All businesses need to be as efficient as possible to maximise profits. The oil industry is no different, and has turned to technology to help them inspect rigs without the risk of human oversight or injury.
A rig can produce anywhere between 25,000 to 250,000 barrels of oil a day. If the equipment fails, the cost in lost productivity can quickly run into the millions. Inspecting the site to find a problem can take hours, and repairs can also add complications.
Technology can allow the rig to be checked and maintained proactively, making breakdown less likely.
Oil refineries are very dangerous places to work. Offshore explosions have resulted in environmental disasters, and the deaths of hundreds of workers. Every large-scale accident has resulted in more legislation aiming to make the industry safer.
The price of oil is also falling due to strides being made in renewable energy. Oil companies must minimise expenditure, maximise efficiency, and make as much money as they can before the entire industry collapses.
New technology is being brought in to make the industry safer and more profitable.
One of the main challenges in oil rig maintenance and repair is navigating the sheer size of the structure. It used to require skilled workers able to climb and move around the exterior of the site, or assess things from a distance. In either case, the levels of accuracy weren’t 100%.
Specialised drones can now be operated to fly around a rig and identify potential problems before the create more trouble. Structural issues can be spotted and addressed in real-time, without the need for a long survey. Drones can be the same job, better, in half the time.
Thanks to this, humans are now only sent in when the problem has been identified and physical repairs need to take place. This means there are less injuries, and greater safety overall due to the improved running of the system.
They are also able to get into spaces that humans couldn’t, and can use 3D mapping to provide a more accurate, in-depth picture of what’s happening. This technique, known as digital twinning, is used in many different manufacturing industries. It gives a digital copy of the structure which can be analysed to see if productivity is down.
Sensors and data analytics have become commonplace in industries all around the world, from automotive manufacture to shipping. Understanding how your business work on a systematic level allows you to make changes that make that system more efficient.
The digital twin provided by drone scans can allow for any underperforming areas to be monitored and improved thanks to data from the sensors.
These can monitor flow rate, pressure, anything that might indicate a problem. This gives a holistic view of the entire system. Digitalisation could reduce maintenance costs by around 20%.
The next step in upgrading rigs is to make them fully autonomous. Statoil have already installed an unmanned platform on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, which will be remotely controlled from the Oseberg Field Centre.
There will still need to be a crew onboard to make repairs or carry out proactive checks. Keeping the rig operational cannot be left purely to robots and autonomous systems.
The oil industry is changing as fast as it can, utilising new technology to extract as much money as it can from the resource before it is abandoned.