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How Technology Is Transforming Oil and Gas Extraction

Oil & Gas
Posted on: 08/08/2023

man looks at ipad in front of oil derrick

Oil and gas extraction is a complex and challenging industry. It involves locating, removing and refining hydrocarbons that are to be found in increasingly remote places. Oil and gas companies are constantly looking for new ways to improve their operations, using the latest innovations and trends in technology.

In this blog post, we thought we’d lay out some of the key technologies that are transforming oil and gas extraction: digitalisation, automation, artificial intelligence, and carbon capture, and how they are improving efficiency, safety, and environmental performance.

Digitalisation: the use of data and analytics to optimise processes and decision making.

The adoption of digital technologies that enable the collection, processing, and analysis of large amounts of data from various sources has been near universal in this sector.

Data analysis allows oil and gas companies to gain valuable insights into their operations. Detailed information on factors such as reservoir characteristics, well performance, equipment condition, maintenance needs, safety risks, and market opportunities help companies optimise their processes, reduce costs, increase production, and mitigate risks.

For example, McKinsey reports that digital technologies can help oil and gas companies improve their recovery rates by 10 to 20 percent, reduce their capital expenditures by 20 to 30 percent, and lower their operating costs by 3 to 5 percent. Two key applications of digitalisation in oil and gas extraction could be the creation of:

  • Digital twins: Virtual models of physical assets or processes that can simulate the behaviour and performance of their real world counterparts under different scenarios. Digital twins can help oil and gas companies test new designs, monitor existing assets, predict failures, and plan maintenance.
  • Digital platforms: Accessible by different stakeholders, these platforms allow for an integration of data and applications that can facilitate collaboration, communication and coordination.

Automation: machines and systems that perform tasks without human intervention

Automation technologies that can perform tasks with minimal human supervision include robots, autonomous vehicles, remote-controlled devices, smart sensors and control systems.

Oil and gas companies can improve productivity, and reduce labour costs by the safe introduction of automation in certain systems.

BBC News ran a story explaining how advanced automation technologies can help oil and gas companies extract oil from reservoirs that were previously considered uneconomical or even unobtainable - reservoirs with high viscosity, low pressure, or complex geology.

Modern automation technologies that are used in the energy industry include:

  • Robotic drilling: Robots can perform certain drilling operations that can help oil and gas companies increase their drilling speed, accuracy, and efficiency.
  • Autonomous vehicles: Vehicles that can operate without human drivers, such as trucks, tractors, and even subs and drones.
  • Remote operations: Devices that can be controlled from a distance might include valves, pumps, and cameras. Remote operations can help oil and gas companies monitor and manage their assets and processes from a centralised location.

Artificial intelligence: machines and systems that can learn from data.

An emergent technology in oil and gas extraction is the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). At the moment, AI systems are mostly used for data analytics of the sort descried above, but as the systems become more advanced, we may see them used for tasks that have typically been undertaken by humans such as planning and decision making.

Oilman Magazine reported that AI technologies could potentially help improve exploration success rates and decrease drilling times through the use of the following

  • Reservoir modelling: Machine learning could create and update models of reservoirs to predict their properties, behaviour, and performance. Reservoir modelling can help oil and gas companies optimise their reservoir management, enhance their recovery, and reduce their uncertainty.
  • Well optimisation: Deep learning could be used to analyse well data and optimise well parameters, such as flow rate, pressure, and temperature.
  • Asset maintenance. We may start to see natural language processing models being used to interpret text from reports and inspections - optimising the way oil and gas companies detect and diagnose faults, and schedule repairs.

Carbon capture: technologies that can capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.

A final trend in oil and gas extraction is the adoption of carbon capture technologies that can capture and store carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from oil and gas extraction.

By using carbon capture technologies, oil and gas companies can reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, improve their environmental performance and comply with regulatory requirements.

For example, another McKinsey report stated that carbon capture technologies can help oil and gas companies reduce their CO2 emissions by 40 to 80 percent, depending on the source and the technology

Technology is transforming oil and gas extraction in many ways, bringing new opportunities and challenges for the industry. The most successful energy companies are embracing these technologies and leveraging them to improve their efficiency, safety, and environmental performance.

As the energy industry adjusts to these changes, the need for skilled and experienced engineers and technicians, hardworking site and project managers, as well as sales and admin assistants continues.

If you are looking for a position in the industry, get in touch with our team of consultants or browse our jobs listings. Give our office a call on +44 (0) 1502 564892 or email us cvs@peoplewithenergy.co.uk

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