Apr 3, 2020

Optimising oil & gas with intelligent field service

Mark Homer, Snr VP, ServiceMax
4 min
Reduce costs, improve services and meet the challenge of disruptive competitors
Reduce costs, improve services and meet the challenge of disruptive competitors.  While today thi...

Reduce costs, improve services and meet the challenge of disruptive competitors. 

While today this could be levelled at pretty much any industry, in oil and gas the pressure to do so is intensifying. In addition to weakening economic growth in the US, Europe and China, energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables and continued skills shortages are accelerating the need for change. According to Deloitte’s 2020 Oil and Gas Industry Outlook, balancing short and long term requirements will be tricky but the focus really has to be on operational excellence and financial discipline.

So how will this happen? As oil and gas service provider Bakers Hughes has revealed, field service has a significant role to play here. The business claims that due to an improvement in technician efficiency and performance, “the Turbomachinery department drove nearly $2 million in cost savings.” That was just one department.

Traditionally field service and maintenance of machinery has been a substantial but necessary cost to oil and gas businesses. It therefore makes sense to try and address it, streamline it and optimise it, but how?

Reducing field service costs is in fact just one part of the picture. The technology innovation that can drive down costs and improve performance and efficiencies can also derive incredible intelligence from machinery, assets and services. This in turn can provide unprecedented levels of understanding in how to optimise production and distribution and even create new opportunities.

At the root of this is IoT. Through connected sensors the industry is already transforming. Many field service teams are currently operating maintenance jobs based on data from automated asset management tools. The ability to know which machines are broken, where wear and tear is approaching replacement, and which parts need replacing before even travelling and seeing a machine has multiple benefits – ranging from financial efficiency, technician utilisation and manpower, supply chain, safety and compliance as well as avoiding unnecessary downtime.


Truck rolls are a widespread industry problem and can cost anything from $150 to $500 per visit. As visits can get into the hundreds of thousands a year, it’s easy to see how costs can escalate. The Technology Services Industry Association’s The State of Field Services: 2019 report notes that assisted proactive support technologies can help service organisations reduce truck rolls by as much as 71%.

Through a combination of field service management and asset service management tools, any organisation can start to address its costly wasted maintenance journeys. By optimising the workforce, these tools can also improve employee retention, empowering service teams with mobility and renewed job satisfaction.

It also fits with the direction in which the industry is moving. According to Deloitte’s report, future investment is no longer a given. Oil and gas organisations must demonstrate they are worthy of future investment. Given that one of the biggest challenges facing oil and gas is energy transition, this is an important industry tipping point. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s Oil and Gas Industry in Energy Transitions report, “Energy transition poses entirely new challenges for these companies and could prove disruptive to long-standing market structures, value chains, customer preferences, and the economic drivers for the oil and gas business.”

For organisations to evolve and meet new challenges they have to be of sound financial footing. As Deloitte says, “A prudent financial management strategy driven by operational and technological leadership could be key to retain or win back investors’ trust; and, while many companies have made excellent progress here, financial markets are still holding back to see if prudent financial performance can be sustained.”

The role of field service here is not to be underestimated. Turning a cost centre into a profit centre and providing the organisation with valuable intelligence on equipment and machinery performance can only drive it forward. Finding efficiencies is just the start.

By Mark Homer is Senior Vice President of Corporate Development and Head of Global Customer Transformation for ServiceMax

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Jul 26, 2021

Form Energy receives funding power for iron-air batteries

Dominic Ellis
3 min
Startup Form Energy receives $200 million Series D financing round led by ArcelorMittal’s XCarb innovation fund to further develop iron-air batteries

Form Energy believes it has cracked the conundrum of commercialising grid storage through iron-air batteries - and some of the biggest names in industry are backing its potential.

The startup recently announced the battery chemistry of its first commercial product and a $200 million Series D financing round led by ArcelorMittal’s XCarb innovation fund. Founded in 2017, Form Energy is backed by investors Eni Next LLC, MIT’s The Engine, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Prelude Ventures, Capricorn Investment Group and Macquarie Capital.

While solar and wind resources are the lowest marginal cost sources of electricity, the grid faces a challenge: how to manage the multi-day variability of renewable energy, even in periods of multi-day weather events, without sacrificing energy reliability or affordability.

Moreover, while Lithium-ion batteries are well suited to fast bursts of energy production, they run out of energy after just a few hours. Iron-air batteries, however, are predicted to have theoretical energy densities of more than 1,200 Wh/kg according to Renaissance of the iron-air battery (phys.org)

The active components of Form Energy's iron-air battery system are some of the cheapest, and most abundant materials: iron, water, and air. Iron-air batteries are the best solution to balance the multi-day variability of renewable energy due to their extremely low cost, safety, durability, and global scalability.

It claims its first commercial product is a rechargeable iron-air battery capable of delivering electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with conventional power plants and at less than 1/10th the cost of lithium-ion and can be optimised to store electricity for 100 hours at system costs competitive with legacy power plants.

"This product is our first step to tackling the biggest barrier to deep decarbonisation: making renewable energy available when and where it’s needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather, grid outages, or periods of low renewable generation," it states.

Mateo Jaramillo, CEO and Co-founder of Form Energy, said it conducted a broad review of available technologies and has reinvented the iron-air battery to optimise it for multi-day energy storage for the electric grid. "With this technology, we are tackling the biggest barrier to deep decarbonization: making renewable energy available when and where it’s needed, even during multiple days of extreme weather or grid outages," he said.

Form Energy and ArcelorMittal are working jointly on the development of iron materials which ArcelorMittal would non-exclusively supply for Form’s battery systems. Form Energy intends to source the iron domestically and manufacture the battery systems near where they will be sited. Form Energy’s first project is with Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy, located near the heart of the American Iron Range.

Greg Ludkovsky, Global Head of Research and Development at ArcelorMittal, believes Form Energy is at the leading edge of developments in the long-duration, grid-scale battery storage space. "The multi-day energy storage technology they have developed holds exciting potential to overcome the issue of intermittent supply of renewable energy."

Investors in Form Energy's November 2020 round included Energy Impact Partners, NGP Energy Technology Partners III, and Temasek.

In May 2020, it signed a contract with Minnesota-based utility Great River Energy to jointly deploy a 1MW / 150MWh pilot project to be located in Cambridge, MN. Great River Energy is Minnesota's second-largest electric utility and the fifth largest generation and transmission cooperative in the US.

Last week Helena and Energy Vault announced a strategic partnership to identify additional opportunities for Energy Vault’s waste remediation technologies as the company begins deployment of its energy storage system worldwide. It received new investment from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV) in June.

Maoneng has revealed more details of its proposed 240MWp / 480MWh Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula in Australia (click here).

The BESS represents hundreds of millions of dollars of investment that will improve electricity grid reliability and network stability by drawing energy from the grid during off-peak periods for battery storage, and dispatching energy to the grid during peak periods. 

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