Introducing IO in a Drilling Company: Towards a Resilient Organization and Informed Decision-Making?

Introducing IO in a Drilling Company: Towards a Resilient Organization and Informed Decision-Making?

Grethe Osborg Ose (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Institute for Industrial Economics and Technology Management/Norwegian Marine Technology Institute (MARINTEK), Norway) and Trygve J. Steiro (Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Institute for Production and Quality Engineering/SINTEF Technology and Society, Norway)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2002-5.ch022


The introduction of Integrated Operations (IO) in the offshore oil and gas industry makes distanced and distributed decision-making a growing part of normal work. Some functions have been transferred from offshore installations to onshore offices as a consequence of the technologies that have recently become available. The authors analyze whether the onshore organization is ready for increased responsibilities by increasing the resilience in its work patterns, since resilience is important for maintaining or increasing safety level compared to current operation, where personnel on board installations can observe the plant at first hand. This study has been performed as a case study of an onshore Support Center in a drilling company at the start of the process of using the Support Center. The establishment of the Support Center involved re-arranging the office arrangements to an open landscape for all offshore installation support personnel and grouping them according to disciplines. They also acquired new technology, including video conference equipment. Important findings are that developing resilience has to be followed through at all levels of the organization. Time and resources have to be made available when work practices change, providing the physical framework alone does not improve resilience. The study also offers a more detailed description of capability resilience and which aspects should be considered when developing resilience. The authors look at the status so far in the change process and also find areas that should be developed in order to increase resilience further.
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“Integrated Operations” are commonly defined as Characterized operational concept where information- and communication technology (ICT) and real-time data are explored to optimize the resources on the continental shelf (Norwegian Oil Industry Association (OLF), 2002)” or as the use of information technology to change work processes to enable better decisions, to operate equipment and make decisions remotely and to move offshore functions onshore (Parliamentary Bill no. 38, 2002). Another definition is that provided by CERA: The vision of the Digital Oil Field is one where operators, partners, and service companies seek to take advantage of improved data and knowledge management, enhanced analytical tools, real-time systems, and more efficient business processes. According to Edwards et al. (2010), this is the most frequently used current definition. As we can see, the emphasis is on technology and progress has primarily been technology-driven; a stepwise development from remote support, via remote monitoring to remote control of certain operations. The final step is to remote control of all operations (Johnsen et al., 2005) where more of the control of offshore installations is transferred from offshore installations to onshore operation centers. Edwards et al. (2010) describe three items that are central to recognizing operations as IO:

  • 1.

    A move to a real-time or near real-time way of working.

  • 2.

    The linking up of one or more remote sites or teams to work together.

  • 3.

    A move to more multidisciplinary ways of working.

In this study, we analyze the physical arena of a Support Center as one such remote site working together with other sites or teams. We argue that organizational resilience is an important characteristic of such a team in order to utilize the competence in a team and to make better-informed and safer decisions. When functions are planned to be moved from offshore installations to offices onshore, the personnel in these offices must be ready and able to take them on in such a way that safe operation is maintained or increased The term “organizational resilience” means grouping the organization in a way that enables personnel to support and reassure each other, and it strengthens a decision by giving qualified personnel enough information to question it. Resilience will increase the safety of the decisions made (LaPorte and Consolini, 1991; Weick, 1987). Organizational resilience needs to be studied at this point because it becomes more and more important when changes lead to onshore control, with long distances between the actual operations offshore and the control of these operations performed by onshore personnel because the proximity to the operation that provide rich sources of feedback that involve almost all of the senses, enabling early detection of potential problems (Leveson, 2004) is lost. Although the industry believes that IO will lead to better and faster decision-making and improved safety, the literature has demonstrated that engineers and operators need to be physically close to each other (Hopkins, 2000). Even if several players can observe what is happening, mistakes in judgment and lack of communication and critical interpretation can lead to disasters, even if there seem to be resources available to create resilience (Snook, 2000).

We have analyzed this topic in one drilling company that started to work in an open office arrangement in which staff was located according to disciplines, and where meeting rooms with videoconference equipment and real-time data were available. Drilling companies are more dependent on short-term profits than the oil companies, and changes are therefore more rapidly put into effect. This made the drilling company a good choice for this study. We looked only at changes in the onshore company as they were in an early phase and presumably changes continue to take place within the company rather than in the interface with the different oil and gas companies.

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