InnoKOL | Jim Claunch: Oil & Gas Industry Is Going to Come Together and Collaborate Together to Get Us to Net Zero

2021/11/01 Innoverview Read

On Oct.31st (GMT+8), InnoKOL had a fascinating conversation with Mr.Jim Claunch, who is the Expert Partner at Bain & Company,talking about his unique working  experience and deep insights on the opportunities & challenge of digital transformation in the upstream sector.

Jokia: How would you describe yourself in three words? What’s your motto?


Caring, positive and energetic.  I don’t know that I have a motto as such.  I try to put others first and try to connect with all people.


Jokia: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to energy sector.


The energy sector actually found me rather than the other way around.  I interviewed with Halliburton on my college campus, loved what I heard and joined them right out of college.  One of the best decisions that I have ever made.


I have been blessed with a fabulous career that has allowed me to live and work in almost the whole world.  I have had a variety of positions across my career from accountant, to VP and SVP of Global Shared Services, to CFO and CIO to Managing Director of a merchant bank, VP of Human Resources to VP of Operations Excellence to now, as an Expert Partner at Bain & Company  Along the way I have met many amazing people and I have learned so much during this journey. 


Jokia: Some of the figures in your resume are particularly prominent. Over 35 years of experience in the energy sector and 20 years’ experience at Halliburton Energy Group. What were the core challenges you faced when taking over the role as VP of Global Shared Services?


That is a great question.  I moved from a role where I had a few hundred people I was responsible for to a few thousand in one promotion.  Truthfully, it was quite humbling.  A core challenge for me was to ensure that I did my very best to understand cultural differences with the very diverse workforce that I was responsible for in the new role.  I think the other thing that I learned was the importance of getting the right people and empowering them to deliver.  My role was to remove barriers and set them up for success.  I am very proud of the leadership team that I had at Halliburton and not only the results that they achieved but the quality of human beings that they were.



Jokia: What inspired your move from energy sector to hotel industry and then back to the energy sector?  



I was very fortunate to get an opportunity to work with Intercontinental Hotels Group.  What an amazing company.  I worked for the CFO and he was very empowering towards my team and me.  We did some great things while I was there and I had a great team.  My time there was cut short when I decided to go be CFO/CIO of Powerwell Services.  Powerwell Services was a private equity-backed company and we bought the surface well testing business from Halliburton as a foundation to our company.  We made a few other acquisitions and then sold the business to Expro after a couple of years.  What a great experience and again we had an amazing team.


Jokia: The energy transition and the economic fallout from coronavirus has make capital allocation decisions that much more difficult since 2019. How will you foresee the future of upstream oil & gas investment?



Right now, upstream oil and gas investment is out of favor because they are considered “polluters”.  However, I don’t see a secure, sustainable and affordable way to get through the energy transition without oil and gas playing a major role in the transition.  Without oil and gas in the energy mix for the foreseeable future I think we would see major disruptions in power and frankly we are already seeing them.  I do believe that the oil and gas industry is going to come together and collaborate (like the industry does with safety) together to get us to net zero.  I have been in the industry for a long time and I have seen massive changes over my career, and I think the industry will step up and tackle this challenge as well.  One thing I would also like to say is that I am already seeing companies making substantial investments in technology, automation and ways of working to reduce the carbon footprint of their existing production.  New projects are now being designed with all of the digital technology built into the asset to allow for optimization of the asset including measurement and avoidance of emissions to the maximum extent possible.  I do believe that the companies that get to net zero quicker will have greater access to capital than those who do not.


Jokia: Digital Transformation in upstream O&G was a colossal task and seemingly impossible. However, with a shift in mindset, the upstream Oil and Gas industry is weathering the turbulent past. How digital will transform the upstream oil ecosystem from your perspective?



Frankly, I think we are just getting started.  At Bain, our data indicates that only around 12% of digital transformations deliver to expectations.  I think within oil and gas it is likely less.  There are many reasons for this including an aging workforce that is fairly stuck in their ways of doing things and have been for a long time.  Secondly, there is a fear from some executives that automation will make their businesses less safe when in fact, the exact opposite is true.  Leveraging data and digital actually takes people out of harms way and gives everyone a better chance of going home safely which is always our ambition. A key piece of the challenge of the transformation is the perspective and vision of executives who don’t fully understand the full potential of digital.


The good news is that many companies in the industry are starting to figure out that digital is the key enabler to measuring, managing/reducing and reporting on carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.  In my opinion, leveraging data and digital is going to increase exponentially and is going to be a key success factor for the industry in addressing and solving the existential threat of climate change.  Said another way, if we don’t move towards greater digitalization, I think our chances of success go down significantly.


Now the great news.  As we continue moving towards more renewable energy, we have the opportunity to develop an industry that is built with data and digital first!  We can build an industry that learns to share data differently, partners differently, collaborates differently, works differently, etc. all because we take a data and digital first approach. Won’t it be nice when we no longer PDF files anymore!?


Jokia:  From your experience, what’s unique and game-changing about AI technology? How do you think the oil and gas industry is using AI now-a-days?



First and foremost, AI is being used to move from planned maintenance to predictive and in some cases prescriptive maintenance.  In the US unconventional space it is being used to optimize the routes of the lease operators and thus reducing their trips to wells and reducing the amount of time that they are driving.  AI and machine learning is an area within oil and gas where we are at our infancy.  I think we can take automation to another level when it comes to running our equipment and assets without involving human beings.  This will free up our people to focus on more value adding tasks while at the same time keep our people safer.  I also believe that the AI/ML can play an even bigger role in better understanding the subsurface predictions and outcomes.  Some companies are doing a little bit of this but there is so much more that can be done that can bring substantial value to the industry.


Jokia:  We’ve noticed that you are one of the famous speakers in global leading conferences, what’s your benchmark to select the top-tier industrial conferences?



Thank you.  I am not sure that I would use the word “famous”.  I certainly chair and speak at many conferences around the world.  The pandemic has really had an impact on conferences because it has made networking much harder and I always find the networking to be where I connect with others and really get to learn a lot.  When it comes to selecting the top tier conferences, it actually comes down to the groups that put on the conferences versus the conferences themselves.  I look for groups that provide relevant content, the caliber of speakers, caliber of networking (when we get back to in person) and just how much I like the groups hosting the conferences.  I have one that is my favorite and a couple of others that I enjoy very much as well. 


Jokia, thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to address your questions and for taking the time to coordinate this effort.


Mr.Jim Claunch is a digital visionary with over 35 years of experience in the energy sector. Having previously held roles including CFO, CIO, SVP, VP and other executive positions across multiple companies and industries, his most recent focus has been digital transformation of the upstream sector. In this space, he is considered a thought leader and often engages industry leaders in efforts to develop a coordinated, industry-wide approach. He is known as a transformational leader within organizational change and development, leadership, people development and workforce planning. 


Ms. Jokia Yin is the Founder of Innoverview and InnoKOL,  the Vice Chatiman of HK International Blockchain Finance Association as well as the Head of Media at United States of America-China Chamber of Commerce。 Jokia has over 9years of marketing and management experience, much of which has been in the Asia Pacific Region within events and PR industry. She has held key leadership roles executing market research and entry, developing sales channels and revenue generation, building marketing, finance and Operations related infrastructure for a more than 20 events related to retail, tourism, energy storage, blockchain, cosmetics domains.