Covid-19 Is Accelerating Industry Automation, Eroding Jobs

This article first appeared on the BNEF mobile app and the Bloomberg Terminal.

  • Enel Green Power’s control-room operators can work from home
  • Equinor has world’s first fully remotely operated oil rig

Covid-19 has accelerated the move of energy companies toward remote operations and automation. Cheaper and better digital technologies have helped industrials reduce costs and improve reliability. Those companies that are leaders in digitalization have been better able to deal with the impact of the pandemic on operations.

For instance, when the virus arrived, Enel Green Power quickly created back-up control rooms to manage assets from home. It could do this because Enel is already operating in the cloud. Schlumberger, another digital leader, has reported 60% of its in-field operations are now remote. While MHPS, using its Tomoni product, has built an autonomous gas plant in Japan. Equinor is a leading digital oil firm and its Oseburg H platform is the first to be built fully automated.

‘Automated’ machines, despite the name, still require expert operators. Technology providers selling remote operations promote their ability to make jobs more interesting and varied, not eliminate them.

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BloombergNEF (BNEF) is a strategic research provider covering global commodity markets and the disruptive technologies driving the transition to a low-carbon economy. Our expert coverage assesses pathways for the power, transport, industry, buildings and agriculture sectors to adapt to the energy transition. We help commodity trading, corporate strategy, finance and policy professionals navigate change and generate opportunities.
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