With the hot topic of artificial intelligence (AI) being talked about in every industry and around the world, it’s important to understand how it might play a role in the oil and gas industry. Robotics and artificial intelligence have long featured prominently in the energy industry, but it is only during the COVID-19 pandemic that they have received more attention for their potential use on unmanned platforms. So, emerging from the pandemic, how will robotics, artificial intelligence and similar technologies shape the future of oil and gas?
There are several reasons why companies look to robotics to modernize their oil and gas operations. First, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that if workers can’t work on oil and gas rigs, then operations stop. But that might not be the case in the future if unmanned machines are able to fulfill some of the core functions of the platform. Second, worker health and safety has long been taken for granted, with drilling workers often having to perform dangerous tasks for lack of better alternatives. However, robots have the potential to be used in the most dangerous activities to reduce the risk to human life. Third, the mechanization and digitization of activities can ultimately reduce costs and increase efficiency.
U.S. companies Exxon Mobil, Baker Hughes and Chevron, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco, Norway’s Equinor, France’s Total Energies and the U.K. Both Shell and BP have increased their investments in robotics. Several countries around the world invest in R&D in robotics and related technologies. In 2022, a Japanese consortium funded the development of an automated detection system that uses robots to identify and predict hazards in offshore installations. At a trade fair in Germany, two companies, Boston Dynamics and ANYbotics, unveiled robot dogs, demonstrating the potential of robots for drilling rig inspections.
Since the post-pandemic recovery, we have seen several advances in robotics that could dramatically improve the future of the oil and gas business. A report from GlobalData in December 2022 shows that while robotics has been used in oil and gas for decades, the recent rise of artificial intelligence, cloud computing and the Internet of Things is helping to drive greater adoption of robotics in the industry. widely used. GlobalData highlights that the robotics industry is valued at US$52.9 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach US$568 billion by 2030, with a compound annual growth rate of 30%.
In recent years, significant progress has been made in the field of modular and customizable robotics, and more robots are expected to be deployed in the industry. They can now be used in the planning phase of new projects, for conducting aerial surveys, for the exploration phase of seismic surveys, and in routine oil operations for a range of tasks. Anson Fernandes, oil and gas analyst at GlobalData, explained, “There are a large number of robots deployed in oil and gas field operations today, including ground crawlers, quadrupeds, aerial drones, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV). Robots are used in a variety of tasks in the oil and gas industry, from surveys, material handling, and construction to inspection, repair, and maintenance.”
Last month, TotalEnergies announced it would partner with Rockwell Automation to develop a robotic fleet management system for its offshore oil and gas platforms. The two companies plan to begin testing unmanned operations on a single offshore asset in mid-2023. The hope is that autonomous operations will eventually be launched, using camera-equipped drones for maintenance and safety inspections and remotely controlling automated systems.
TotalEnergies has been investing in robotics for the past decade, and recent advances could mean the oil major will soon be able to roll out automation across several of its oil and gas operations. Matt Graves, director of Kalypso, a Rockwell Automation company, said, “Because of the remote and often harsh environments in which oil and gas companies operate offshore, there is a strategic objective to minimize the risk to employees on these platforms. Over the years, this has been This has been achieved through improved design and automated equipment. But some tasks still need to be performed manually, many of which involve the observation of an operator. For five years, TotalEnergies has been investigating the use of ground robots to perform some of these manual tasks, and the next step is to develop a control system to operate these robots remotely and so on. They turned to Kalypso for that.”
The use of robotics in oil and gas has long been discussed, and many energy companies around the world have invested heavily in developing new automation technologies in recent years. With innovations in artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and the Internet of Things, many companies are one step closer to realizing their dream of an automated oil platform. Investments in research and development and the rollout of robotics in oil and gas operations are expected to increase significantly over the next decade and beyond as automation becomes more pervasive.