Oil Industry Set To Use Drones For Dangerous Inspection Work


The oil industry is always looking for ways to increase efficiency and lower operational costs.  With the constant increase of new technologies, many industries are evolving with the times and the oil industry is no different.

Oil companies are now looking at drones to carry out some of their most dangerous jobs. In an offshore oil rig, using robots and drones can save lives and provide massive financial gains as well as improve operations across different sectors of the industry.  For example, in the United States Gulf of Mexico, no one is more passionate about using new drone technology to ensure the safety and excellence of business operations than the oil company BP. This became more apparent after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

In the Gulf of Mexico, BP uses a robot that is as small as a dog to inspect its oil rig platform. The robot is called a magnetic crawler and is outfitted with a very strong and powerful magnet plus a high-definition camera. The inspection operation carried out by the robot is supported by drones that are also equipped with cameras, which are used in capturing the tiniest details looking for any potential hazards.  Executives at BP explained that robots and drones can complete inspections in approximately half the time it takes humans to do it, and at the same time protect workers from unsafe offshore environments.

The data collected is significant and used for maintenance, decision making and much more. The fact that offshore workers are kept safe is also a key factor that cannot be ignored.  Anytime technology can help save lives is a huge benefit.

BP also makes use of robots and drones at Cherry Point, an oil refinery in Washington. Here, these drones inspect buildings including a hydrocracker reactor by using drones and robots attached with cameras and other technology such as ultrasound machines. They can detect microscopic faults in the reactor’s body and help reduce inspection time to about an hour. This is really a huge improvement when compared to the 23 hours typically required by human workers to physically inspect the unit when a shutdown is planned.

Some offshore workers say they are not worried that robots and drones may take over their jobs. The fact drones will make operations run smoother while reducing the risk of their lives is a welcome change.  Though the high upfront costs of acquiring this new technology may be a tough sell for smaller oil firms, the big oil companies can afford to join the race to innovate and drones will certainly be at the forefront.


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