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Digitalization at Eni

People, technologies and skills for value creation.

24 September 2020
11 min read
by
24 September 2020
11 min read

Digitalization, people and transformation.

The digital sphere represents a transformation lever for Eni in every segment of its value chain, from business to staff functions, in Italy and in the 66 countries where it operates. Digitalization at Eni means adopting a human-centric approach in which people play a key role in the move towards a new way of working. People are indeed the subjects who will bring about the digital transformation of both the company and our business. By interacting with technology, people can act faster, more efficiently and more flexibly, ensuring that the company is increasingly sustainable in relation to the environment and its stakeholders and more competitive on the reference market, contributing to the energy transition.

The inauguration of HPC5 is an important moment for the energy transition path. It is a further step towards the global goal that we share with our technology and research partners, to make tomorrow's energies an ever closer reality

by Claudio Descalzi

For a new corporate culture

As far as Eni is concerned, digital transformation is a process that is rooted in the past whilst looking to the future, the aim being to make our activities increasingly integrated, efficient and sustainable; it effectively improves personal safety, protects asset integrity, increases energy and operational efficiency, strengthens economic performance, promotes access to energy and boosts business opportunities; operational and decision-making processes are becoming increasingly fast and based on data analysis and exploitation. To ensure that the transformation takes place organically, a structured change management process is needed to renew the existing corporate culture and change our traditional approach to work, finding more flexible and agile ways of working and adequate tools to help people to participate rationally and emotionally.

During 2019 alone, 105 million euros was invested in the digital transformation, focused on the safety of people, asset integrity, efficiency and effectiveness of operational and internal processes, as well as on customers, against which economic benefits of 173 million euros were generated. These benefits come from Upstream (drilling, fields, surface plant management, inspection, survey and mapping with drones), Refining & Marketing and Eni gas e luce (customer value & centricity areas).

Eni recognises that ensuring efficient and sustainable access to energy resources for all whilst at the same time fighting climate change is the main challenge facing its sector. This being the case, we adopt an integrated strategy that combines financial soundness with social and environmental sustainability.

The digital sphere is a lever for sustainable development in that it can accelerate economic growth whilst at the same time improving access to energy and promoting an environmentally-friendly approach. Energy plays a key role in the global challenges we face (and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, as set by the UN Assembly), which is why we have launched a project in conjunction with the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment with the aim of developing a model capable of identifying development goals to which we might be able to contribute through our business operations and related projects. We therefore believe that digitalization will play an increasingly important role in boosting the economic development of the countries in which we operate.

Transformation: a question of culture

It is important that Eni's digital transformation spans all sectors and involves people, technologies and skills in a way that will enable us to achieve extraordinary results. Since change is not determined by technology but by its responsible use, the implementation of digital solutions is being accompanied by an appropriate Change Management programme, which is vital to ensuring that people use the solutions available to them in order to achieve the expected benefits. Only when people collaborate with machines on a daily basis can we expect to see the creation of a virtuous circle of continuous improvement that guarantees true ‘transformation’, which is primarily a matter of ‘culture’. As far as Eni is concerned, digital transformation means changing with a view to continuously creating value, which focuses on each person and their technology-enhanced skills.

Our digitalization process is also supported by our extraordinary computational capacity. The HPC5 supercomputer, launched in February 2020 at the Ferrera Erbognone Green Data Center in the province of Pavia, is the latest in a series of advanced systems that have long positioned Eni as a world leader in terms of processing power for civil and industrial use.  

HPC5: digital excellence according to Eni

The Green Data Center is the digital technology centre where one of the world's most powerful supercomputers for industrial use was inaugurated in February 2020, the HPC5, which covers a significant portion of Eni's computational needs, notably when it comes to supporting reservoir 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 further acceleration of Eni's transformation path by improving processes related to new energy sources, supporting the development of energy from sea waves, research on magnetically confined fusion and on 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. The entire Green Data Center structure has had a total peak power of 70 PetaFlop/s since 2020. The Green Data Center is also home to the eMage permanent exhibition room, offering a pathway for exploring digitalization, which has been an integral part of Eni's DNA from the outset.

