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Event Recap: Cisco at the EEI Annual Convention

I had a great time recently at the EEI Annual Convention on June 7-10 in New Orleans, LA. EEI is the Edison Electric Institute, the industry association of the Investor Owned Utilities in the U.S. with international utility membership from all over the world. The Annual meeting is a unique event that includes the attendance and presentations by the CEOs of member utilities. The theme of this year’s conference was “Electricity Matters”, exploring the exciting changes happening all across the electric power industry.

The first day was full of excitement, with presentations from Ted Craver and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz shared his thoughts about the dramatically changing U.S. energy landscape, outlining the recommendations defined in the administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), particularly relating to grid modernization, resiliency, and infrastructure investment.

EEI Chairman Ted Craver led a thought-provoking discussion with Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, who was joined by Tesla Motors Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder JB Straubel. The three leaders discussed electric transportation, energy storage, and the role of technology and innovation for utilities and their customers. Other sessions on the first day included:

  • Approaches to Grid Security and Resiliency – panel moderated by PPL Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Bill Spence, discussing specific actions and approaches the electric sector is taking to improve grid security and resiliency.
  • The Role of the Utility in the Evolving Distribution Grid – Company leaders, regulators, and consumer advocates highlighted the role of the utility in four areas: planning, design and operation, infrastructure enhancement and customer education and protection.
  • Complying With the EPA Clean Power Plan – moderated by Gerry Anderson, Chairman and CEO of DTE Energy, the conversation centered on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and highlighted how new and innovative technologies can quickly change a state’s strategy for complying with the new rules.

The second day of the EEI Annual Conference was just as exciting as the first, beginning with a general session roundtable discussion with the EEI leadership. EEI Vice Chairmen Nick Akins, Chris Crane, and Tom Fanning, and outgoing EEI Chairman Ted Craver shared their insights on the future of the integrated grid. Dominion Resources Chairman, President and CEO Tom Farrell moderated the discussion, which also touched on transportation electrification and distributed generation.
Additionally, there were four “Electricity Matters” session tracks:

  • Microgrids and More—Integrating Diverse Resources into the Grid – Panelists discussed some of the critical questions surrounding the future of microgrids and emerging distributed energy resources.
  • Electrification—Utilities Leading the Charge – Panelists considered questions including: How do you address the claim that electric vehicles (EVs) are only for the wealthy? How do EVs and chargers factor into utilities’ long-term distribution planning?
  • Leading the Solar Growth Engine – Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association, moderated a discussion on how utilities are innovating with new technologies and programs that enable the deployment and expansion of solar and other distributed energy resources, while meeting customer needs for reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean electricity.
  • Competing for Talent: Building the 21st Century Workforce – Panelists discussed how electric companies are using new hiring and training practices to engage today’s workforce.

Day three marked a great General Closing Session with former CIA Director and decorated General, David Petraeus, as the featured speaker alongside Nick Akins, CEO of AEP. Petraeus talked with Akins about the significant global challenges facing countries and organizations today, including ongoing international security issues, macroeconomic trends, energy policy, and strategic leadership in the 21st century. Petraeus also offered some thoughts on the changing energy landscape in the United States, as it relates to fuel diversity, cybersecurity, and the need for infrastructure investment. He believes that one of the biggest threats to the United States in security terms is cyberspace, especially the infrastructure for which the utilities industry is responsible.

What Does This Mean For Cisco?

The common theme of the conference was that huge changes are not just the future, but are here today. Industry leaders continue to emphasize the need to embrace distributed generation and the requirement to increase the automation and intelligence of the Distribution Grid. Ted Craver, both during his opening remarks at the General Session and his remarks as a panelist on the Role of the Utility in the evolving Distribution Grid, emphasized the dramatic changes in the mission of the distribution grid to connect diverse and variable customer owned energy resources. This represents enormous opportunity for Cisco but also requires flawless execution to address industry concerns for cost, security and performance.

The conference proved to be meaningful, and provided some great topic interaction and discussions between attendees.

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Sustainability Up on the Roof

When most people think about sustainability at a company like Cisco, they envision solar arrays and smart cities – and we certainly have those! But humming quietly on the roof of every building is a significant energy consumer, the air conditioning.  So just as we innovate solutions for the Internet of Everything, we also search for ways to improve facility energy efficiency in many ways that aren’t obvious to building occupants.

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Driving Operational Excellence Through Digital Transformation in Oil & Gas

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Marcel Cappetti

Guest Blog by Marcel Cappetti, Managing Director, Oil and Gas, Global Enterprise Theater

I’ve just returned from CERAWeek in Houston—an international event that could be described as “Davos for the energy industry.” It’s a gathering of the power elite, including industry, finance, technology, and government leaders from around the globe. For me, it was the perfect sensing post for all the angst and opportunity that pervades the industry today.

It was my privilege to participate in a panel on “Leveraging Operational Excellence to Drive Margin Expansion”—a key concern of oil and gas (O&G) executives following the crash in oil prices. Too often in previous downturns, companies have relied heavily on deep cost cuts—including massive layoffs and cancelled projects—to keep margins afloat. But this time seems different. There is general agreement in the industry that we will not be returning to $100-a-barrel oil prices any time soon. So it’s time for more than a course correction. It’s time for digital transformation. Digital transformation will drive operational excellence and, yes, margin expansion.

