René Varón
President and CEO
Tory Technologies
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View from the Top

COVID-19 Pushing Remote Management Technologies Forward

By Pedro Alcalá | Wed, 06/10/2020 - 12:09

Q: How do Tory Technologies’ products and services play into the new industry context?

A: This has been a very interesting experience for us, since this new industry context has really boosted the demand for technologies like those we offer. Throughout this industry’s digital transformation, which of course began before these crises, but has been highlighted by them as well, our focus has been to develop our technologies as tools of collaboration. This applies to our measurement and control room management systems. This sudden explosion in remote workplaces has created a great need for systems that can make information available in a carefully distributed and secure manner. What we have observed in the last two months is that companies and teams need these collaboration tools to operate and function correctly. The quality and reliability of these tools are increasingly important. The feedback we have received from our clients has been very positive, and we find it very motivating to realize how much they are beginning to depend on these tools, in order to access and manage their systems remotely.

With our solutions all you need is a common browser to access all of your field’s measurement data. This is incredibly practical for our clients. Previously for these companies, managing their fields’ measurement data represented a long and logistically complicated chain of events: coordinating a visit to the site, analyzing and discussing measurement data in meetings with supervisors back at the office, drafting a report, figuring out what the output of the measurement was in terms of billing and inventories. This was tedious but more importantly, it consumed a great deal of their time, without even securing the quality and integrity of the data. Now companies are motivated, or perhaps pressured, to avoid all of these processes and procedures, so there are new ways through which our clients are realizing how our technologies will facilitate the execution of such tasks. This added value had always been part of our commercial pitch, but it is difficult for people and organizations to adapt to new processes and procedures. This pandemic, however, has changed the mentality of organizations; today, they are much more willing to change and operate under different conditions. It used to take months or sometimes even years to adapt to this sort of thing, but now those timelines are being shortened because people have a different attitude: they see the value in our tools and immediately want to implement them.

This applies to all of our products and services, but it particularly applies to control room management systems. These crises have been very difficult for operators who used to run their operations with onsite teams at their control rooms, with alternating shifts and with permanent and direct supervision of their managers. That can no longer be done like before. Control rooms now need to have fewer people in them and receive fewer visits to protect them against COVID-19. And yet, the same number of high-stakes real-time decisions need to be made at these sites. This is why it is important to establish a digital collaborative space, where comments, files and information can be shared easily, while data is received reliably and continuously. All of this needs to happen within a context that implements top-of-the-line cybersecurity, as well as detailed traceability, so that in the event of an incident, a report can be generated that tracks and maps out the chain of actions taken to respond to such incident. Communication, collaboration, security: these are now fundamental, top-of-mind concerns for the industry. This all has been very positive for us.   

Q: How would you describe the distribution of your products and services?

A: We focus our efforts on the upstream and midstream segments of the market. We also develop projects downstream but to a lesser extent. In Mexico, we work with some of the country’s most important pipeline operators. These include CENAGAS, Fermaca and IEnova. We have also executed projects with Transcanada, also known here as TC Energy or TC Energía. For some of these companies we have implemented and installed our measurement and control room management systems. Another important client is Naturgy, with whom we have worked on some of our latest projects. For instance, we worked on implementing the SCADA supervision and operational control system, along with a control room management system.

Q: How is CENEGAS’ role developing in the current environment?   

A: I would be the first to tell you that CENAGAS is playing a very important role in the industry. They now control all the assets in terms of major natural gas transportation pipelines in Mexico. It is a very complex and time-consuming process that involved thousands of kilometers of pipelines and over 10,000 assets, including metering stations, city gates, break line valves and more. Consolidating that inventory and managing its maintenance processes are not something that anybody can do over a couple of days. By now, I would say that they have managed to successfully consolidate and structure the operational aspects of all these assets, which was their initial objective.

By interacting with both CENAGAS and private operators, we can now see that CENAGAS is the vertebral column of Mexico’s gas transportation system. With our knowledge of the model through which natural gas is commercialized in the US, we can see that Mexico has the long-term ambition of replicating it, which represents in and of itself a significant challenge that CENAGAS is committed to facing head-on. They are strengthening their tools, their technologies and even the expertise and readiness of their personnel through extensive training. The ultimate goal is to have a fully open market, with a diverse set of players, with multiple roles in the industry, from commercialization to consumption and distribution.

Q: How can the digital transformation of Mexico’s oil and gas industry become more efficient in the management of assets?

A: The first thing that comes to mind among professionals when they think of digital transformation is the implementation of data driven technologies. Arguably, the ultimate goal would be the complete uploading of all systems into the cloud. However, our vision calls for the consolidation of all that data from its point of origin to the final consumer, which can be individuals or also other systems. Digital transformation for sure will provide the foundation for the Mexican Oil & Gas industry to become more efficient, by generating disciplines to consolidate and protect the data, but most important to evaluate the relevance and purpose of data for its users. For example, it is not enough to capture process data; for a real digital transformation, it is fundamental to take the data to be analyzed directly from the source, protect the data from external agents, filter it and validate its integrity so that data will be transformed into useful information for final consumers.  Every time we begin a project, our No. 1 objective is to establish key performance indicators, meaning to define the purpose of the data to be processed. Capturing the data is generally an easy task, define how the data is going to be used and who is going to consume the processed data, are the key factors to be considered in a Digital Transformation plan.

Q: What are your most important objectives toward the end of 2020?

A: As a company based in Houston, Mexico is a natural expansion market for us. It definitively continues to be an interesting market, and that includes reestablishing business connections with PEMEX, given the immense opportunities that the NOC represents for us in terms of measurement management from production to transportation. Pipeline operators will continue to be our most important clients in the region, but we are exploring opportunities all over the industry. This includes upstream private operators, such as ENI, that will develop their own duct and pipeline infrastructure in states like Tabasco. We are also interested in expanding into sectors such as petrochemical production and processing, LNG production and energy generation. The latter represents a natural progression from our current work in natural gas distribution.

 

Tory Technologies specializes in advanced applications for the oil and gas industry. It provides innovative solutions for control room management, flow and measurement management, terminal automation, as well as truck loading/unloading systems. 

Pedro Alcalá Pedro Alcalá Journalist and Industry Analyst