It’s mid-morning and the heat is intense as technician Yahya Riyami steps out onto an arid plain deep in the heart of Oman.
Like generations of oil workers, Riyami is clad in work overalls, a hard hat and safety boots.
Today, thanks to a new wave of digitalisation sweeping the energy world, he is also equipped with a headset and tablet which he uses to access live operational data and monitor production.
Such innovation may not be out of place in some other industries. But facing sustained lower oil prices, energy companies are increasingly adopting digital technologies which use masses of instantly available data, or big data, to maintain or boost production.
Industrial machinery is increasingly embedded with software and sensors which connect wirelessly to provide live data streams and which respond to digital commands. Analysing such data improves decision-making and efficiency.
“We’re moving to a digital way of working,” says Jaap van Dijk, a control and automation engineer for Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) – a joint venture between the government of Oman, Shell, Total and Partex – which is rolling out the mobile platform Yahya is using.
“We’re bringing the technology and connectivity that we use in our personal lives to our fields. That’s a real buzz. It’s driving major efficiencies at a time when we need to do more with the same number of workers.”