Offshore re-imagined


Offshore re-imagined: a 2050 vision

Imagine a world where offshore facilities no longer need human intervention. Instead, drones fly materials and equipment out to robotically-maintained facilities.

It’s 2050. Remote field operations are the industry standard, cognitive computing is mainstream and robotics and mechanisation are pervasive throughout production and drilling operations.

Offshore structures are built from new, lighter, stronger, self-healing structural materials, built and maintained using robotics and additive manufacturing. Integration with renewables has made hydrocarbon production a zero and even negative carbon footprint activity.
The North Sea is still producing oil and gas, while Aberdeen, home to this year’s inaugural ENGenious™ Symposium & Exhibition, has become a hydrogen-fuelled city.
It’s not 2050 yet, but, this is a vision that is possible using technologies which are being developed today, and which will be discussed at ENGenious™.

Ahmed Hashmi, co-chairman of ENGenious™, and Global Head of Upstream Technology at BP, says that, by 2050, the way energy is produced and consumed will have changed significantly. “Oil and gas businesses [will] have transformed their operational and capital efficiency, and emissions footprint, remaining one of the most efficient sources of energy for a world that still demands affordable and reliable heat, light and power,” he says. 

Much of the transformation will be driven by developments in robotics, smart communications, automation and data analytics – the four pillars on which ENGenious™ has been built. But do we have to wait until 2050 to see their impact? Definitely not. 


By 2030, developments in sensing, data analytics, machine learning, wearables (such as HoloLens and Surface) and augmented reality will already be deeply embedded across the upstream industry, enabling an increase in remote operations, self-optimizing wells and facility reliability, says Hashmi.

Indeed, last year, Halliburton agreed a strategic alliance with Microsoft that will see the two firms work together on areas including machine learning, voice and image recognition and augmented reality (AR), with plans for so-called “mixed reality” visualisation applications.

By 2030, “Advances in engineered, advanced recovery solutions that incorporate rock physics, fluid chemistry, biosciences and digital technology, (will) have resulted in a step-change improvement in recovery factors from the world’s oil reservoirs,” says Hashmi. Digital twins of physical assets will be the norm, he says, “simulating, predicting and optimising production system throughput,” while cloud computing will dramatically increase organizational productivity.

By 2030, new assets will have a high level of automation and remote operation, while many older assets will be retrofitted with these technologies, Luca Corradi, the OGTC’s Innovation Network Director says. “We will see robots partnering with humans to execute operations offshore and advanced machine learning and AI being used more widely in data analytics and operational decision making,” he says.

Smarter working, more collaboration and inbuilt intelligence will also see production losses become a thing of the past. “Predictive maintenance, based on data-driven facts, will be the norm, replacing reactive and legacy maintenance practices,” says Jamie Bennett, CEO of OPEX Group, an exhibitor at ENGenious™.


By 2050, robotics will have made their made. Robotics and mechanisation will be pervasive in production and drilling operations, with very few people exposed to high hazard operations in the field, says Hashmi.
In fact, Total and the OGTC are already working on a project to trial an autonomous robot, first at a gas plant, then on the Alwyn platform, in the North Sea in 2018-19.

As well as robotics, materials technology will have transformed the structures we build. “Capital projects (will) have benefited from advances in new, lighter, stronger, self-healing structural materials on one hand, whilst robotics and additive manufacturing techniques have transformed fabrication, installation and maintenance of new infrastructure,” adds Hashmi.

Cognitive computing will be mainstream, Hashmi says, “with machines continuously running scenarios looking for opportunities to optimise throughput while predicting and proactively mitigating operational upsets.”

In this world, “data science skills will be as important, and will converge with, technical disciplines, while AI systems will automate decision making and control to enable a new world of remote field operations,” says Bennett.

New energies will also be felt – positively. “A greater integration with renewable sources will bring the production carbon footprint to zero or even negative,” says Corradi. Statoil, for example, is already exploring use of floating offshore wind and how it could power production facilities. Offshore power grids to make access to electricity even easier and offshore hydrogen storage or production be a norm.

We can’t predict the future, but imagining the possibilities gives us a goal to aim for. Achieving these visions, driving radical digital transformation across the upstream oil and gas industry, is the challenge set by ENGenious™. Join us on 4-6 September at the AECC in Aberdeen and be part of the transformation.

 Author: Elaine Maslin



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