Guillermo Bilbao
Director Mexico
View from the Top

Detection, Data and Analysis: The Road to Innovation

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 10:17

Q: What are the main differences between the projects PEMEX asked for five years ago and now?

A: Five years ago, PEMEX was renovating its internal infrastructure to fit the need of an industry being changed by the then-recent Energy Reform. A part of that was an ongoing project that we were collaborating on. This project was the transformation of their primary midstream division. Back then, this primary midstream division delivered products from PEMEX to PEMEX; it was only there to service the NOC, and as such it existed in their balance sheets as nothing more than additional costs. We helped them turn that division into a business unit that could participate in a competitive market, with its own income and its own commercial area. This involved helping them develop the infrastructural and technological elements necessary to open up the pipeline system to business. Today, the national O&G industry is more focused on increasing its production levels than on the market independence and profitability of its business units. We are helping the industry to achieve its production goals through consulting in agile production optimization, and also by achieving new efficiencies through predictive maintenance.

Q: What role does predictive maintenance play in helping PEMEX achieve its goals?

A: Applying machine learning to maintenance allows us to predict with great accuracy when something is going to malfunction. That prediction is worth tens of millions of dollars in savings. We have applied these technologies previously with enormous success in the North Sea. We are at a proof-of-concept stage in our application of these technologies in Mexico. What is interesting is that PEMEX is attracted to these technologies in part because they do not require an enormous up-front investment. The equipment itself tends to already be in place. What I mean by this is that you do not usually need to install a large number of new sensors because the sensors that are already in place are already generating all the data we need. It is merely a matter of using these sensors correctly and inputting the data they generate into the correct machine-learning algorithms to generate the predictions and thus the cost reduction that our client need. Some new sensors are sometimes necessary to improve the quality of the data but these cases tend to be few. Predictive maintenance through machine learning and artificial intelligence plays a huge role in the modernized operation of refineries and in preventing extremely costly equipment failures in refining systems. Obviously, PEMEX is greatly interested in that application as well, but it is the upstream applications that are proving to generate a lot of value for our clients and demonstrate to the NOC our commitment to helping it reach its production goals. Upstream downtime tends to be costly because operators are willing to do anything to exit it as quickly as possible, so difficult and pricey choices are made. If predictive maintenance allows you to schedule a repair or a replacement in a way that avoids this unexpected haste, that can translate into enormous savings as well.

Q: How have you seen PEMEX’s mindset toward new technologies change over the years?

A: I have lived through several of PEMEX’s phases in this regard. I was working with them when they were extremely cost-focused and unlikely to adopt entirely new technological paradigms. I was working with them when they were focused on generating income and they were constantly looking at new technologies. Now, I see they are not exactly back at worrying about costs but they are more interested in efficiency in a broader sense, and to that end they are interested in the search for and application of new technologies. There is a PEMEX engineering team in Villahermosa that is in charge of evaluating new technologies that we consider to be quite sophisticated. They evaluate technologies from all over the world and they are very professional, impartial and objective in these evaluations. In general, I feel like the evaluation and implementation of new technologies is a well-established procedure within PEMEX. I feel that it is very well-prepared in this regard.


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