The oil industry has not historically been one to embrace change by investing in new technologies. However, many company leaders realize there’s no time to waste. They know that moving ahead with digital transformations leads to better competitiveness and resiliency. Improved productivity is one of the most frequently cited benefits associated with digital technologies. Here are five advancements that help achieve that aim.
1. Autonomous Machines
Inspecting oil rigs is a dangerous and time-consuming task, but a critical one. That’s why some companies wonder if autonomous machines could save time and money while keeping inspectors safer.
An oil brand plans to have Spot, a dog-like robot made by Boston Robotics, deployed to an oil rig in the Norwegian Sea. The bot could inspect the equipment autonomously, checking for leaks and other issues, then send the data to onshore personnel for further review and action based on the results and the severity of the problems.
Subsea drones could also pitch in with inspections. A 10-year contract awarded in September 2019 involves testing several models in the oil industry. Some of them can function for months at a time before requiring maintenance. Plus, certain designs can intervene instead of only gathering data. For example, they can connect or disconnect flying leads or install bypass valves.
2. Cloud Computing
Cloud computing offers new opportunities for data storage and application access. People working in the oil industry can depend on cloud computing to oversee and protect assets, access environmental and safety information, and use project management apps to stay on top of new projects’ progress.
A market analysis report assessed changes in the cloud computing market specific to the oil and gas market. It expected a 14.2 percent combined annual growth rate between the period of 2019 and 2024. The research also showed that using cloud computing for enterprise asset management was the fastest-growing sector studied. It allows companies to increase efficiency by proactively identifying problems before they shut down operations.
When an oil and gas service provider moved 350 of its applications to the cloud, the decision caused 52 percent savings on average for the total cost of ownership concerning those enterprise applications. Other companies find that cloud computing offers increased transparency that boosts productivity. That makes sense as digital transformation provides a shift away from siloed and department-specific tasks done by hand.
3. Data Analytics
Data analysis facilitates gaining insights from massive quantities of information and does so much faster than conventional methods. One example is that the data collected could double the number of effective stages in the oil exploration process and the output per well while simultaneously saving time.
Moving forward with data analytics in the oil industry also could allow professionals to better tailor their drilling methods, such as showing where to penetrate the surface and how to steer the drill bit. Some companies combine data analysis with information sent across fiber-optic cables. The results give workers a better idea of what’s under the surface before launching a project.
Data analytics also cut the overall level of risk when companies hope to get oil from a new area. Despite geographical differences in rock layers, oil brands can avoid mistakes by applying what they know about similar regions to upcoming projects. Doing so minimizes the surprises that could throw a project off track by slowing down progress and increasing expenses.
4. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) also appears poised to forever change how the oil industry operates, letting companies optimize their processes and avoid downtime. For example, Machine Learning is a subset of AI whereby algorithms become more accurate with increased exposure to data. One viable application of Machine Learning involves using it for preventive maintenance. Companies can learn when an expensive machine might break down before it actually does.
Another recent development involves using AI for better cybersecurity in the energy sector. Oil companies and others in the industry can use solutions that depend on artificial intelligence to detect viruses, control applications, and prevent attacks. Cybersecurity experts warn that the criminals operating online increasingly target the energy sector and use sophisticated methods to ramp up the damage caused. Using AI could help add an extra layer of security.
AI-enabled chatbots are also useful in the oil industry, particularly because they provide customers with information immediately at any time of the day or night. People can ask questions about where to buy products or get technical specifications about them. This arrangement gives clients relevant information while reducing the burdens felt by a brand’s customer service team.
5. The Industrial Internet of Things
The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) encompasses a vast and growing category of connected gadgets used for commercial reasons. Deploying the technology for electronic monitoring is a popular and effective way to get results. Whether a company wants data about safety, environmental conditions or the condition of a piece of equipment, the IIoT can show reliable real-time or trend-based information.
Getting such information is particularly vital due to the aging infrastructure often used in the oil sector. A driller associated with an oil well could have products from up to 70 companies collecting statistics for temperature, incline, and pressure, for example. Before IIoT solutions came on the market, companies had to manually monitor and compile the information from those connected gadgets. The IIoT lets connected machines interact and work together, saving time and trouble.
A pioneering project is also underway to use a network of sensors to measure methane emissions across oil and gas sites. Researchers think the method could improve leak detection methods, and reduce the emissions released into the atmosphere.
A More Efficient Future
These five technologies show why the oil sector can anticipate enhanced efficiency through digital transformations. More ways to benefit from these innovations will also become apparent as more companies adopt them.
Megan R. Nichols is a technical writer who regularly contributes to sites like American Machinist and Manufacturing tomorrow. She also publishes easy to understand manufacturing and engineering articles on her blog, Schooled By Science. Keep up with Megan by subscribing to her blog or following her on Twitter.
Oil and gas operations are commonly found in remote locations far from company headquarters. Now, it's possible to monitor pump operations, collate and analyze seismic data, and track employees around the world from almost anywhere. Whether employees are in the office or in the field, the internet and related applications enable a greater multidirectional flow of information – and control – than ever before.