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Robots' role in the oil and gas industry

With operational costs cutting deep into profits, oil and gas companies are recently adopting automation technology for more efficient and safer work.

06/23/2017


Robotic technology is an increasingly pervasive force, to say the least. A report by International Data Corporation said the worldwide robotics market will be worth $135.4 billion in 2019. In nearly every industry, robots are improving productivity and reducing operating costs.

The oil and gas industry is no different. Despite their size and potential investment capital, the oil and gas industry hasn't previously been a huge adopter of robots. That is, until now.

The boom and the bust

In the past decade, there have been several points where the price of oil has been at or exceeded $100 per barrel. Other than a major slide in prices during the Great Recession, times have been good for oil and gas companies.

Times have been so good that overall operational productivity has been ignored, until the second half of 2014 where prices dropped quickly and have stayed low ever since. Soaring profits once masked inefficiencies that are now obvious as profits have become razor thin.

This has created a serious need for robotics in the oil and gas industry. Without the efficiency gains associated with automation, oil and gas companies could have a hard time turning a profit.

What is robotics used for in oil and gas applications?

One of the more well-known robots used in the oil and gas industry is the Iron Roughneck by National Oilwell Varco Inc. This robot automates the repetitive and dangerous task of connecting drill pipes as they're shoved through miles of ocean water and oil-bearing rock. This automation improves efficiency for the drilling company and improves safety for the workers on the oil rig.

Other applications include remotely-operated aerial drones, automated underwater vehicles, robotic drills and much more. Downtime on an oil rig or other drilling site is expensive and robots are helping solve this problem to boost productivity.

While oil and gas hasn't been quick to adopt automation technology, many companies are beginning to as operational costs cut so deeply into profits. Keep an eye on the oil and gas industry to see exciting new robotic applications the industrial sector hasn't experienced yet. Oil and gas drilling is dangerous work. Robots make the workplace safer for everyone. 

This article originally appeared on the Robotics Industries' Association (RIA) Robotics Online blog. RIA is a not-for-profit trade association dedicated to improving the regional, national and global competitiveness of the North American manufacturing and service sectors through robotics and related automation. The RIA is a part of the Association for Advancing Automation (A3), a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Carly Marchal, content specialist, CFE Media, cmarchal@cfemedia.com.

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