Will robots replace humans in our industry?

20. November, 2013 News 1 comment

Our industry has relied on human acumen and insight to progress and stand consistent in operations and executions. Using this very intellect, humans have designed robots. Robots are the strategic locus for almost every scientific and technological operation in today’s world. Robots are today the talk of oil and gas industry .They execute a range of tasks, each under different conditions, using sensors that can measure changing parameters and yielding reaction studies. Hence, robots, by definition, are the closest emulation of a human.

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) have become an important tool in drilling, development and repair offshore already, but now Automated Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are all set to gain the market. While we use ships and huge investments to explore oil and gas today, we are looking for even more cost effective, safer and environmentally friendlier technologies with the rise in subsea environment exploration.

Liquid Robotics, Inc., an ocean data services provider, developed its own Wave Glider, the first wave-powered marine robot that functions as a persistent and versatile platform for scientific, industrial and defense applications. They have collaborated with the oil giant Schlumberger as a joint venture and are exploring its use in areas of seismic, subsea and environmental monitoring. The Wave Gliders collects information on ocean currents which give crucial data for deciding where to build an offshore oil rig, provide seismic monitoring and detect seepage from oil drilling. The high tech robot comes with flash storage, a dual-core ARM processor running open Linux software, a battery pack, sensor arrays, a GPS unit and wireless and satellite communications systems that beams data to servers in the cloud. A pair of solar panels powers the equipment while an undersea fin array taps the up-and-down motion of ocean waves to propel the Wave Glider.

Robotic Drilling Systems, on a different mission, is designing a series of robots to take over the repeatable tasks now done by deckhands, roughnecks, and pipehandlers on a rig. Its blue, 10-foot-tall robot deckhand has a jointed arm that can extend about 10 feet, with 15 or so interchangeable hands of assorted sizes. The robot is anchored in place to give it better leverage as it lifts drill bits that weigh more than a ton and maneuvers them into place. The company is also collaborating with researchers at Stanford University on a three-fingered robot hand embedded with sensors that give it a touch delicate enough to pick up an egg without crushing it.

Robots do have an edge over conventional means due to the high amount of quality, efficiency and safety they facilitate even in hazardous environments. The dilemma, rather, lies in whether their replacement to humans is really possible. As for now, the future is uncertain. The developments taking place today is shading off few of our doubts that could answer the question of their application in our industry for the exploration, drilling, transportation and even refining. The “robotic” revolution may just be the next big thing the industry would witness. Do you think we would go robotic any soon?

Illustration by Ted McGrath



About author

Usman Syed Aslam

Currently pursuing Bachelor of Technology in Petroleum Engineering from Al Habeeb College of Engineering and Technology, affiliated to JNTU, Hyderabad, India. He aspires to be a reservoir engineer and work on projects located in isolated regions. Loves travelling around the world. His areas of interest include unconventional resources, geomechanics and reservoir modelling.

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