Both aerial and underwater drones can be used for preventive maintenance in offshore drilling, offering several advantages compared to traditional methods. In 2018 and beyond, these drones will have a prominent impact on the inspection process for oil pipelines.
Preventive maintenance is essential for many industries. For the oil and gas industries, especially, it's vital in reducing the risk of catastrophes, including oil spills and gas leaks that can impact the general public. These safety measures involve monitoring for corrosion, wear and tear and manufacturing defects. Considering the size and inaccessible location of some oil and gas operations, traditional methods of preventive maintenance are not always optimal.
The oil industry often utilizes thousands of different components. If one of these components falters, it can severely impact operations. Essentially, an operation is only as reliable as its weakest component. With that in mind, drones have emerged as a practical utilization in preventive maintenance, providing a safer, cheaper and more efficient way of doing things.
The Drone-Based Advantage
Drone-based maintenance in offshore oil makes a lot of sense. Drones can be deployed rapidly to remote areas and conduct inspections quickly and without error, reducing workforce costs in the process.
The oil industry has already incorporated aspects of robotic and artificial intelligence in their operations, especially to extract oil in remote areas that may be too dangerous for human workers. Technology is effectively simplifying the extraction process, which is good for everyone. Consumers may find lower-cost oil, due to less overhead costs from the extractor.
Oil extraction companies strive to keep prices at a reasonable level due to a variety of sectors being reliant on oil production. Still, with oil alternatives emerging, there's no doubt that embracing drones and technology will continue so oil companies can continue their strong business.
Important Cost Savings
One of the most notable cost-cutting areas resulting from drones' utilization in preventive maintenance is the training of specialist workers. These workers require ample time and money to train so they can abide by strict safety standards. With drones and other technology, oil extraction businesses can remain competitive while cutting costs. Additionally, even after ample training, these specialist workers can endure serious injury due to the remoteness of locations and the dangerous work required to extract oil and undergo preventive maintenance.
Aerial and Underwater Drones
Advances in both aerial and underwater drone technology have made both types capable of conducting preventive maintenance. Equally capable of operating autonomously, either with preset instructions or remote control, aerial and underwater drones collaborate to cover most types of terrain. While it's still essential to train workers that operate these drones remotely, the safety risk reduces dramatically from a human fatality to that of a replaceable machine.
Drones can collaborate with other robotics, which can aid in tasks like lifting oil rigs, allowing drones to transmit real-time images of pipelines for engineers to analyze. Some drones are also capable of detecting methane using sensors, as well as contributing to surveys and 3-D laser scans.
Impact on Oil Pipeline Inspections
Underwater drones are especially important for submerged offshore pipeline inspections, helping prevent leaks by conducting these inspection via remote operation instead of using specially trained workers. Although visual inspections are fairly straightforward on land, underwater can be trickier since leaks may be more difficult to detect due to the aquatic environment.
In 2018 and beyond, drones can utilize a combination of predictive data analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence. Drones can utilize predictive data analytics to progress from reactive to predictive repair. In the coming years, strides in augmentative defect recognition and classification of those defects will combine with machine learning to result in an overall decrease in oil pipeline mishaps. Predictive analytics can also incorporate weather data to isolate explanations for certain types of corrosion, differentiating whether a malfunction is due to a systemic or weather-related impact.
As 2018 promises more advancements in cloud services, memory and computer power and communication infrastructures than ever before, artificial intelligence and robotics will continue to play an increasing role in oil pipeline inspections. Additionally, data automation through these advancements can decrease costs by up to 25 percent and make the overall process much safer.
In 2018 and beyond, there's no doubt that businesses will embrace a model driven by data analytics, robotics and artificial intelligence that's cheaper and safer, making for a universally beneficial outcome.
The Future of Drone-based Prevention
Drones have been in active use in the aerial industry and others throughout the past decade or so, though the oil industry’s drone involvement is still relatively new. As a result, there is likely to be substantial growth in drone-based prevention, considering the oil industry’s strong desire to remain competitive and tap into new sources.
Drones will combine with AI and big data to provide the clearest picture imaginable regarding the safety of an oil site's infrastructure and general operations, reducing the risk of catastrophe while also cutting costs for everyone, from oil extractors to consumers. Big data from imaging equipment, pipeline-embedded sensors and offshore buoys already provides valuable insight. The rising involvement of drones in the oil industry can make for a safer and more efficient extraction process.
Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance STEM writer and blogger whose work has appeared on Manufacturing Business Technology, American Machinist, and IoT Evolution. Read more posts by Megan on her blog, Schooled By Science, and follow her on Twitter @nicholsrmegan.