Slowing global growth, oversupply and rising regulatory demands are pressuring markets and producer stock prices alike. Few industries have felt the squeeze more acutely than the mining sector, which has been forced to take aggressive action to reduce capital spending and operating costs, while retaining shareholder dividend payouts. The current significant downturn in the commodity cycle provides an opportunity for mining companies to re-evaluate their production chains and seek new solutions to old problems. 

The range of factors impacting commodity prices is symptomatic of the increasingly complex global economy. After decades of sustained growth, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has cut the expected rate of global trade growth below 3 percent for the fourth consecutive year. China, the world’s largest consumer of commodities, announced a 6.9 percent GDP figure – the slowest since the depths of the financial crisis. (Given a broad range of economic data points, even that figure exceeded many predictions.) As China’s appetite for resources slows, so do the economies of commodity-rich producing nations like Australia, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Russia and Indonesia.

As the markets for alternative fuel sources continue to heat up, the LNG/LPG sector is one of those that is receiving a lot of interest from people around the world. The number of projects based on LNG or LPG fuel sources has increased dramatically over the last several years, and many of the leading companies in those sectors have experienced significant success as a result. We have chosen to highlight a few of those industry-leading companies in this issue of Energy & Mining International, and in the profiles that follow we take a closer look at how these companies have been able to carve out their own unique positions within the LNG/LPG arena. 

Efficient field operations improve profits and reduce waste. But what about efficient back office operations? Are you doing all you can to streamline your back office financial processes? Have you optimized your invoicing, accounting and supply management systems to maximize profits? Too often, companies are so focused on using new techniques and technologies to improve field operations that they neglect back office automation strategies that can translate into real savings. Let’s consider some common back office processes by way of example.

Paper processes cost money. Consider how much time and labor is required to manually enter invoices, gas plant statements, run tickets, joint interest billing and other financial paperwork essential to operations. Not only does manual data entry slow down operations and impede cash flow, it also is prone to errors, which lead to additional cost and delays for auditing and corrections.

The process industries have been ahead of the curve on digitization, having high-value assets digitized and sending signals back for the past 30 years. Now, however, the ability to digitize and track so many more assets due to lower costs for sensor technology is allowing operators to push more and more processing out into the field. This, in turn, is creating new opportunities for better economies of scale and uncovering new ways to create stakeholder value.

The pressure brought on by low commodity prices is actually accelerating, not slowing down, the move to the connected enterprise. That may seem surprising, as many assume with low commodity prices comes severe IT budget cuts, and certainly many companies are tightening their belts across the board. But acceleration is coming as the digital economy is the only way companies can sustain the cuts they have already made and assure they can reduce their cost base when commodity prices rebound, which will eventually happen.

The oil industry has been hit hard this year and companies are struggling to keep afloat financially. With the price of a barrel of oil selling for almost half of what it was in 2014, consumers are rejoicing, while companies are experiencing diminishing profit margins. Oil companies are feeling the impact of these lower margins – according to MIT Technology Review, the energy analysis firm Platts found that the U.S. rig count decreased by over half since May 2014. But the good news is that even while the number of active rigs dropped at alarming rates, data analytics offers hope.  

Today’s energy and mining companies face an almost certain future: Wearable technology very soon will become an integral part of day-to-day operations. As I’m writing this article, energy and mining companies all around the world use legacy systems which often fail to prevent accidents or create a safe workplace environment.

Less than a decade ago if you said “insurance companies are going to place a device in your vehicle which will provide them actionable data on which to base your future insurance rates ” you’d tell me that technology is invasive and will never happen. Now in Europe that standard is commonplace. In America, companies like Progressive are implementing it. 

When Canada began seriously considering adopting International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), the management of many junior exploration companies feared the loss of their exploration and evaluation (E&E) assets on the statement of financial position; many stakeholders relied on this figure as an indicator of a company’s value. Then, IFRS 6, Exploration for and Evaluation of Mineral Resources, was introduced in December 2004, allowing for the capitalization of E&E costs, allaying companies’ fears. But now we’re well into 2015, and many juniors are struggling in a lagging economy. These companies now face tough decisions on their E&E assets and risk incurring impairment charges – the impact of which is accentuated by their prior choice to capitalize their E&E expenditures.

A ccording to the World Corrosion Organization, the global cost of corrosion is estimated to be $2.2 trillion. Corrosion is defined by the degradation of a substrate due to its interaction with the environment.  

In the mining and energy industry, a company’s assets will get exposed to very harsh conditions and without a plan in place, it can quickly become a very costly situation. It’s well known that it only costs a fraction of the investment to maintain an asset opposed to replacing it, but it’s not always implemented out in the field.  A common solution for tackling this corrosion challenge is using a coating or lining system to protect the substrate from these corrosive elements.  

In the early 1900s, there were only a few choices to consider when looking at these types of applications. Over the years, the various options proliferated and now there are thousands of choices to choose from.  To help with this process, we have narrowed it down to few basic criteria that will help a company make the right choice. 

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