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How Digital Transformation Can Reduce Unplanned Downtime in the Oil & Gas Industry

Digital transformation strategies, like Dispel's ICS remote access, help oil and gas utilities reduce unplanned downtime, and improve worker safety.
Benjamin Burke
Benjamin Burke
16 March, 20214 min read
How Digital Transformation Can Reduce Unplanned Downtime in the Oil & Gas Industry

The offshore oil and gas sector experiences on average 27 days of unplanned downtime, which amounts to $38 million annually.* Not only are these periods of downtime expensive, but they are also responsible for over half of all workplace injuries. Thankfully, digital transformation strategies offer a solution, helping organizations to prevent unplanned downtime, and ensure worker safety by way of performing maintenance remotely.

*GE's Kimberlite report.

This blog looks at the costs of downtime for oil and gas organizations, both in terms of dollars and safety risk. Then, we identify the main root causes of downtime, and examine how digital transformation strategies can alleviate unplanned downtime and improve the safety of your workforce.

Unplanned downtime can cost you between $38-$88 million.

The bulk of downtime expenses in the oil and gas industry stem from lost or deferred production costs. For perspective, if your rig produces $500 million per year, then even 1% downtime or just 3.65 days of unplanned downtime a year—which is exceptional by industry standards—amounts to over $5 million in costs.

However, the impacts of unplanned downtime extend beyond monetary costs. Downtime increases the risk of workforce injuries, and takes a toll on your team's safety and productivity.

Downtime is responsible for 50% of all process safety incidents.

The CDC found that the fatality rate for oil and gas workers is 7x higher than in other industries, making the industry a hotbed of workplace incidents. Much of the risk is attributable to unplanned downtime. At refineries, less than 10% of time is spent in transient operations (downtime, maintenance, etc.), but over 50% of all process safety incidents occur in these periods. To improve worker safety, oil and gas organizations must consider technological solutions that facilitate performing maintenance safely, and prevent downtime in the first place.

The problems that cause unplanned downtime are solvable.

So what is causing such widespread unplanned downtime—and how can digital transformation help?

Most commonly, hardware (45%) and software (39%) failures/malfunctions are the causes of downtime.** Additional causes of downtime include issues like overload, user error, and security breaches. All of these root causes have to do with technological malfunctions. As a result, the key to solving the majority of downtime lies in enabling technologies that prevent malfunctions, and facilitate reacting to malfunctions faster. The more quickly you can react to malfunctions, the less downtime you will experience.

**Vanson Bourne/ServiceMax study.

Digital transformation is the solution to unplanned downtime.

The majority of organizations agree that digital transformation strategies (i.e. embracing forms of digital technology to improve how an organization operates) can solve the downtime problem.

In the oil and gas industry, digitization "enables offshore operators to reduce unplanned downtime while simultaneously reducing risks."* Digitization strategies that facilitate remote maintenance, in particular, are key to minimizing unplanned downtime, and improving worker safety.

*GE's Kimberlite report.

Choosing a digital transformation strategy: Get to the problem quickly and safely with Secure Remote Access.

Digital approaches to maintenances can solve the downtime problem and improve workforce safety. When it comes to performing maintenance, your team may frequently have the option of doing so remotely. Industrial remote access gives your operators and vendors the ability to react quickly during downtime, from anywhere. Given that downtime accounts for 50% of all process safety incidents, industrial remote access helps to keep your workers safe by removing them from dangerous on-site conditions.

Keep in mind that not all ICS remote access systems are fast. An inefficient remote access system (typically those requiring multiple logins and jumphosts) can take up to 12 minutes to use. An efficient ICS remote access tool should take less than 30 seconds to connect.

Other systems might not be designed with your vendors in mind. ICS remote access should help you standardize vendor access, offering live streaming and recording of user sessions.

How your organization can proceed.

Your organization can combat unplanned downtime. In working with customers, we've found that enabling secure remote access serves as an important step in digital transformation strategies that work to reduce unplanned downtime. If you are looking to undergo digital transformation or have already started, take the time to assess how much downtime currently costs and how it impacts your workforce's productivity and safety. You might find that remote connectivity is the step you need to reduce unplanned downtime, improve response times, and ensure team safety. To learn more about how secure remote access helps to reduce unplanned downtime, visit dispel.io/efficiency.


About Dispel

Dispel provides secure remote access designed for OT networks. Built on Moving Target Defense architecture, Dispel helps organizations enable OT remote access while staying aligned to regulatory frameworks and compliance standards. If you are looking to securely bring an OT network online, or harden existing Internet-accessible OT assets, schedule a demo at dispel.io/efficiency.


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