The Future of Downstream: Decarbonisation, Collaboration and Digitalisation
Gordon Hyland, Sales Director, Touchstar Technologies
There are three topics that are being discussed a lot in our industry
right now. They are decarbonisation, collaboration and digitalisation.
Not only are they being discussed a lot, but they are also being debated
in conjunction with each other. It is very rare for one of these topics to be mentioned
without the other two also being brought up in the conversation, they are
They are not just topics of debate within our sector however, they are also
important topics within upstream and midstream - and in fact in nearly all industries
and in wider society too, in one form or another.
The focus is being more directly applied to the oil and gas sector, particularly
ahead of COP28, which is being held in the United Arab Emirates from 30th
November to 12th December this year.
Ahead of COP28, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, the president-designate of the
conference has urged the oil and gas industry to create a new narrative about itself.
He wants the sector to:
opportunity to step up, flip the script and show the world once again how this
industry is an important part of the solutions we need."
But what does this mean for us, and how can you get involved? Read more
to find out.
Decarbonisation is the key driver for all elements of this discussion. Across
all industries and all walks of life, people are looking at ways to decarbonise.
Society is demanding that we all change our behaviours and practices, both
personally and professionally. That societal demand is being supported by new
rules and laws coming from regulators and governments across the world. The oil and gas sector is at the centre of any calls for decarbonisation.
In fact, a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has highlighted
the need for the oil and gas sector to make immediate changes.
If the pressure from industry bodies wasn't enough, there is also
financial pressure from banks and investors to make changes. More and more investors
are under scrutiny to ensure that their investment portfolio is as 'green' as
possible, which means that they feel unable to back as many oil and gas
companies or projects as they once did. Earlier this year HSCB bank announced
that it was no longer providing funding for fossil fuel projects.
What is decarbonisation?
what we can do, we first must understand what it is we're trying to achieve -
what decarbonisation actually is.
simply, decarbonisation is the removal or reduction of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
So, any action that reduces the amount of CO2 released can be considered
whole oil and gas sector strategies that are used for decarbonisation can
involve investing in renewable energy, working out how best to adopt cleaner
refining technologies, or developing low-carbon fuels. On top of that
technologies that assist in carbon capture, utilisation, and storage (CCUS) can
be used by the sector to mitigate any emissions. However, they are not the only
decarbonisation techniques that can be used, especially not for the downstream
and most important thing is to do something. To start.
means looking at any methods you can adopt to reduce emissions in your business.
Digitalisation is one key way that you can help - which we'll look at below.
have started, then you need to assess where you have got to. Decarbonisation is
an ongoing process - constantly looking to reduce emissions. Once you have made
reductions, then you can measure those efforts and look at even greater ways to
reduce, setting yourself new targets. The process of decarbonisation is about seeking
reason for doing all of this, is that it is the right thing to do. The societal
and regulatory pressures, as mentioned above are, other good reasons. However,
there are direct financial benefits to taking decarbonisation actions.
Increasingly, your customers - and your customers' customers - will start to
define businesses by their green efforts as much as their price or level of
service. Highlighting decarbonisation efforts throughout the whole supply chain
will soon be as important to a business as being able to keep the prices low -
in fact, in some instances, it will become more important as some customers
will be willing to pay more to support decarbonisation actions.
three terms, collaboration is possibly the easiest to define, but the hardest
to truly understand or embrace. Quite simply, collaboration is about working
together. But that simple definition hides lots of complexity.
all, who we should be working together with. Internally it is across groups and
departments, working with different P&L divisions and not worrying if the
'P' goes to them or whether the 'L' comes to you. However, it is also about
collaborating across companies, working together to create best practice for
the industry and even across industries. While on a macro scale, collaboration
means working across nations - governments working together to affect true,
But even if
we understand that definition, working towards achieving it can be extremely
collaboration will often involve cultural change within organisations. Most
organisations, and by extension, most people within organisations, are not natural
collaborators. They prefer to keep their ideas, knowledge and expertise to
themselves, only revealing or sharing just enough to get the task done.
collaborations start from the opposite end of the scale - sharing everything to
then determine the best way to get the task done, or even to determine the true
nature of the task at hand.
