Masters of Transformation: Harnessing the Digital Potential

27 January 2023

Datuk Bacho Pilong, Senior Vice President, Project Delivery & Technology, PETRONAS

Shazurawati Abd Karim, Executive Vice President, TM One  

Puan Shazurawati was joined by Datuk Bacho Pilong for a fireside discussion where he discussed Petronas' digital transformation. This article illustrates Petronas' journey toward digitalisation and how it has helped them stay competitive and current with trends.

Digitalisation Gives Petronas the Foresight on Upcoming Trends

Well-known as Malaysia’s Energy company, Petronas is part of the Top 10 Energy brands globally and is considered to be a valuable ASEAN brand, based on the 2022 Brand Finance Global 500 report1.  After being established in 1974 by young and eager talents, Petronas first took on a regulatory role by supervising integrated Energy companies (IECs) and then honed in on its Energy trades. Datuk Bacho Pilong shared that Petronas aspired to add value to gas molecules, which later catapulted Malaysia’s liquified natural gas (LNG) industry. The organisation made its first breakthrough in 1998 by producing and selling its first cargo of oil through a first successful international venture in Vietnam.  To date, Petronas has impacted over 100 countries such as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, and Africa.

Petronas made an early start on its digital transformation journey, which began 5 years ago when advanced tech was still new to Malaysia. Thanks to this decision, the company was able to monitor the market trends closely, giving it an upper hand at predicting and preparing for the consequences of COVID19. While most of the world were struggling to stay connected, Petronas was able to maintain communication among its employees by rolling out collaboration tools as provided by TM’s cloud services. Not only did this result in Petronas being able to continue its operations, the company was able to continue monitoring and managing its international offices. This borderless connectivity between Petronas’ geoscientists, petroleum engineers, and engineers in Kuala Lumpur allowed the team to consistently deliver outputs without disruptions. Within 6 months, top notch cloud-enabled processes and capabilities allowed Petronas to execute its field development plan immediately and seamlessly.

Today, Petronas is moving beyond the fundamentals. The organisation is working to strengthen its essential building blocks, connectivity, and cloud storage to 90%; the systems and processes which proved essential in shoring up the organisations’ resilience and enabled its’ innovations.

The Key Beliefs Propelling Petronas’ Successes

Needless to say, Petronas is a prestigious company known for its’ prosperous growth and world-class operational processes. However, Datuk Bacho shared that the company is still able to scale new heights, mainly in decarbonising its’ operations and creating even more business opportunities. To attain these goals, the organisation is using digital transformation as its’ main weapon and taking a data-driven approach. The approach is powered by three fundamental beliefs:

  • Data is an asset: Petronas is looking to harness the millions of data points it gains when its platforms produce hydrocarbons. These data points will be instrumental in creating actionable insights and uncovering new opportunities for the company.
  • Digitalisation is an accelerator: Having digitalised its operations, Petronas is also working to deploy automation and robotic tech to streamline its operations
  • Tech is a differentiator:  To ensure that Petronas stays ahead of the game and the upcoming trends, the company is looking to continue leveraging on cloud services and automation.

Moving to actualise these components will enable end-to-end transparency and will unlock billions in value for the company and nation.

Leveraging Advanced Tech for Efficient Operations

Petronas in its entirety, has been implementing new technology to streamline its operations. Datuk Bacho also revealed how the decline of production levels and the increase of unit production costs would be detrimental to the bottom line. To overcome that hurdle, advanced technology like robotics, automation, and digital technology have been deployed, reducing the organisation’s OpEx from 30% to 25%.

Recently, Petronas has been utilising remote autonomous operations (RAO) to manage activities offshore and cut back on personnel during offshore projects. The deployment of RAO provides the team with the flexibility to send in a maintenance team to conduct routine and corrective maintenance whereas operations can still be overseen and directed from the headquarters. He also shared how Petronas has been actively deploying robots that communicate with the mother platform. The robots, named ANYmal, are surface operation robots designed for autonomous surveillance and inspection in potentially harmful environments.

The deployment has effectively improved workflows, reduced labour and increased safety by minimising personnel exposure to high-risk tasks.

Petronas’ Future with Digital Twins

To conclude the session, Datuk Bacho shared Petronas’ efforts of introducing digital twins in order to simplify the organisation and reduce residual siloed work processes within the company. During the second-half of this year, Petronas launched its own digital twin, a single system accessible by all employees of the organisation. Below are some benefits Datuk Bacho highlighted:

  • Creates comprehensive visibility and transparency across all of the company's processes, unlocking greater value for the business.
  • Makes information visible by providing personnel with equal access to upstream, gas, and downstream business operations.
  • Provides each team with a dedicated workstation to encourage collaboration, dialogue and participation across teams.
  • Unlocks greater financial value for the company.

Digital twins encourage transparency among all levels of personnel in the organisation. By leveraging on this newly introduced digital twin system, Petronas aspires to be transparent with society with its carbon emission by starting its endeavour in carbon tracking, in hopes of moving Malaysia as a carbon neutral nation by 2025.

Datuk Bacho’s sharing session effectively highlighted how Petronas’s digital transformation and its’ deployment of cutting-edge technology has helped optimise its’ systems and operational processes. He also highlighted how working with select service providers with the right expertise and technology was pivotal in making the transformation a success.

Visit to learn about TM One’s products, solutions and services that can enable and accelerate the Next digitalisation of your business

1 Brand Finance, ‘Global 500 2022’ (2022),

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