The True Cost of Manual Processes in Oil & Gas

Petroleum engineers and geoscientists spend over half of their time searching and assembling data.1

These are highly qualified specialists; they shouldn’t be squandering their time combing through and compiling data. There must be a better way.

There is.

While Automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are often billed as the key to saving money and increasing efficiencies, their worth is much more substantial and far-reaching than that. Automation and AI decrease the potential for risk and costly human error and free people to engage in more satisfying work. 

In an industry that is facing a significant skilled talent shortage, the combination of making the industry safer and more appealing while helping stretch the capacity of the resources already employed is priceless.

To err is human; to automate, divine

Risk reduction through automation is a broad topic in Oil & Gas. Using automation, AI, and analytics can reduce risk in almost every area from environmental impact to machinery malfunction through modelling and predictive analytics. Using historical data and algorithms, engineers can reduce risk by determining the probability of incidents, impact, and machine maintenance.

The biggest risk to any data- and machine-heavy industry is people. In the Oil & Gas sector, 78% of executives consider a careless employee the most likely source of a cyber attack and human error is the cause of almost 50% of data breaches.2 Human error accounts for over 70% of all industrial accidents.3

The more data and “dirty, on-the-ground” work that can be automated, the safer and more secure the work environment becomes.4 The safer the industry, the more appealing it is for new hires.

Making the industry more appealing to young talent

A report from the Society of Petroleum Engineers showed that 54% of its members are over the age of 55 – and nearing retirement.5 The median age of the workforce across the entire industry is 44 years.6

New hires are needed to replace this aging workforce, but 44% of Generation Y and 62% of Generation Z say a career in the Oil & Gas Industry is unappealing. More than 70% of millennials and Gen-Z think the industry is unsafe while 70% of millennials think Oil & Gas Industry jobs are physically demanding.7

AI and automation can help lower this barrier to entry in the Oil & Gas workforce by reducing the hands-on parts of the business. The remaining work, with an emphasis on pioneering technology, will be more attractive to younger hires who are more technologically minded.

Digitization lessens the burden on existing resources

A talent shortage means fewer people to do the same amount of work. It also means that as retirees leave, their specialist knowledge leaves with them. One of the most valuable aspects of AI is its capacity to automate time-consuming manual functions.

Someone who has worked in the industry for decades may be able to retrieve specific data or make connections between information points fairly quickly because of their experience and ingrained knowledge. However, a new employee would struggle to find or connect the same information.

Digitalized files and AI can help lessen the impact of workers taking their search and retrieve skills and specialized knowledge with them into retirement. If you can automate a job function, the organizational knowledge about that specific role is no longer essential for the corporation to function. Therefore, even during a talent shortage, business continuity is upheld.

Additionally, you don’t want to squander the resources that you do have. If your skilled resources are spending time on remedial tasks (like searching and assembling data), their time is being wasted.

Using AI and automation in document management is a great place to start

The Oil & Gas Industry is data-heavy. Decades of operations have resulted in stockpiles of documents. The industry has become data intensive, creating “digital landfills.” Records are hard to locate, access, and, in many cases, may as well be lost.8 And there are terabytes of it: aging in boxes in off-site storage, in the long-forgotten emails of retired employees, or on the USB drives and laptops of employees.

The nature of the industry means that, for the purposes of health and safety, compliance and auditing, and project closeout, information needs to be located and consulted frequently. Having employees comb through and organize all that data is both time-consuming and the very definition of tedious.

Learning how many times a filter was changed, or an inspection was conducted over the last year would take a day or two through using manual processes. By digitizing everything under a unified management system, that can be lowered to minutes or seconds.

Employees no longer need to do the work of machines and can cut their time spent locating information. They can focus their attention on using their specialized knowledge to train the AI to correctly understand and classify. It frees employees to do “people stuff.”

Learn more about how to increase productivity and employee engagement by using automation and AI during project closeout when you are consolidating and handing over potentially thousands of documents.

Download this free eBook and data handover strategy.


1 Science Direct, “Big Data analytics in oil and gas industry: An emerging trend.”

2 EY, “Six cybersecurity issues for oil and gas companies.”

3 Researchgate, “The role of human error in accidents within oil and gas industry in Bahrain.”

4 EY, “How AI can help manage the oil and gas talent crisis.”

5EY, “How AI can help manage the oil and gas talent crisis.”

6 Deloitte, “The future of work in oil, gas and chemicals”

7 EY, “How AI can help manage the oil and gas talent crisis.”

8 “Digital landfill” meaning found at

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