told” mentality, think they deserve to be treated well right from the start and expect to not be given tasks below their level.  Training mid management on cultural and generational differences is essential.Millennials will quickly leave bad bosses.

  • Want to identify with a culture and be a part of something bigger.  The entire company needs to have a mission set from the top.  Annual retreats are not enough, sharing new initiatives that speak to the company’s mission via social media keeps it relevant.  Allowing employees to contribute to social media enables them to better identify with the company.

  • Love using tech and recognize gaps in technology.  It is not enough to say the company is innovative; millennials research the company during the hiring process and figure out if the company is actually using cutting edge tech or just has it asa PR statement.

  • Socialize in common areas – adding amenities to office-only environments brings a contemporary vibe.  Even if social areas are not used, just an idea of having them helps.

  • Produce when working remotely – having mobile applications and connectivity is essential. Many manual tasks can now be done remotely with technology.  Trips to sites can be kept to a minimum.

Final Thoughts

The operators in the audience were receptive to review new tech and quickly scoped what is useful for their businesses.  To hear their deep insights on the transformation of the sector and genuine desire to attract the next generation was refreshing.

Millennials inherited the environment in this condition but complaining about it will not help. Instead there are ample opportunities to make an impact on modernizing the O&G space.  Taking on a mission of being a part of the digital revolution in the energy sector is a worthy cause.

Our goal as investors is to keep a finger on the pulse, and find and support amazing tech that transforms the work environment and brings innovation to industries.
Look forward to being back in Houston! 


Katherine Zamsky