Yet from an
outside perspective, collaboration is probably considered the easiest of the
three to solve.
particularly true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the pandemic we
came together, as a global society, to work together for the greater good. Wider
society now expects us to be able to come together again and work in collaboration
to help solve the environmental issues that are facing us all.
Digitalisation is what brings the other two together, in many senses digitalisation,
in our modern society, is what makes both decarbonisation and collaboration
possible. Digitalisation provides the tools and methodologies.
Again, for many individuals the pandemic made our lives more digital.
When we couldn't leave our homes, we used digital tools to communicate - all
those Zoom calls, quizzes and get togethers - because that was the only way we
could do it. But as a society we are now for more aware of the digitalisation
of life and work.
Of course, digitalisation is not new to the oil and gas sector. Digital
tools and practices, such as customer relationship management (CRM), resource
planning and energy trade and risk management (ETRM), are common in the sector.
While more recently they have been joined by use of the internet of things
(IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI).
For the downstream sector the key use of digitalisation has been in
helping to plan and optimise deliveries, resulting in efficiencies that not
only help to decarbonise, but also save time and money.
By bringing together data from different sources, such as the tachograph,
flow metre and valve control from the driver, along with electronic proof of
delivery - that also reduces the need for paperwork - and combining it with
back-office systems, and tank telemetry systems, the increased digitalisation
of downstream means that jobs and routes can be planned more efficiently. The
whole process of the downstream sector can be made more proficient with these
This is not abstract theory. Touchstar clients are already investing
heavily in the process of digitalisation. A perfect example is Flogas. Flogas has
sought to break down silos and promote collaboration across its supply chain.
The company used to rely on fixed delivery cycles or an algorithm that
predicted when they were going to need gas, but has now invested millions of
pounds into implementing tank telematic systems, which provide a regular
reading of their customers' consumption and tank levels. By obtaining this vital
information in real-time, Flogas has been able to centralise its orders, meaning
it can now draw volume at quieter times and outside of peak periods.
By investing in a computer-based scheduling system, Flogas is now able
to implement seven-day, rolling scheduling periods, guaranteeing further
visibility. Additionally, through the use of demand sensing, Flogas will
continue to fulfil requests across its forecasting operations, as well as
taking a greater look at customer consumption data to extrapolate three months
of rolling forecast data. The Fuelstar on-truck computing system, supplied by
Touchstar, really ties all this together. Scheduled routes go out to the
driver, and when they complete a job, an invoice goes out in real-time. If Flogas
doesn't deliver on that day, it goes back to the order pot for rescheduling
This level of increased efficiency automatically means decarbonisation -
deliveries that are more effective save fuel and resources. While there are big
benefits to 'going paperless'. We estimate that our existing client base saves
83 million sheets of paper (the equivalent of 20,000 trees) just by eliminating
the hard copy POD and invoicing. However, there are benefits beyond
decarbonisation as well, including:
cash flow and better oversight of productivity levels
safety and easier to manage compliance
tools and the reliable transmission of data
TouchStar can help
Decarbonisation, through collaboration and digitalisation, will continue
to be a key priority for the oil and gas sector - societies and governments
will demand it.
At TouchStar, we specialise in the digitalisation aspect of the mix and
can support you in your decarbonisation journey - as well as provide numerous
other benefits to your organisation. If you are looking further into this, then
why not get in touch to talk to our expert team. You can find out how our
FuelStar system and technology can help your business.
 Cop28 - https://unfccc.int/cop28  Oil Review Middle East - https://www.oilreviewmiddleeast.com/industry/cop28-president-designate-calls-on-oil-gas-industry-to-accelerate-decarbonisation  IEA - https://www.iea.org/news/new-iea-report-highlights-the-need-and-means-for-the-oil-and-gas-industry-to-drastically-cut-emissions-from-its-operations  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-63975173
About the author - Gordon Hyland
Gordon (53) has almost thirty
years' experience supporting customers with complex, field based, technology
solutions. He has been with Touchstar Group for six years and became head
of the Fuels Division in 2019.
In his spare time he enjoys
family life and his main passions are travel and skiing whenever possible.
Contact Gordon at Gordon.firstname.lastname@example.org