Digital at Eni

The company has succeeded over time in transforming the need to process the large amounts of data produced as a result of its research and process activities into a strong competitive advantage that supports technological progress by developing its people's skills.  

This is a winning combination that serves as a guide for the profound digital transformation process that Eni has initiated over recent years. In addition to technological innovation (an essential condition but one that is not in itself sufficient to make the digital transformation a reality), it also involves cultural innovation, which creates a new way of working. The Digital Business Unit was created in late 2018 to draw up the digital strategy and effectively conduct the transformation in an integrated way across all the company’s activities. The Digital Unit defined digital initiatives whilst promoting open innovation channels with the aim of enhancing the contributions of both academic and entrepreneurial centres of excellence, both Italian and foreign.

During summer 2020, Eni’s Digital Business Unit became part of Digital & Information Technology, which in turn falls under the Technology, R&D & Digital function. The change came as part of the wider reorganisation of Eni to more effectively support our energy transition. This new structure further underlines the role of digital innovation in research and technological innovation and in the transformation of Eni's business model.

Initiatives designed to bring about change

Digital transformation is a great opportunity for everyone and requires a certain cultural renewal that must be shared on all levels within the company. Change Management initiatives generally involve providing the necessary support for both the head office and site-based personnel involved in the change (with flexible conditions and durations based on various needs). With regards both to the projects for full digitalisation of industrial plants in Italy and abroad and to other support and business projects/activities, the programme comprises several phases designed on an ad hoc basis to meet the individual need.

We have invested in powering our Digital Competence Center - an incubator for new digital skills in which we can foster new talent (data scientists, scrum masters, designers, etc.) who, working alongside our business experts, can influence each other's ways of working on a day-to-day basis and capitalise upon them by enhancing their skills through teamwork. 

This is about a community of people working together, sharing information, collaborating outside their respective ‘silos’ of knowledge, aiming for excellence through the cross-pollination of skills, ‘learning on the job’, the mutual exchange of technical knowledge (both business and digital) and continuous learning, where everyone recognises their own contribution to achieving a common goal, which is Eni’s ultimate aim.

The increasingly widespread synergy between digital tools and the technical expertise of Eni's people represents a transformation in the way we work. What Eni has done to develop advanced analytics tools is truly pioneering.

Our digital transformation in the drilling field (Drilling&Completion), for example, is based on three factors: artificial intelligence to support operational decisions; virtual reality for simulating operations; advanced robotics to automate probe plane operations. This transformation is already helping to achieve three major goals: increased plant safety; improved performance; improved well planning.

 

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Eni and drones: a winning combination

Eni and drones a winning combination

The use of drones plays a key role in the activities of all of the players in today’s energy sector. These devices, also known as UASs (Unmanned Aerial Systems), have proven capable of providing a significant return on the expense and commitment involved in using them, so much so that discussing the return on investment that they represent is almost redundant. Take, for example, the role they can play in operations such as asset integrity inspections. As a result of the time savings they represent, the amount of data gathered, the more efficient use of resources and the benefits in terms of safety in the workplace, the use of drones is also becoming standard practice at Eni. Our company's interest in this technology has grown over recent years as we pay ever-greater attention to new fields of application such as HSE, safety and security, seismic activity and logistics with a view to supporting the various needs identified in these areas through the gradual dissemination of UASs. 

Incorporating digitalization into Eni's business model

We are an energy company and we have a responsibility both to be carbon neutral in the long term and to have an increasingly positive impact where society is concerned. Eni's business model aims to create long-term value both for the company and for stakeholders and shareholders through the achievements of our profitability and growth objectives, efficiency, operational excellence and business risk prevention. Eni's digital transformation is currently based fundamentally on asset integrity and security, which is why innovation and digitalization play a key role in our business model and help us to look to the future with our sights more firmly set on a circular economy-based model.