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Time to get digital, says long-time industry leader and investor

Energy executive Maria Moraeus Hanssen reflects on 30 years in the industry, what it takes to lead through times of change, and why data fusion opens up vast potential for the energy industry's transformation and future sustainability.

Work hard and
don't waste time.

Maria Moraeus Hanssen says she ended up in the energy industry because “it was the thing to do at the time.” It was 1984, and she was one of a minority of women on the reservoir engineering track at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Moraeus Hanssen had set high expectations for herself, instilled in her by her politically engaged parents, who made it clear she was to “work hard and not waste time.”

Moraeus Hanssen has certainly wasted no time over the course of her career. Since 1991, she has been lending her energetic nature to multinational oil and gas companies, starting out in Norsk Hydro (later Statoil, then Equinor), on to Aker ASA, where she took on a completely different role as investment director, and then around Europe, where her last two roles have been as CEO. 

She returned to her native-Oslo in 2020, after concluding that it was time to “calm down,” as she puts it. Moraeus Hanssen had been moving fast for just about 30 years, leading energy businesses through highs and lows, and more recently, major transformations. 

She’s learned a lot along the way which has made her the ideal member of the advisory board for asset-intensive industrial companies, where she currently invests much of her time and energy.  

“I think one of the most important things that I realized during my career was that you can become a much better version of yourself if you work with people who are better than you.” 

It’s a realization that is free of ego, and one to which Moraeus Hanssen gives much credence. She is a believer in the power of the team, and says that if she could get just one thing across in this interview, it’s the meaningfulness of collaboration in the industry.

This is where Cognite has created a space for themselves

In her last CEO role, it was clear to Moraeus Hanssen that the company was simply not where it should be in terms of its digital transformation. It was just the kind of big challenge that excited her. And in the spirit of collaboration, she started a search for a partner to help.

The hardest part about launching a transformation journey is knowing where to start, Moraeus Hanssen says. 

Most oil and gas companies were approaching consulting firms, who helped them to draw up a strategy and point out where there was value to capture. But that wasn’t what Moraeus Hanssen wanted. She wanted a real technology provider who understood what it takes. 

“I was impressed with what had been achieved in Aker BP, Norway’s second largest oil company. That had happened in partnership with a company called Cognite,” Moraeus Hanssen says.

 

The core of Cognite is all about data fusion

"It’s a great idea. We have a lot of data in the industry, but it would take an enormous amount of time for us to get it into a subset, use it, visualize it and analyze it, before we could start discussing it. This is where Cognite has created a space for themselves.

“The more we are able to gather around commonalities in terms of software and ways of doing things, the greater the potential.”

Moraeus Hanssen says she is motivated by the “big challenges,” and there has, perhaps, been no greater challenge during the course of her career than the ongoing energy transition. It will, she emphasizes, have to be supported by a digital transformation of the industry

It’s time for the industry to step on the gas

“If I go back five years in time, I was thinking about digitalization as the revolution. It was happening so fast and it was so disruptive,” she reflects. “Now, when I look at industrial digitalization, I think of it as an evolution. We are learning, evaluating and moving steadily forward.”

These days, Moraeus Hanssen is able to take the birds-eye view. She sees enormous potential for oil and gas to come together and agree on a common platform and a standard way of collecting, extracting and sharing data. She says, “The industry is still too protectionist.” 

Her parents’ advice to “not waste time” rings especially true for energy leaders today. They face a challenge to stay relevant and be part of the energy transition, according to Moraeus Hanssen. 

“The lights for oil and gas won’t turn off tomorrow,” she says, “but you need to be prepared for the challenge ahead.”

 

The potential is obvious

Moraeus Hanssen predicts that oil & gas will move into becoming broad energy businesses, where renewables become a bigger slice of the pie. 

“My best advice is to get going, because it’s more complicated than you think,” she says. “When looking at it from the outside, it can be difficult to understand how you embrace transformation in your own company. But that shouldn’t scare you. You just need to start working to find ways to use the data.”

She lights up when talking about all the ways digitalization can improve operations. “Predictive maintenance, remote work, improved safety, reduced carbon footprint,” she says, just to name a few. The potential is obvious, she says, and believes that the right tools and industry cohesion are the only way to realize the full effects. 

Technology is driving big change in the oil and gas industry, and with it, both opportunities and challenges are continually emerging. 

“We cannot do this separately. We need a common platform, and we need to come together to find new ways to change. It’s time to get going.”

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