Technology was Thursday's topic at OSU's annual energy conference
Technology and its effect on the electrical and oil and gas industries was featured Thursday morning at Oklahoma State University’s annual energy conference in Oklahoma City.
The conference began with a presentation made by OGE Energy Corp. CEO Sean Trauschke, who spoke with the 200-plus guests at the event about the impact technology and regulations are having on the utilities industry.
Trauschke discussed how technological advances have enabled the utility to gather significant amounts of data that, in turn, allows it to manage its system’s operations more efficiently.
The added information, he said, enables the operation to analyze energy usage patterns, keep on top of up-to-second information about its generating facilities, immediately pinpoint outages and, in some cases, reroute the energy to minimize the number of customers affected.
He emphasized the company’s response was greatly aided by that technology in dealing with the latest rounds of severe weather affecting the state.
On the generating side of the business, Trauschke said technological advances have made it possible for the utility to boost its capabilities by adding natural gas-fired turbines that can more quickly and cleanly generate needed power.
He noted OG&E has spent about $6 billion since 2011 to upgrade its generation fleet, substantially reducing emissions levels while keeping its rates among the most affordable in the nation.
That, in turn, he said, is attractive to economic development efforts aiming to bring new industries and people into Oklahoma.
But just as important, Trauschke said, is technology’s impact on customers’ behaviors.
“Now we are communicating via text messages with customers and sending them pricing signals so they can control their own bills, if they want to," he said. "The world has just opened up.”
Trauschke said business leaders face uncertainties ahead, regardless of their industries.
“We are all running headlong into the future, really uncertain about what it holds,” he said. “We all have to be change-ready.”
The morning's second speaker was Devon Energy Corp. CEO Dave Hager, who discussed how his company deploys technology to transform its operations and improve its performance.
Hager noted it is important for exploration and production companies to operating in “good rock” areas where hydrocarbons can be economically recovered, adding that Devon has positioned itself well in that regard.
But Hager said technology also has played a key role in the company’s success, dating back to when it helped bring pioneering new techniques to produce hydrocarbons from shales into the mainstream as it drilled and completed its earliest horizontal wells in the Barnett Shale field more than a decade ago.
That led to robust industry growth, particularly during the first half of this decade.
Since oil's latest price collapse, Hager said the industry’s mindset dramatically shifted into something he calls “Shale 2.0.”
Companies today are capitalizing on technological advances to push well costs lower through increased accuracies that have led to reduced time frames on drilling and completions and helped Devon’s staff greatly increase its operational efficiencies by using real-time monitors and control systems that put people and information together.
Other technological advances, such as artificial intelligence applications, have helped its staff quickly sift through “gushers” of data that are recovered these days from every well that's drilled.
Hager said the goal is to operate a business that can make money where the West Texas Intermediate price for a barrel of oil is less than $50 a barrel, which is where he said Devon is at, thanks to its employees’ hard work and the technological assist.
“I have passed my 40th anniversary of being in this business, and I can tell you I don’t think I have ever been in a situation where I could say this business is easy,” Hager said. “You always are facing challenges of one type or another, and you are already pushing limits, because in places where oil and gas are easy to find, it already has been done.”