This period of high production has resulted in the creation of thousands of new jobs and amid this upturn, operators are increasingly exploring new and emerging technologies in a bid to increase efficiencies, production and improve workforce safety.
Consequently, workforce dynamics are also significantly shifting, with new skills required.
In three to five years, over 70% of oil and gas operators plan greater investment in digital technologies such as high-performance computing, wearables, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, blockchain and mixed reality, according to recent Accenture and Microsoft research.
Businesses are deriving significant value from the adoption of digital - with 62% of those surveyed reporting business value, with 27% totalling it at US$50- $100 million, or more.
So, in this period of increased production, digitisation and employment, what does the Australian oil and gas industry need to do to remain one of the strongest globally?
Accenture believes the key to success in the future operating environment is creating an ‘intelligent workforce' to gain optimum value and business benefits from these new technologies - a workforce that is prepared for the demands of the digitised industry.
How does the workforce need to adapt? There are three core strategies that underpin this required shift - reimaging the workforce; reskilling and upskilling; and new styles of leadership.
Reimagine the workforce
Digital technology has undeniably already impacted the industry, with cloud computing, big data, the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) helping companies achieve greater asset performance with maintenance, production and trading.
Digital twins are another solution.
The workforce itself is becoming more connected, with workers equipped with digital wearables - such as personal gas monitors and radio frequency identification (RFID) tags - that can help energy companies increase productivity, reduce costs, increase safety and provide visibility in their workforce.
However, these technologies will only ever be fully transformative through full collaboration with the workforce.
We call it human + machine.
Accenture's recent Reworking the Revolution research highlighted the need for human-machine collaboration and reskilling. It found 66% of Australian workers thought the share of roles requiring collaboration with AI would rise in the next three years but only 3% of CEOs planned to significantly increase investment in reskilling their workforce in the next three years.
This disconnect puts potential growth at risk, unless leaders pivot their workforce and equip their people to work with these intelligent technologies, through comprehensive training and change management programs.
Reskill and upskill talent
Reskilling and redeploying employees for the digital age is crucial for sustainability and growth. The value of an intelligent workforce not only creates greater efficiencies and job creation, but also allows oil and gas companies to combine technology with human ingenuity to solve complex challenges, break into new markets and create fresh revenue streams.
For example, Woodside Petroleum's cognitive assistant, Willow, assists engineers with risk assessment, giving more information to assist with decision-making processes.
For the Australian energy sector, there must be a greater focus on delivering training and ongoing micro-credentials to enable the future workforce to adapt to rapidly changing technology. The oil and gas industry will also require a more flexible approach to qualifications, as future employees will be expected to work with data, AI and robotics.
Australian tertiary institutions are already addressing this need, with Curtin University in Western Australia introducing new combined courses in Mechatronics and Engineering and Computer Science, building future skills into the next generation of workers. This initiative will help overcome concerns about relevant digital skills and expertise in refining, which is also impacting companies' digital maturity.
Develop and empower new leaders
Digital investment means traditional operating models are disappearing, making room for enhanced flexibility and interconnectivity. The industry needs leaders who understand the importance of a shift to a newer way of working and are equipped to drive real change.
Leadership aside, energy companies will be competing with other industries for talent, particularly in technology roles, meaning that employers will have to focus on new ways of attracting and retaining talent.
The Australian energy sector plays a vital role in evolving the industry globally, and a reimagined, intelligent workforce is necessary for success. A period of rapid growth calls for industry leaders to address workforce planning to increase efficiencies and embrace innovative technologies.
An intelligent workforce will help the industry become more agile and better equipped for change and will improve revenues for a more sustainable future. So, whether on a remote oil platform off the coast of Western Australia or an LNG plant in Queensland, the future oil and gas workforce will be highly connected, working in tandem with AI and other advanced technologies.
People will always have a valuable role to play in the industry, and in the digital age, humans will be required to modify how work is organised, performed and managed. As such, operators must take steps now to adapt and plan for this future workforce.
Gaston Carrion is Talent and Organisation Lead, Resources, Accenture Australia & New Zealand