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It’s time to wrangle data across the energy industry, says 29-year bp veteran

Cognite’s new senior director of energy industry transformation, Carolina Torres, believes that unfettered access to trustworthy, contextualized, and relevant data is the key to effective and sustainable transformation.

Born on an Argentinian cattle ranch to scientist parents

Torres spent the first 29 years of her career looking for oil. A geologist by education, she quickly was swept up in the exploration and later development side of the oil and gas industry, devoting the dominant part of her career to British energy giant ‘bp’.

Torres’ future was a product of her parents’ own vision for a new reality. They left Argentina when Torres was six years old (in the 1970s), to begin again in Berkeley, Calif. It was a brave transformative move and perhaps planted the seeds for Torres’ pursuit of improvement in everything she has done since. 

“I’m a futurist by nature,” she says. “My mind automatically envisions how something could be improved, how I can convey that vision to others, and how I can work with others to make it a reality.”

Image: Carolina Torres outside of Houston, Texas 2021. At bp, she injected an element of innovation and greener thinking into everything she did, whether it was as complex as oil field development or as simple as saving paper. “In one building, I built a forest by stacking reams of printer paper in the lobby to show everyone how much paper we used in a month,” explains Torres. “We upgraded to swipe-enabled printers after that, so we could track usage better, and eliminate wasted prints.”

Digitalization starts and ends with data

Torres was an early adopter of the idea that data was integral to transformation of the industry. This realization, coupled with her lust for innovation, landed her a new role in bp as global head of digital transformation for subsurface and wells.

“In my first year leading bp’s digital transformation, I traveled around to understand how people were making decisions. I learned that the data was mostly in people’s head, trapped on spreadsheets or locked into one system or another. And on top of that, nobody really trusted it, so it was almost useless.”

Torres’s approach to digitalization starts and ends with data. In bp, she focused on finding a way to bring all the data together to make it usable and insightful for the organization – something that everyone in the company could trust and rely on in their decision-making processes.

“To succeed in digitalizing a legacy industry, we need to stop thinking that it’s a task for only IT or Data Management, or that some new tool will fix everything.” Torres asserts that the revolutionary power of digital transformation emerges when everything changes in concert: the mindset, the skillset, the toolkit, and most importantly, the way we interact with data.

Data is everywhere in the oil and gas business

And for a long-time it has been underused and undervalued, trapped in proprietary formats or systems, and limited to the use within those systems. Contextualization and insights were tasks done by seasoned practitioners, and the knowledge was therefore limited.

“What was missing was a platform to help us with our well planning decisions, for example. We needed to take the data from drives, spreadsheets and other systems, bring it together and connect it on such a platform. That’s where a company like Cognite enters the equation.”

The desire for an even bigger challenge brought her to Cognite in February 2021, in a global role as senior director of energy industry transformation. It’s a role that may very well present Torres with the opportunity to be a part of one of the greatest revolutions of her career.

“In my years at bp, I learned how crucial the data platform is if you want to drive digital transformation. I also learned that this didn’t only apply to oil and gas, but to the entire energy industry.”

Break data out, wrangle it and put it into context

With profitable sustainability, renewables, carbon capture and integrated energy entering the picture, things are going to get even more complex, Torres says. Cognite stood out to her as a company that was actively building this much-needed digital infrastructure for the entire industry – and for a future with a much more mixed energy picture. Torres says that success requires a coordinated and simultaneous change across mindset, skillset, tools and most importantly, use of data. 

“Cognite has ignited the data revolution. They are breaking the data out of the warehouse,  wrangling it, and contextualizing it so that better decisions can be made. It’s a vision of the future that’s become a reality, and it was something that I simply had to be a part of building.”

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