Marcel at CERAWeek

During my talk last week, I shared highlights from a new Cisco study discussing the new reality in O&G and the opportunity for digital transformation through the Internet of Everything (IoE)—the networked connection of people, process, data, and things. Key findings include:

  • “Operational efficiency of existing projects” and “maintenance of assets and infrastructure” will be the top two areas of increased investment over the next 24 months.
  • O&G leaders clearly understand data’s potential—they named “data analytics for faster, better decision-making” as the No. 1 driver for IoE investment.
  • Business transformation—including breaking down organizational silos and converging IT and OT people, processes, and technologies—is essential for digital transformation. According to Cisco’s study, 59 percent of respondents do not believe their IT and OT organizations are aligned.
  • Companies that transform will have a significant bottom-line impact. Analysis by Cisco Consulting Services shows that by implementing a range of IoE-empowered solutions, oil and gas companies can capture their share of $600 billion of Value at Stake between 2016 and 2025. For a $50 billion firm, this translates into an 11 percent bottom-line (EBIT) improvement.

Cisco can help O&G companies in their journey to digital transformation through the investments we have made in key technologies—such as analytics, data, sensors, wireless, and mesh—and through solutions developed with key partners. For example:

  • Remote Operations—Developed with GE, our Connected Oilfield solutions increase personnel safety and improve asset integrity with predictive maintenance; real-time analytics at the edge and virtual expert support enable faster and better decisions.
  • Pipeline Automation—In partnership with Schneider Electric, Cisco’s Connected Pipeline solution uses analytics at the edge to improve security and environmental protection with predictive detection of pipeline intrusion, leakage, and deformation.
  • Wireless Operations—Developed in partnership with Honeywell and Emerson, this Connected Processing Plant solution improves personnel safety and process efficiency with wireless real-time tracking, video analytics, and automated incident response.
  • Secure Operations—Industrial cybersecurity solutions improve security and risk management to combat new and evolving cyber security threats, specifically in the process control domain. A good example is a project for Royal Dutch Shell that provides remote proactive monitoring and SLA-driven management of security, applications, and infrastructure. We are working with industrial control system delivery partners such as Yokogawa Electric and Rockwell Automation to support this solution, which Shell plans to deploy at all upstream, downstream, and lubricant sites.

When the price of oil stood at more than $100 per barrel, the need for oil and gas companies to improve operational efficiencies was primarily driven by the competitive marketplace—and many firms took no action at all. Read More »

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Focus Magazine Explores the Future of Energy

If you could look into the future and get information about when your car might break down, or your water heater leak, you would probably find it very helpful. The information would allow you to take care of any potential problems before they actually develop. Many industries are now taking advantage of this kind of predictive knowledge, made possible by sensor technology, which allows for remote monitoring of assets. Read More »

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Seeing is believing – Graphics Conference first day brings together industry players with Cisco

No longer just the domain of gamesters and young-at-heart, the graphics industry is now providing stunning performance to all sorts of industries such as manufacturing, finance, healthcare and design. Perhaps none more so though than the Oil and Gas Industry, as companies explore in harder-to-get-at places and dangers to workers are greater than ever. The GPU Technology  Conference in San Jose this week showed how far we’ve come in accelerating energy discoveries with less time spent travelling to far off dangerous environments.

So what’s it all about? Well, for starters four partners – Cisco, NetApp, NVIDIA and Citrix have got together to change the way users of high performance graphics applications can be used in remote and local environments. Normally geophysicists and geoscientists using, say, Schlumberger or Halliburton seismic analysis software use powerful (but expensive) workstations or have to work close to large central datacenters to get the kind of performance they need to get their applications running fast enough and their graphics visualizations looking smooth and not jittery.

That’s where the four partners come in. Putting it simply Cisco and NetApp provide a best-in-class virtualized data center with ‘Flexpod’, then NVIDIA provide high-performance  GPUs (Graphics Processor Units) that slot into the Flexpod (remember it’s based on Cisco UCS so have heaps of flexibility), and then remote users can access their graphics applications on inexpensive devices (even tablets!) using VDI (Virtual desktop infrastructure) software from Citrix. This is on show in various places in the Exhibit hall, including Cisco’s booth # 219.

What does it all mean? Well, for starters, really fast loading of the datasets – no waiting around in the break room for ages! Also – remote access to the analysis of the data – so the data never leaves the datacenter so better security. Add to that the possibility that scientists can now work together using Cisco and other collaboration tools, and productivity just got a shot-in-the-arm. The demo stowed the applications running remotely – performance was indistinguishable from running locally on expensive and cumbersome workstations or on local datacenters!

Folks at the booth were impressed. “Wow – that’s graphics visualization and analysis on steroids'” said one visitor. “We could really use that where I work” said another (yes, we’ll be following that one up!).

Other highlights today were Cisco presenting the benefits of UCS to a sizable audience, and Dassault Systems, an accomplished Cisco UCS user, talking about how they use NVIDIA GRID and CISCO UCS for Graphics Virtualization. Laurent Seror, Founder and CEO, Outscale, presents. Tomorrow we’ll hear from the Ford Motor Company with a presentation entitled ‘So you want to Deploy High Resolution Graphics Desktop Virtualization’. Chip Charnley, Technical Expert, Client Technologies, Ford Motor Company will review both the process of doing, and the results of the Proof of Concept for implementing XenApp and XenDesktop that was conducted jointly by Ford Motor Company, Citrix and Cisco. Read More »

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