Innovation spotlight: New tool helps co-ordinate complex teams

From site remediation to emergency response, effective communication makes for better environmental performance.

While many natural gas and oil producers are focused on advanced technologies that reduce emissions or manage fresh water use, improving how teams work together is another way to improve environmental performance. When it comes to field operations, especially in remote locations, better co-ordination of workers in the field not only saves time and cost, but also reduces emissions by reducing the number of vehicle trips required to complete the work. And, for emergency situations like a spill or fire, quick response is essential for preventing or limiting damage.

Sean Huang, co-inventor of Matidor. In 2016 his first start-up innovation venture involved spatial visualization using virtual reality.

Vancouver-based Vincent Lam and Sean Huang, the two creative inventers behind a new software tool called Matidor, saw a need to improve remote and field operations – and to reduce both emissions and costs – through better communication and collaboration.

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Seeing an opportunity

“Right now, most companies use a combination of spreadsheets, cell phones, digital maps, even pen and paper to co-ordinate work needed at drilling sites, facility inspections, remediation and reclamation work, or emergency response,” says Huang. “But with each person or team involved using their own software or other tools, and their own data concerning the site or task, a lack of communication and shared information is common.” And that in turn leads to inefficient work including unnecessary vehicle trips to the location, not to mention frustration on the part of the workers on the job.

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Prior to inventing Matidor, Lam had a number of energy industry clients and saw there were many different digital tools and types of software being used, all of which had drawbacks. Many tools require specialized, trained users who are often sitting in a head office distant from the actual work site. Also, emergency response situations can require fast action by a number of potential participants from facility owners and operators to consultants, contractors, even first responders. Co-ordinating a complex and diverse set of people can be time-consuming and difficult.

Seeing this opportunity to create a better way of co-ordinating workers, Lam approached Huang with an idea to jointly develop a unique tool that combines collaboration and co-ordination of numerous users with mapping and reporting capabilities. In short, to create a better way to collaborate across time and distance.

Vincent Lam’s previous experience with Google Earth and other spatial and mapping tools was fundamental to designing Matidor.

Creating a user-friendly solution

Matidor is a software tool that combines project management and geographic information system (GIS) mapping so every participant involved in a job or response situation at a remote location can see the location, figure out how big or complicated the job is, plan the work, assign tasks to each person or team, and easily follow each other’s activities. The tool is user-friendly, not limited to a maximum number of users at any one time, and also includes budgeting and reporting functions.

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Environmental benefits from improved communication

Across the natural gas and oil industry, innovation and technology help improve environmental performance – sometimes on a grand scale, sometimes one small step at a time. Every improvement large or small contributes to the industry’s overall performance.

In this case, better communication and collaboration among the many participants required for certain task – often in remote locations – results in faster, more effective completion of required work, from drilling a well to inspecting a pipeline. Such a high degree of co-ordination is especially important for effective emergency response. And Matidor can reduce emissions by eliminating unnecessary vehicle use and site visits.

“Our data tracking shows that Matidor users have achieved a combined reduction of about 38,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions over the past five years,” says Huang. This may seem a small number relative to the very large emission reductions underway at oil sands and other upstream production facilities, but it adds up over time and by work site.

And some upstream operators are finding their own innovative ways to apply the software – for example, one company is using Matidor to track and respond to Covid outbreaks at remote locations, and another operator is doing a trial using Matidor to track emissions and wellsite cleanup activities.

“We believe oil and natural gas has a long, strong future,” says Huang. “Collaboration tools like Matidor can help improve sustainability performance.”