Oil and Google Glass: Tech Trends in the Offshore Space

The offshore industry is picking up speed in technological innovation

Technology used in oil and gas operations has made leaps and bounds since its inception. According to the Society of Petroleum Engineers, the world’s first oil well, drilled in 1848 in Baku, Azerbaijan, used a primitive cable-tool technique to reach the reserves below.

When offshore drilling started nearly 100 years later, the first platform offshore Louisiana was erected in only 20 feet of water. These days, operators are exploring high-pressure and deepwater environments that reach down to more than 8,000 feet.

If anyone had told these early explorers that one day, pieces oilfield equipment would have the brainpower to communicate with each other and feed back to operators on land when they would need maintenance checks without the use of manual inspection, no doubt they would have had trouble believing it.

Oil and gas technology advancing at a rapid pace and though some may argue that old-school thinking still exists within the industry, the equipment being used is anything but. A recent survey of global C-level executives from Accenture found that respondents in the energy sector were more likely than those in other industries to have invested in mobile technologies, showing a willingness to embrace new ideals and bring digital solutions to a historically conservative industry to recover the last drops of remaining reserves in the North Sea and beyond.

The Industrial Internet is a term gaining rapid significance in the oil industry. Coined by GE Oil & Gas (cl), it combines machines and intelligent data to provide analysis and prognostic data to enable preventative maintenance. Simply put, a pipeline will be able to report on when it would have the potential to rupture months before an incident could take place.

GE is adding to its predictive technology with a step into big data and analytics, entering the Cloud space with its Predix Cloud technology that will capture and analyse data from machinery across its operations – from aviation and energy to healthcare and transport – to use data faster and more efficiently with the potential to save billions in industries including oil and gas.

The offshore sector is also adapting more widespread trends including wearable technology. Though Google Glass may not have taken off as a mainstream accessory in civilian wear, the same product can provide huge cost savings to the offshore industry, where transporting and housing personnel to oil rigs proves pricey. Using this technology on a platform allows onshore-based staff to virtually be there and coach offshore workers through projects from within the confines of their offices, sending one member of staff where many would have gone before.

The industry is also investigating drone technology to examine remote locations as new frontiers for oil and gas exploration, with BP planning to deploy them to inspect pipelines in remote areas of Alaska.

From employing primitive manual technology in the first well and pioneering offshore drilling in water only a few feet deeper than a swimming pool to exploring new high pressure/high temperature frontiers with drones, the oil industry is expanding, with technology leading the charge. 

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