Monday, March 19, 2018

Meeting YuMi & getting Swiss chocolates packed

Technology, especially AI and robotics, were hot topics at the recently concluded IHS CERAWeek in Houston, Texas, US. 

They simply had to be, with a succession of ‘Big Oil’ and utility bosses stressing on the need for a more efficient optimised energy industry.

The annual event itself, now past its 37th year and counting, also saw its tech floor and space grow bigger in addition to the dialogues that took place. In the midst of it all, robotics and engineering giant ABB’s boss Ulrich Spiesshofer insisted that the Oilholic should not leave Houston without paying YuMi a visit. 

That would be the company’s small-parts assembly robot first introduced to the industrials market in 2015; and has been making waves ever since.

It has vowed US President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and even conducted Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra at the Teatro Verdi in Pisa, Italy. 

True to his word, this blogger paid YuMi a visit and found it vowing and amusing CERA Week delegates in equal measure, by packing Swiss chocolates for them. (See video below)

According to ABB North America spokesperson Chris Shigas, the speed you see in the video is only 50% of what YuMi is capable of.  The company describes it as a ‘co-bot’. 

In Shigas’ own words: “It’s a collaborative, dual arm, small parts assembly robot solution that includes flexible hands, parts feeding systems, camera-based part location and state-of-the-art robot control.”

YuMi weighs 38kgs and is the size of a small human being. It can [and does], operate without a protective cage with in-built health and safety features designed for it to work alongside human co-workers. The thought process and platform collectively give YuMi its name - “you and me” working together to create “endless possibilities,” as ABB suggests.

In fact, the Swiss chocolate nibbles you see YuMi pick and pack are pretty light compared to the 500 gram payload it can currently handle. 

Shigas said that thanks to its compactness, YuMi can be easily integrated into existing assembly lines thereby increasing productivity.

What created the real buzz for oil and gas folks at CERA Week was the fact that YuMi features lead-through programming, which, in simple terms, does away with the need for specialised training for operators. That opens up endless future possibilities for a plethora of industries.

Well, that’s all for the moment folks! But before the Oilholic takes your leave, a photograph with YuMi was in order for a keepsake, given it has rubbed shoulders with presidents and chancellors, and might soon be coming to a facility near you. We both also seem to be in matching attire, more by coincidence than by design, in this blogger's case at least! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo 1: ABB's YuMi at IHS CERA Week 2018. Photo 2: The Oilholic with YuMi. Video: YuMi packs Swiss chocolates © Gaurav Sharma March, 2018. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Flurry of soundbites & final musings from Houston

As IHS CERA Week came to a close on Friday, the Oilholic published two Forbes interviews with a 'tech twist', given technology enabled process efficiencies and cost optimisation seem to be in overdrive in the oil and gas industry.

First off, it was a pleasure, yet again, to exchange views with engineering and robotics giant ABB’s boss Ulrich Spiesshofer.

In a wide-ranging interview, Spiesshofer noted: "We are taking the oil and gas industry from an automated into an autonomous operations sphere, where you have self-learning processes, where you use AI to augment human potential, to optimize the control loop for operations and maintenance." (Read the whole interview here.)

Secondly, yours truly also exchanged views with Peter Zornio, Chief Technology Officer of Emerson's automation division, who said the inexorable direction the energy sector was heading in via broad spectrum digitisation meant more business for his company.

"We are working on a proposal where we become a turnkey supplier directly looking at client equipment and alerting them when something goes wrong."

While Emerson is offering full-scale outsourcing, Zornio admitted the industry might not be ready for this level of optimisation. The whole discussion is available here.

With bags packed from CERA Week 2018, this blogger's two standout quotes from the event were uttered by BP CEO Bob Dudley and International Energy Agency's Executive Director Fatih Birol. Dudley reminded the audience of the importance of the integrated model in current climate, when he noted: "Our downstream business contributes billions of dollars to the dividend we give to our shareholders."

And Dr Birol, when asked what should US producers make of their new found clout in the oil and gas world with forecasts of American production exceeding that of market leaders Saudi Arabia and Russia, quipped: "They should enjoy!"

Finally, on a week-on-week basis, the oil benchmarks ended Friday (9 March) over 1% higher; read what you will into it – but one reckons, price oscillation in the $55-70 per barrel range is about par. 

That's all from Houston folks, as it's time for the flight home to London. But before the Oilholic takes your leave, here is a view (above) from Houston Rodeo 2018, which this blogger had the pleasure of visiting yet again. 

It's a fantastic affair that draws in thousands every year – with a carnival atmosphere, barbecues, fun rides, livestock on display topping up the rodeo – all with a very unique Texas flavour! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.

To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo 1: Houston's Skyline. Photo 2: Houston Rodeo 2018, being held in Texas, US © Gaurav Sharma March, 2018. 

Friday, March 09, 2018

Frackers on the side of geopolitical angels?

IHS CERA Week 2018’s day two and three whizzed by with plenty of more talking points, some predictable, and well some not so predictable, with the oil price seesawing in the backdrop. 

Both benchmarks spent much of Monday and Tuesday on the up, and all of Wednesday and Thursday shedding those gains, with speaker after speaker suggesting US shale and the country's oil and gas exports were not a fad. 

