In 2018 the global robotics market was worth $98 billion, and it will have surpassed $275 billion by 2025, according to GlobalData forecasts.
Over the next five years there will be a rapid growth in cloud-based robot services for armies of installed robots and for robots hired on an as-needed basis, especially by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), triggering new demand drivers.
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Applications of robotics in oil and gas
How can robotics be used in the oil & gas operations? The report highlights the key application areas for robotics in the oil and gas industry
Drilling and completion operations
Drilling and completion activities are some of the most demanding, costly, and energyintensive operations in the oil and gas industry. The location of the wells, ranging from remote deserts to offshore deepwater, further adds to the challenging nature of operations. Hence, such operations require extensive use of advanced automation technologies to enhance safety and productivity.
Automated drilling technologies that employ robotics can vastly improve drilling accuracy, efficiency, and speed of operations in onshore as well as offshore locations. Some of the robotic tools are being used to operate high voltage power switches and controlling the valve opening in pressure drilling operations.
Oil and gas drilling contractors, especially Drillmec and Nabors Industries, are at the forefront in the application of robotics for oilfield drilling. Nabors expanded its drilling capabilities in 2017 when it acquired Norwegian firm Robotic Drilling Systems, the maker of innovative drill floor robots for automated drilling operations
There has been considerable progress in the creation of unmanned oil and gas production platforms to cut down the full-time requirement of field workers and minimize potential risks. By employing robotics and other automation technologies and remotely controlling the production operations from onshore support centers, oil and gas companies can optimize production and enhance workforce safety. Robotic technologies can be applied in diverse areas on such platforms, including for operating iron roughnecks, as demonstrated by National Oilwell Varco (NOV), or as multirole robots that can undertake several tasks, such as repair works, fire suppression, inspection, cleaning, and welding. Total is conducting fields trials in the North Sea to evaluate the effectiveness of robots working on offshore platforms.
Many oil and gas companies, including BP, Equinor, Shell, and Chevron are adopting digital oilfield technologies at their production facilities. However, in many instances, the efforts to create a digital twin is largely being undertaken at production platforms that are only recently set up or under construction, such as BP’s Claire Ridge and Equinor’s Johan Sverdrup. Transforming older oilfields for remote operations is still a challenging task for operators and technologists alike
Subsea robotics have become integral to the oil and gas industry for construction, surveillance, and monitoring of the vast stretches of subsea equipment and infrastructure installed worldwide.
These robotic technologies are typically remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) capable of surveying the seabed, monitoring and inspecting subsea equipment, such as pipelines, valves, pumps, risers and other subsea equipment.
Submersible robotic solutions have found applications in the established offshore production areas, such as the US Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea, and the Persian Gulf, as well as some of the emerging offshore hotspots in Brazil and Guyana. Shell has deployed an innovative inspection vehicle from Subsea 7 that can be deployed for untethered operations. Oilfield service providers are also researching robotic technologies that can assist in the decommissioning of offshore platforms, particularly in the North Sea.
Oil and gas companies, such as Equinor, Shell, and Chevron are collaborating with technology providers for the development of robotic solutions capable of conducting asset inspections. Robots that are manufactured using corrosion-resistant materials, and designed for deployment in compact spaces while withstanding extreme temperatures and pressures, are proving to be ideal solutions for performing inspections of seemingly inaccessible locations, such as pressure vessels, subsea equipment, pipelines, and storage tanks.
Equipped with sensors for visual or ultrasonic inspection and wireless communication, robots can detect signs of cracks, corrosion, and weld integrity, among other things, and greatly enhance safety and efficiency in oil and gas operations. Besides inspection, robots are also being deployed to clean storage tanks and pipelines and undertake on-site repair works.
Drones are extremely versatile and efficient in conducting monitoring and surveillance in onshore and subsea applications. Aerial, terrestrial, and underwater drones can be deployed for tracking the progress of construction work, monitoring regulatory compliances, and detecting intrusions.
Multinational oil majors BP and ExxonMobil are experimenting with submersible drones for monitoring ocean patterns and subsea infrastructure.
Geospatial technologies are essential for remote sensing during the planning phase in oil and gas operations for setting up the necessary infrastructure. Application of aerial drones with interchangeable payloads provides greater flexibility for performing remote sensing and also improves the cost efficiency over conventional systems. Drones can capture the necessary geospatial data for the selection of a well site in exploration and production activities; corridor mapping for deciding the layout for oil and gas pipelines; and, for engineering and construction of refining and petrochemical complexes, in downstream operations.
Drone-based sensing solutions also have other broader applications, such as monitoring of weather conditions, tracking the flow of ocean currents, detection and mapping of oil spills, and detection of oil seeps.
Impact of robotics on the oil and gas industry
In 2016, a survey conducted by consulting company Accenture indicated that the year-on-year growth in spending from oil and gas companies was expected to be more on robotics and drones than on other digital technologies, such as mobile devices, cloud computing, and collaboration tools, over the short term.
In the last few years, the oil and gas industry has geared up to deploy robotics across a wide range of applications in the upstream, midstream, and downstream segments, primarily to drive productivity and efficiency amid volatility in crude prices.
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July 16, 2019
July 4, 2019