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Digitalization at Eni

People, technologies and skills for value creation.

18 February 2021
13 min read
18 February 2021
13 min read

Innovation and digital technology at centerstage: the response in the organization

“Research”, “development” and “technology” have always been imprinted in Eni's DNA. Eni has grown and developed also thanks to a strong focus and investment in these areas, which today are even more a priority in the energy transition path.

Digital transformation is part of this path, to ensure long-term competitiveness and sustainable growth by targeting Eni's strategic objectives.

The creation, in the summer of 2020, of the new Technology, R&D, Digital function gave even greater impetus to innovation by creating the conditions for Eni's research and development and technological and digital innovation to be essential levers to create value, transform its business and grow, thanks to common strategic objectives, maximization of synergies and their rapid implementation in the field on an industrial scale.

In particular, the Digital & Information Technology unit stands alongside business to achieve strategic and sustainability objectives, with a transversal and integrated approach, from the promotion of innovation and the introduction of new digital solutions to their industrialization, with a strong focus on aspects of infrastructure resilience, operational excellence and security.

The key elements of Eni's digital transformation

Today, more than ever, digital is a value creation lever, aimed at making Eni's business increasingly integrated, efficient and sustainable: it increases people's safety, helps ensure the integrity of our assets, supports our energy transition, maximizes value of our customer base and increases energy and operational efficiency.

Eni's digital transformation strategy is based on four main pillars:

  1.  "Smartify the industrial assets" - data, computing power and artificial intelligence together allow for the optimization of production, the efficiency of industrial operations, lower energy consumption and continuous reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. There are numerous digital transformation programs and projects in this area: creation of advanced underground models and predictive solutions based on machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms; predictive models for the optimization of maintenance and operations in the field; centrality of data and information that can be easily used to support decision-making, operational and control processes; remote control of a large part of engineering and development activities of collaborative platforms that optimize time to market and costs; replacement of operational activities through the use of robotics, drones or rovers. At the heart of digital solutions is safety of people, not only through new generation wearables, digital solutions (for example image recognition) and sensors, but also through advanced predictive systems based on data analysis from different sources.

  2.  "Accelerate the future of energy transition" - two lines of action: on the one hand, a contribution to the development of new products (green and blue) and services through an active role of open innovation in seeking partners and accelerating the process of identification, research, development and production; on the other hand, the engineering and implementation of the new production in a "digitally native" key, starting from a strong contribution of artificial intelligence solutions already in the research and development phase, in order to accelerate the process itself and the subsequent phase of industrialization of new technologies, minimizing operational risks and optimizing the production process. The increasingly widespread synergy between digital tools and the technical experience of Eni's people has introduced real changes in our processes and has placed Eni at the forefront in the development of advanced analytics and machine learning tools.

  3. "Put the customer at the heart" - support to Eni's commercial strategy focused on customer centricity with digital solutions and platforms that on the one hand enable the knowledge and enhancement of the customer base, across all business areas, and on the other allow us to conceive, offer and develop new products and services. Advanced artificial intelligence solutions (together with image recognition, sensors and IOT) allow us to profile our customers, understand their behavior, follow their needs and make the processes for using the services and products offered more efficient. In this context, our open innovation activity plays a fundamental role, thanks to our extensive network of international collaborations, constantly exploring the market in search of innovative solutions to offer.

  4. "Build a smart & lean workplace" - the energy transformation path that Eni has undertaken since long, by focusing on the sustainability of its products, processes and actions, has had a decisive acceleration in 2020 both as a result of the new energy transition strategy and for the effects caused by the pandemic. In this context, digitization is therefore a fundamental and enabling support for simplifying and making all our activities and processes more efficient, improving consistency and quality. At the same time, different digital projects support the creation of a new "employee experience", key to guaranteeing maximum flexibility and resilience of our way of working and aiming at simplification, elimination of redundancies, remote control and collaboration.

All this takes place by always placing people with their skills at the center, promoting continuous training, hybridization of knowledge and encouraging the change of mindset through change management and communication programs.

Today, more than ever, digital is a lever for creating value, aimed at making Eni's business increasingly integrated, efficient and sustainable. Computing power, data, artificial intelligence and, most of all, our competencies, will support our energy transition strategy by accelerating its research, development and production process.

Dario Pagani, Head Digital & Information Technology

Eni's approach to digital transformation

The context of digital innovation is by its nature extremely extensive, complex, fast, global. Eni intends to play a central role in digital innovation and to do so we see three critical areas of work:

 

A.     Open Innovation at centerstage: a new (open and collaborative) way of investing in research, development and technology, consolidating our openness to inputs external to our Company’s perimeter, coming from a large and varied external innovation ecosystem. By adopting Open Innovation, we have set ourselves two main objectives: to broaden the scope of our innovation, reinforcing and consolidating its international nature and participating in nationally and internationally recognized cooperative ecosystems; intercepting the frontier of innovation, working on the latest evolutions of digital solutions, adopting those from other sectors as well, reconfiguring them as tools for our digital transformation. There are three lines of development: a global presence, with “antennas” in the main innovative ecosystems in the world; to cooperate, creating stable collaborations and partnerships with research centers and pools of excellence; create an "open laboratory" to explore our potential future and what is “new", mainly by working on the analysis and enhancement of data to accelerate Eni's evolution.

