In 2013, in a former life, I wrote a column for Energy sharing my excitement about the James Bond moments that happened at work.
That piece was about the application of military technology to civilian commercial use. The oil price was high, and while there were efforts to learn from other industries, ‘transferrable technology’ was not terminology in everyday use.
Four years on, and transferable technology is revolutionising oil and gas, not least in respect of the asset integrity.
I must say, I am in awe of the minds behind and the pace of developments in this field. I am not technologically minded, I have to put the work in; research the technology, understand its application in context and read around the subject, but am lucky enough to be surrounded by some real boffins.
However, what my experience, from the commercialisation of geospatial intelligence ‘kit’ to my work at Return To Scene has taught me, is that technology can take you all different directions, the opportunities are infinite.
A case in point; robots and technological developments worthy of Q-Branch.
Of course, as an industry oil and gas has harnessed the power of robots for decades. Since their commercialisation and evolution over four decades ROVs have transformed subsea capabilities. More recently Iron Roughnecks, robotic drills, downhole robotics, leak detecting robots and aerial drones have all become integral parts of our daily operational lives.
Compared with other industry sectors, manufacturing, for example, and in particular the automotive industry, oil and gas has been slow on the robotic uptake. While most certainly easier to deploy for these industries, the significant increase in safety and reduction in costs the robots, remote operation and automation of process have proven to achieve cannot be ignored.
With the drive for automation and efficiency gains to tackle expensive downtime and improve HSE coupled with the sheer quantity of data and propagation of connected devices, the potential application for robots in oil and gas is huge.
This was the focus of the OGTC’s inaugural Robotics Week last week, a series of events we are excited to have been involved with. Show-casing some seriously impressive and futurist bits of kit, it brought together academia, industry, robotics and provided lessons from other industries and has paved the way for further learning and collaboration.
The week came at the perfect time for us as collaborative discussion and R&D involving our R2S software and the robotic capabilities of our sister companies within the wider James Fisher family have been advancing. We were delighted to introduce James Fisher Nuclear (JFN) to the OGTC and highlight its robotic experience in expertise in the complex and challenging nuclear sector, not least in decommissioning.
Similarly, we are able to engage in discussion focussing on our recent work integrating R2S software into the movement restriction hardware developed by JF Prolec that has already been piloted by Transport for London (TFL). This R&D initiative successfully introduced and developed geofencing techniques to optimise work time, and is wholly transferrable to the use of robots offshore.
While it is clear that there is most definitely a will when it comes to robotics for oil and gas, the way is still under development and will be multidirectional.
Challenges come from complex and changing offshore operational environments to the necessity for intrinsically safe equipment and even climatic conditions for example.
Trust and security are also issues. Data breaches and cyber-attacks over the last year alone have shown the vulnerability of connected devices.
The risks associated with artificial intelligence (AI) were highlighted by Facebook in recent months when it abandoned an experiment after two artificially intelligent programs appeared to be chatting to each other in a strange language only they understood.
Not least, coming full circle on my Bond theme and in old school security terms, these platforms and assets are combustible elements of critical infrastructure and physical security cannot be compromised.
Of course there are challenges, but as an industry we’ve accepted the need for change and we are in a period of change that is happening at an unprecedented pace. It’s exciting. We are talking to each other, listening to each other and the experiences of other industries and in doing so, we are creating the opportunity to define the future of our industry.
Like in Goldfinger when Q replaces Bond’s Bentley with an Aston Martin, change can be good.
More recently in Skyfall, Q meets Bond’s response to his young age with the quip, “I would hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pyjamas before my first cup of earl grey than you can in a year in the field.”
An analogy that sums up the capabilities of technology and our need to embrace it .
I’ll leave you with a quote, not from the pen of Ian Fleming but (sorry) from a 2016 report from PWC forecasting that over the next decade “Companies will still be producing oil and gas, but in ways that will be virtually unrecognisable.”
Like Bond, we must evolve or become obsolete.
Claire Fleming is business support director at Return To Scene Ltd
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