New tools for data-driven decisionsJanuary 27, 2021
Amey Kulkarni, technical director of The Bell Group, talks to The Energy Year about the company’s latest work on AI applications for the energy sector. Bell Group provides specialised consulting services in the field of digital transformation, EH&S risk management and immersive learning solutions.
What have been the key recent developments for Bell?
We have developed applications that leverage big data and machine learning for identifying opportunities for improving safety, profitability and overall performance of chemical process industries. Our AR/VR solutions introduced by Bell Immersive have already helped companies improve emergency response preparedness, enhance learnings and reduce learning and development costs by orders of magnitude.
We are in a global competition to address climate change and we believe this is the opportunity. We have developed software tools and consulting solutions for both climate change adaptation and mitigation. We intend to be even more ambitious about our data-driven AI solutions in climate change.
Which has been the most significant among these AI-based tools for downstream operations?
We have developed several tools for improving profitability and performance for refineries and petrochemicals. Let me give you a highlight of two important tools that we have developed and implemented.
The first one is called “soft sensors.” Most of the sensors in process industries sense a single parameter such as temperature, pressure or flow. Operators manage process plants by monitoring one or more of these parameters. Soft sensors do not sense single parameters, rather they sense parameters affecting business performance such as quality, productivity, catalyst selectivity, profitability etc. These soft sensors are software tools backed by AI-based genetic algorithms that help organisations sense critical parameters that have a direct impact on safety performance, profit and loss, or business continuity.
The second application we developed and implemented is for reactor yield optimisation. Reactors are the heart of a chemical process and are mostly found in petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and refineries. Simulating a reactor with simulation tools alone is difficult. Optimisation of reactor performance can be further challenging due to the dynamics introduced by catalysts, reactor ageing, reaction kinetics, etc. Using AI, our tool eliminates these challenges and maps opportunities for reactor performance improvement that helps companies run the reactor to achieve optimised yield.
All our data-driven applications intend to help in improving safety performance and profit maximisation. We do this by tracking the variability of the process in terms of cost or opportunity.
What have been the recent developments in Bell with respect to augmented reality or virtual reality applications?
We specialise in AR/VR applications for the oil and gas and associated industries. We have developed an AR/VR-based emergency response training tool that helps organisations prepare, train for and improve emergency response. This tool offers a safe environment to practice hazardous scenarios.
We have enhanced end user engagement using gamification that encourages the team to excel at their emergency roles and responsibilities. In addition, we are already providing immersive learning experiences through a range of our products such as computer-based trainings, simulations and serious games to our clients such as ADNOC Group and other NOCs and IOCs in the region.
How has the company navigated the pandemic?
When the pandemic hit in 2020, we had to think about the impact this could have on the ongoing projects and the projects in future, just like everyone else. We developed clear protocols for our employees on how to be efficient while working from home, how to clock in, precautions to be taken, etc. Fortunately, we were already familiar with remote working technologies. We were already using tools such as Microsoft Teams and other collaboration platforms. For us, moving from an office to working from home was practically a one-day effort.
We were able to assist our clients and minimise the impact to their business from Covid through a range of services aimed at cultural transformation for digitalisation, change management and cloud migration.
So Bell Energy’s books were not affected by the crisis?
Everybody was affected one way or another. Our company is set on strong fundamentals. Efforts taken during 2018 and 2019 helped us in 2020. Despite the global pandemic, we had enough work to sustain ourselves and grow. In fact, we were more efficient: We were getting things finished on time and we were able to invoice faster.
We believe in honestly caring and honestly succeeding. In fact, in 2020, we added more team members to support our ongoing projects. We added new projects and more clients to our portfolio. We didn’t lay off anyone or reduce salaries due to Covid. I would say that we have been fortunate.
What do you see as potential niche markets for the company going forward?
We’re quite excited by hydrogen. It is certainly a solution for mitigating climate change, especially coupled with carbon capture and sequestration. Hydrogen, although a good fuel, can lead to significantly damaging explosions. Moving forward, we are building capabilities in hydrogen safety, identifying opportunities where data-driven solutions can help add value to our customers to reduce their carbon footprint. Blockchain technology has caught the imagination of the industry. We are working on solutions that improve supply chain efficiency and compliance using blockchain.
What are Bell’s key strategies for 2021?
After a year of chaos, the 2021 outlook seems refreshingly normal. Through 2021, we plan to roll out a range of genuinely disruptive solutions, incorporating data-driven AI technologies which will further enhance value for our customers. We are focusing globally, maintaining the UAE as our prime base where we will continue to invest in local product and solution development, catering to our global customers.