 

B.     Acceleration through our Digital Factory: Eni has created a Digital Factory where it has concentrated all the key competence centers for the development of digital transformation projects, such as data scientists, scrum masters and designers. This is a workplace with agile methodologies where projects are conceived and developed quickly to generate products ready for their subsequent industrialization on a scale.

 

C.      Coordinated and integrated work with R&D: from the phase of research of ideas, to dialogue with external networks or to the search for technological solutions or market opportunities, Eni's Research and Development works in close contact with Digital, seeking the maximization of synergies that allows for faster development processes and greater value extracted from projects.

HPC5: digital excellence to benefit the country

Our digitalisation process is also supported by our extraordinary computational capacity. The HPC5 supercomputer, launched in February 2020 at our Green Data Center digital technology centre in Ferrera Erbognone in the province of Pavia, is one of the most powerful industrial supercomputers in the world and is the latest in a series of advanced systems that, for some time now, have made Eni a world leader in terms of computing power for civil and industrial uses. 

HPC5 covers a significant proportion of Eni's calculation needs, notably when it comes to supporting deposit analysis. What can it do? It can perform as many as 52 trillion mathematical operations per second (tripling the computing power of its predecessor, the HPC4).

HPC5 allows the “big data” generated by all production assets during their operation to be used, as well as the further acceleration of Eni's transformation path by improving processes related to new energy sources, supporting the development of energy from the sea and research on magnetic confinement fusion, climate and environmental technologies. HPC5 was developed to obtain the maximum level of energy efficiency, also exploiting energy generated by the photovoltaic field installed at the Green Data Center, so as to reduce emissions and operating costs. Since 2020, the entire structure of the Green Data Center has had a total peak power of 70 PetaFlops/s. Furthermore, the Green Data Center’s eMage permanent exhibition room offers a pathway for exploring digitalisation, which has been an integral part of Eni's DNA from the outset.

Freecooling

The Green Data Center opened in 2013 and hosts all Eni's application systems, processing infrastructure and central telecommunications systems. It is a highly technological plant built in Italy at an international level of excellence, providing IT services to management, industrial, commercial and all Eni sites, integrating with 20 local data rooms distributed throughout the country and providing services in 66 countries in the world. The Green Data Center was developed to guarantee reliability for all corporate IT needs and provide energy efficiency results to a worldwide standard of excellence. The Green Data Center is the pinnacle of energy efficiency with its freecooling systems, which almost exclusively use circulation and the optimisation of the air to cool IT systems without the need for air conditioning. Because of this, its GDC energy efficiency index stands at 1,162, amongst the best latest-generation data centres and with a global average of 1,620, improving year on year with continuous optimisation. Its environmental credentials are further strengthened by 1 MW of photovoltaic generation and by approximately 6,000 tonnes/year of CO2 emissions saved from being released into the atmosphere per year.

EXSCALATE4CoV project

Even in the early months of 2020, as part of its social commitment and to support scientific efforts to combat the pandemic, Eni made the computing power of HPC5 and its expertise in molecular modelling available to the European EXSCALATE4CoV project with the aim of identifying the safest and most promising drugs in the fight against the coronavirus.

The project, led by biopharmaceutical company Dompé, involves a total of 18 universities, research centres and private companies from seven European countries, including the Bologna-based Cineca consortium.

Our joint team will carry out dynamic molecular simulations of the proteins present on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. These proteins play a key role in the virus’s infection mechanism. This work was essential in order to proceed to the next phase of the Dompé-driven project, namely the screening of 10,000 active ingredients of the pharmaceutical compounds known today, in order to identify those most effective at blocking the virus. The use of HPC5 was justified by the fact that this infrastructure is also used in the field of molecular modelling, that is the study of molecules through the use of mathematical models with the ability to simulate their characteristics.

Without the support of a powerful supercomputer, it would take years to complete the necessary calculations. Using HPC5, however, it was possible to study the approximately thirty proteins present in SARS-CoV-2 in just a few months. 

A total of 1,074 billion interactions equal to 5 million simulations per second were processed.

By processing the results of the screening, it is possible to identify candidate molecules, i.e. those capable of attacking the virus and locking it in and preventing it from unleashing its viral load. The aim is to have more effective drugs that have already been clinically tested and are therefore immediately available.

We are an energy company and concretely support a socially equitable energy transition. Eni's business model is aimed at creating long-term value. For this reason, Innovation and Digitization play a fundamental role in our business model and help us to look to the future with greater security thanks to our wealth of technological assets, experience, methods and skills you can rely on.