Digitisation and new frontiers for oil and gas

Dec 21, 2017

As robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) evolve, the Australian oil and gas sector is transforming...

We’re seeing a significant shift from a country rich in resources, to a country with the smarts to build an equipment, technology and services sector focussed on digitised and automated processes.

Transitioning from investment and construction to operations and maintenance requires a renewed focus on productivity, and a willingness to explore how new technologies can make a difference to staying competitive.

There are infinite possibilities for digital processes and automation across oil and gas through the complete lifecycle—from instrumentation to analytics, controllers, maintenance and service—and also in the administrative sector. Creating flexible, efficient solutions benefits our operations on the ground (or at sea) and creates commercial opportunities beyond finite natural resources.


Technology in action: Meet Rick and Willow

At the extreme end of digitisation is the vision of robot workers. In June 2017, Woodside welcomed R2C3—also known as ‘Rick’, one of only three ‘highly dexterous anthropomorphic’ NASA Robonauts in the world.

Woodside’s vision is for robots to use sensors to detect issues that automated mobility and cognitive systems can then fix. Through a five-year loan from NASA , Woodside is exploring how the new technology like Rick could help with physically challenging and dangerous jobs on offshore oil and gas platforms, as well as simple and repetitive routine tasks. By collaborating with their operators, engineers and maintenance staff, over 300 ideas for how Rick can support exploration and production processes have been identified.

As part of their cognitive science program, Woodside has also created and trained a cognitive assistant . Known as ‘Willow’, the technology responds to user requests to locate and analyse information in seconds, that could otherwise take weeks or months. Willow learns through staff feedback what individual users need, from risk analysis for a new drilling project, to production statistics.

Woodside remains confident that digitisation through robotics and AI will create jobs in new areas, and shift the type of skills needed in the sector. Behind every piece of technology are humans who have built the hardware, written the algorithms, and are providing feedback to help machines learn.

Why is digitisation and automation so important to the Australian sector?

Over 80 per cent of Australian gas resources are located in deep, remote, offshore areas. Automated processes in exploration, drilling, maintenance and production play a key role in accessing these resources efficiently and safely.

As the industry faces higher production costs because of remote locations and higher wages, automation and digitisation creates efficiencies that can significantly improve revenue. Some parts of the supply chain can operate 24/7 using automation to undertake tasks and monitor production. The production chain also becomes easier to audit, so it’s simpler to identify areas for improvement, and potential issues can be managed before they become a problem that impacts productivity.

Smart companies use the time freed up to drive creative thinking and innovation. A focus on ‘smart work’ through data and analysis can mean better decisions and a faster path to commercialise resources and get to market.

There’s a human impact too. New technology that creates automated processes can reduce human error and improve safety— injury rates in the domestic sector have declined in recent years despite increased industry activity.

Digital and automation applications

Additionally, trends point to robotic drilling and completions becoming more prevalent across the sector. This comes as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) continue to create new ways to explore resources, inspect project sites and eventually undertake maintenance.

Equipment tagging and sensors can track activity and be programmed to be respond with automated shutdown in case of an issue, or trigger predictive maintenance to boost reliability and efficiency and avoid large-scale failures or incidents. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) could also see expert maintenance being performed remotely using robotics on site.

Technology in action: RokDoc

Developed by Ikon Science in collaboration with CSIRO, the RokDoc Ji-Fi software system is becoming a market leader in the quantitative use of seismic data. The award-winning system integrates seismic data through sophisticated rock physics modelling and risk analysis. It then generates predictions of rock, fluid and reservoir properties.
Providing support for smart, efficient decision-making on exploration, production and drilling, it’s been used around the world on late-stage oil and gas fields.

Digital software solutions like RokDoc are crucial for the Australian sector to explore deep, remote, offshore areas.

A digital future

As conventional oil and gas resources become harder to find, digitisation of exploration and operational processes provides the opportunity for oil and gas projects that are not only more efficient and cost-effective, but safer.

A collaborative approach to exploring digitisation opportunities and challenges will help shape a positive future for the oil and gas sector.

Register free now for AOG 2018 to see it all! 

The Australasian Oil & Gas Exhibition & Conference runs from March 14-16 at the Perth Convention & Exhibition Centre. 

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