We live in an increasingly digitalised world, a world where data is as much a leading currency as anything else. The oil and gas industry is not exempt from this trend towards modernisation, in fact, it’s far from it. We’re seeing increasing levels of both automation and artificial intelligence within the industry, affording oil companies greater scope for growth as they do so. The potential applications for such technologies within the energy sector are manifold; from drastically streamlined processes to cleaner drilling, and much more in between. The team here at TriStone Holdings wanted to examine some of these technologies in a little more detail to gauge what the future landscape of the oil industry may look like.
Artificial Intelligence Applications
So, just how exactly can AI be leveraged to the benefit of oil companies? Primarily it can be used to better analyse the massive datasets that comprise the drilling process. We mentioned how data is now a currency in its own right, yet left unrefined, just like oil, its applications are severely limited. Data stemming from valve positions, flow rates and temperature, as just three examples, is beyond extensive. Traditionally, these unconsolidated data sets have taken a great deal of time to package into anything remotely usable. With AI technologies, however, geologists and engineers will be able to pick out patterns much more quickly and easily, as well as flagging up areas in which wells and reservoirs are performing sub-optimally.
AI isn’t looking to replace professionals, though, rather better inform their analyses and decision-making so that issues can be rectified more quickly, and so that real-time monitoring can lead to real-time action. It’s thought by some estimates that recoverable oil and gas resources could increase by around 5% thanks to digital and AI processes – not an insignificant amount, whichever way you look at it. Ultimately, and quite poetically come to think of it, AI is helping refine the process around a natural resource that itself needs refining. Of all the digital trends in the oil and gas industry, AI is the one causing the most excitement.
You rarely read an AI article online without the topic of robotics being mentioned in the same breath. Indeed, robotics are already well in use out in offshore oil and gas settings, but also within onshore fields as well. With oil supplies diminishing, the locations of new oil wells are becoming increasingly inhospitable, posing more significant risks to the health and safety of those involved on the site. Robotics currently being used within the industry predominantly help with inspection, maintenance and repair tasks. The following processes all benefit from the use of semi-autonomous and fully autonomous robots:
- Pipe inspection. Traditional means of inspecting pipelines would have involved digging up the pipe, itself. This was both time consuming and fiscally expensive. Thanks to In-Pipe Inspection Robots (IPIRs) – which are capable of testing in a variety of ways (including ultrasonic and acoustic leakage) – pipelines can be inspected thoroughly without haemorrhaging capital or time in the process.
- Wireless sensors. By installing wireless sensors periodically along pipelines, you create a feedback network providing regular updates on the health and integrity of the pipeline infrastructure. This mitigates the need for manual inspection, thus greatly saving on time and manpower.
- Drill floor robots. In recent times, we’ve seen the development of fully unmanned, multi-axial drill floor robots. These advanced pieces of equipment are designed to handle drill heads and pipework, reducing the need for hands-on work. One of the most common forms of injury in an oil field is entrapment, where drillers get their arms, legs, hands or feet caught between pipes or drilling equipment such as drill bits. Having a machine that can nullify this risk, therefore, is incredibly exciting. These machines also improve reliability whilst reducing costs and overheads. The more standardised and streamlined the drilling process can become, thanks to machines like drill floor robots, the more productive an oil company can be.
The dream, of course, is to see the widespread merging of both AI and robotics into one. Whilst improving the industry every day, much of the robotic equipment in use across the industry is still user-operated. Whilst we are indeed starting to see a convergence of the two disciplines, the emergence of a self-building robot being a particularly eye-catching example, cognitive AI within robotics remains in its relative infancy. It may be decades, it may only be a few years off, but someday in the future cognitive robotics will be something leading digital trends in the oil and the gas industry, and that is a truly exciting prospect.
Some of the worst environmental accidents arising from the oil and gas industry have come from, at least in part, poorly informed decisions made under immense pressure. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, for example, saw operators misinterpret a crucial pressure reading and that, combined with other factors, led to the disaster we’re all too aware of. AI helps produce clearer, more thorough data that helps any decision to be made on an objective data-driven level, and nothing else. The more that human error can be mitigated, the fewer environmental accidents will occur. This is something that our oil and gas start-up, along with many others, are big advocates of.
The shift of the oil and gas industry towards automation and digitalisation is only going to increase in the coming years; digitalisation helps to reduce operating costs, improve safety and allows us to work with greater accuracy. This better serves both investors and consumers alike, as a result.
So, if you’d like to find out more about TriStone Holdings’ work as an oil and gas start-up, or about the other digital trends in the oil and gas industry, then get in touch! Contact us today on 0800 055 7079. Visit our Facebook page here!