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GE's digital strategy

Friday, July 14, 2017

From our magazine: GE is helping its oil and gas customers make better use of digital technology, including managing reservoirs, heavy equipment and supply chains. Gabriel Tse, CMO for GE ASEAN, explained what it is doing.

GE is currently going through a 'digital journey', working out how to make better use of digital technology, said Gabriel Tse, chief marketing officer for GE ASEAN, speaking at the Digital Energy Journal conference in KL in October 2016.

At the same time, it is helping customers 'go through their digital transformation journey as well,' he said.

GE's main focus in the 'digital space' is around 'asset performance management' - helping companies get more value from their assets.

In the oil and gas industry, this means helping companies do more with their assets, both below ground (reservoirs) and above ground (heavy equipment) - and also better managing supply chains and reducing energy costs.

As chief marketing officer for GE ASEAN, Mr Tse's responsibilities cover the countries in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) group, which includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam.

Mr Tse was previously product manager for production optimisation software with GE Oil and Gas in Houston.

Better digital working practise

A better digital working practise means that from an organisational perspective, data is a lot more transparent across the enterprise, he said.

'It's how you turn the data into insights which is most important,' he said.

'If there's too much data you kind of drown it out and ignore it, which makes this a bit useless. So there's a lot of negative consequences, lower [asset] utilisation, lower productivity, you're wasting the most valuable resource, the manpower.'

Additional benefits of good digital working practise are that people feel they can trust the data more, rather than query every piece of data which goes through.

Good digital systems mean that people can quickly get access to the right experts if there are any problems.

'With organisations that span the globe, sometimes it's [a challenge] knowing who to ask,' he said.

GE puts a high emphasis on partnering with customers, rather than selling them products. 'They [the customers] have the operational expertise, they know exactly what pain point we need to drive.'

PREDIX and microservices

GE chose to standardise on a cloud software platform which it calls PREDIX, and all of its business units use it.

All of the software running on PREDIX is broken down to 'micro services', or small 'building (or Lego) blocks'.

'You can put [the blocks] together to create whatever you need,' he said.
The end result is 'software which is much faster and more 'fit for purpose,'' he said.

The 'micro services' architecture makes it much easier to reuse parts of it, than when you are building an enormous chunk of complex software. 'If I have a LNG plant [in Malaysia] and another in in Norway, the needs might be different, but the [software] blocks are similar,' he said.

Business models

GE has a range of different business models, including a subscription model, for how it offers digital services. 'It really does depend, we're very flexible,' he said.

'Some customers [want to buy as] pure capex [capital expenditure] they want to buy the whole thing, others want opex [to pay as operational expenditure] so it's more subscription.'

'We also do performance based [agreements].'

'There's a lot of range in terms of how we deliver that, it depends on what the customer wants. Our KPIs for customers are very different across the board.'

Heavy equipment

GE has a big focus on heavy rotating equipment, so a large part of its digital focus is helping companies reduce downtime and improve efficiency with rotating equipment.

An unplanned outage can end up costing five times more than a planned outage, Mr Tse said, with knock-on effects from missed delivery targets. So unplanned downtime (unexpected equipment failure) is a big concern.

Companies do not have systems which give them advance warning of problems, so they are always in fire-fighting mode, which is 'not a pleasant working environment.'

'It doesn't drive you to find improvements,' he said.

GE has 30 remote monitoring centres for heavy equipment around the world. At these centres it monitors heavy equipment at customer sites everywhere, building enormous expertise about what can go wrong and when, he said.

You can get a better sense of components which are wearing out, and can make sure crews and spare parts are in place when work needs to be done.

If the equipment at one site seems to be performing better than average, it can see if there are lessons which can be shared with other company locations.

Sometimes GE engineers look in depth at one plant, trying to see what the trends are, and which data can give indicators of a problem about to occur, including temperature and weather data.

One oil company, which has a fleet of 76 compressors and power trains around the world, noticed that the performance level varied between 99 per cent uptime to 90 per cent uptime. 'If you can raise all your fleets up to 99 per cent availability you can deliver a lot of value,' he said.

This company found that their biggest problem was critical asset failures. It also found that when failures occurred, people did not have fast access to a technical expert able to fix the problem.


'The biggest asset for you [oil companies] is your reservoir,' he said. 'For us, we're not a reservoir engineering company, but if that's the pain point, we work and collaborate with the right partners to deliver solutions for you.'

So GE partnered with Paradigm, a reservoir modelling and simulation company.

It built a solution to tie the reservoir data to the production world, connecting real time analytics (of production) back to reservoir models.

This way, GE could provide recommendations about the best way to do water flood recovery, work out the best injection pattern, and the best parameters for the field equipment including artificial lift and electrical submersible pumps (ESPs).

'We helped them improve their production based on integrating subsurface data,' he said.

'We delivered double digit productivity on a 90 year old mature field in one case.'

Normally, 'once they start drilling and producing, they never look at that [reservoir data] again, he said.'

Often, 'when you buy an old field, the reservoir data is terrible.'


GE has been involved in a project to optimise CO2 Enhanced Oil Recovery for one client.

'CO2 flooding is relatively expensive,' he said. 'You have the high cost of [acquiring] CO2, and you also have to treat a lot of produced water.'

The customer had been injecting CO2 for 10 years, but they hadn't figured out the best CO2 pattern.

'We collaborated with them, we validated their reservoir model, and during the process we realised that there might be a fault that they didn't know. We worked with them to validate & update their models.

'We created proxy models, lightweight reservoir models - based on the production histories, so they can run much faster.'

Reservoir simulations for flooding can take 24-48 hours to run just one scenario, so testing 100 scenarios can take 100-200 days.

GE used machine learning tools to find ways that the amount of processing was reduced, so it was possible to run it in hours vs days. It found ways to reduce the amount of CO2 by 25 per cent, while not changing production.

'These are things we are co-creating with our customers and validating as we go through,' he said.


GE is also helping companies manage pipelines. Many oil companies have thousands of miles of pipelines, some of which are very old, and don't have sensors in them, and there are no records of the operational history.

GE can start analysing the risk by getting a better understanding of the history of the pipeline, using all data available.

This can include data from pig inspections, video, seismic recording, data about ground firmness, estimates about expansion and contraction, as well as inspection data.

All of this can be put together to create a model that helps them asses risk.


GE is also helping its oil and gas downstream customers to reduce costs, improve quality control and better manage their supply chains.

It helped one oil and gas client reduce its energy costs by 45 per cent, and reduce CO2 emissions and equipment downtime at the same time.

It helped another oil and gas client increase capacity by 25 per cent by better integrating its supply chain. This also helped them to increase traceability, and track faults. They could also decrease their lead times.

GE helped them to better monitor their equipment for cyber threats. Companies can make themselves vulnerable when (for example) people use USB sockets to charge their mobile phones, or create unauthorised network points. 'We helped a lot of our customers protect against that,' he said.

Associated Companies
» GE Digital
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