Among them was US President Donald Trump's emissary – Energy Secretary Rick Perry – who emphatically declared on Wednesday that American producers were now allies of energy deficient nations craving energy security. 

Here’s the Oilholic’s report for Forbes with Perry’ up soundbites. That said the US Energy Secretary is right – even the most pessimistic of shale decline rate forecasts suggest elevated oil and gas production volumes are here to say for at least another 10 years. 

"The U.S. has now become a net natural gas exporter. Our producers export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to 27 nations on five continents. In the coming years, you can expect more of the same," Perry reminded CERA Week delegates and you can expect more of the same. 

On a related note, here’s the Oilholic’s Forbes research into what incremental volumes of US LNG exports mean for the market, and the profound changes new players on the scene are bringing about. It has the thoughts of experts from Baker McKenzie, S&P Global Platts, KPMG, IHS Markit and ABB. 

Switching tack to some interesting soundbites over the last couple of days, Qatar's Oil Minister Mohammed Al-Sada said both oil producers and consumers were losing due to oil price volatility either side of the price slump in 2014. "Neither very high nor very low prices are good for global GDP. So OPEC had to intervene responsibly," he said of the ongoing OPEC and non-OPEC oil production cuts.

Bob Dudley, CEO of oil giant BP, admitted: "Our downstream business effectively funds the billions of dollars we pay in dividends."

Additionally, he noted that the UK oil & gas industry was going through "a renaissance; after remarkable, painful restructuring in the North Sea was behind it."

Dudley, also reiterated his stance from IPWeek a fortnight ago that his company and the rest of the energy industry is in a race to lower carbon emissions, not a race to lower emissions. ‏

Elsewhere, here's the Oilholic's Forbes interview with BP's Chief Scientist Dame Angela Strank on the crucial topic of gender diversity in the oil and gas business, and the vital need for the industry to continue to promote and emphasise the importance of STEM career pathways. 

And before one takes your leave, here's a glimpse of a Formula E car (above right) on display at the CERA Week tech floor. Pretty slick, bring on the electric car revolution! That's all for the moment from Houston folks! Keep reading, keep it 'crude'!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo 1: US energy secretary Rick Perry at an IHS CERA Week 2018 press briefing. Photo 2: Formula E car on display at CERA Week's technology floor, Houston, Texas, USA. © Gaurav Sharma 2018.

Monday, March 05, 2018

The Fatih & Mohammed show enlivens CERA Week 2018

The Oilholic is back in Houston town, for IHS CERA Week, one of the oil and gas industry’s premier event, and so far its all about the tussle between US shale producers and OPEC/non-OPEC ‘supergroup’. 

Before the things gained traction on the first day of the week-long event, the International Energy Agency (IEA) emphatically declared the US would dominate oil production over the next five years, and is well on its way to becoming the world’s number one oil producer ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia. (Here’s the Oilholic’s Forbes report). 

The IEA’s inimitable Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol also pointed out that describing the think-tank as an ‘oil consumers’ club’ is becoming clich√©d these days as four of its members – the US, Canada, Brazil and Norway, were accounting for much of the world’s oil production growth.

Meanwhile, OPEC Secretary Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo, who is also in town, made it known that the OPEC/non-OPEC production cut underpinned by Saudi Arabia and Russia has been a success, and making a tangible impact in rebalancing the market.

So post-luncheon, both men took to the stage with Daniel Yergin, Vice Chairman of IHS Markit, for  a delightful, somewhat testy but good natured, exchange. 

Barkindo declared the OPEC and non-OPEC production cut has been “efficient”, “surpassed expectations” and “brought optimism to the market.”

Birol said that optimism was most apparent in the US, with shale producers, well...producing at a canter, and positioning themselves to cater to robust oil demand from India and China. Providing an undercurrent to his stance, was the news that India was taking it first US natural gas consignment, a mere nine months after inking an agreement to import American crude. 

Of course, Birol warned that oil and gas investment was lagging, with 2018 investment valuation projected to rise by only 6% on an annualised basis. 

Barkindo declared that was “not in the interest of the global economy.”

Via production cuts, the 24 OPEC and non-OPEC producers were providing “insurance and stability” to the global market; a move that was open to “all producers,” he added. 

Of course, US producers driven by the spirit of private enterprise, are not really queuing up to join anytime soon. So what should they do? “Enjoy”, quipped Birol, to peals of laughter in the room. 

And so it went, but the Oilholic suspects you get the gist. Elsewhere on day one, Total CEO Patrick Pouyann√© said in the crude industry size does matter, and that a lower price environment gives bigger players opportunities to make strategic acquisitions. 

“It’s good to be a large integrated oil and gas company. Key to success is stable investment, regardless of oil price,” he added. 

Plenty more to come from CERA Week, but that’s all from Houston for the moment folk. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here.
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here.

© Gaurav Sharma 2018. Photo: (Left to right) IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol, OPEC Secretary General Mohammed Sanusi Barkindo and IHS Markit Vice Chairman Daniel Yergin speak at CERA Week 2018 © Gaurav Sharma 2018. 


For comments or for professional queries, please email:

To follow The Oilholic on Twitter click here
To follow The Oilholic on Google+ click here
To follow The Oilholic on Forbes click here