Celebrating years of putting remote assets into focus

The Apollo 8 mission produced the first photos of Earth from deep space
Opinion by Catriona JohnstonGlobal accounts manager, Return To Scene, Houston

“Houston, please be informed there is a Santa Claus.”

These are the words of legendary Apollo 8 astronaut Jim Lovell 50 years ago as he and his crew took man to the dark side of the moon for the first time.

In terms of historical events, 1968 had many lows, but for technology it was a year of great advancement from the introduction by Boeing of the first 747 jumbo jet, to the completion of the first working prototype of a two player video game.

And, as OTC marks its 50th anniversary too, we are marking an anniversary of our own. While our software, R2S, and scene capture methodology were developed for the forensic sector, in 2008 we made the industry leap to oil and gas, a real world example of technology transfer, and a journey I have been part of for the past six years.

We have talked previously in this column about the innovation “push and pull” triggered by the downturn in oil and gas. Of course, during this period of accelerated development, it is exciting to talk about what is next − the new technologies coming to market. But for me, in my role, focussing on and having an understanding of what has already been accomplished is fundamentally important.

There are two key reasons for this. Firstly, to recognise the areas in which there is evidence of tangible benefits we are delivering to industry and, secondly, how we maximise the use, for our clients, of the vast swaths of visual data we have captured.

Just as the Apollo 8 mission produced the first photos of Earth from deep space, as the vanguard in photographic digital survey, Return To Scene pioneered techniques that allowed us through our R2S software to provide our clients with the ability to view remote assets from the safety of the office in high definition with intuitive navigable capability – effectively revolutionising asset management.


Today, the fourth iteration of this software is being rolled out to our clients globally with functionality that was, due to the unprecedented pace of technological advancement, space-age just a decade ago.

Interestingly, just last month, the head of Deloitte’s Centre for Energy Solutions reported that “upstream companies generated never-before-seen operational improvements, efficiencies and productivity gains during the extended downturn from 2014-2017”.

Wider industry research shows that technology has played a major role in this smarter and leaner era. This supports our research and is further evidenced by the statistics and feedback we have from our clients and users throughout their respective supply chains.

These examples range from savings of $20million (equating to 75 man years in time) on a North Sea renewal campaign to a further $20millio

n saving in not-lost production during a GOM

Turnaround and a 220 person reduction in POB in Trinidad – the result of just a three-day R2S deployment to site. Efficiency creation has also been recognised in decom phases, by users specialising in waste and material inventory creation negating the need of offshore verification.

Our work offshore Canada also provided such a positive use case and value proposition that R2S has been determined as best practice for decommissioning projects for that client.

Taking into account that we have 150 digital captures under our belt (and counting) the sheer quantity of data we have captured is astounding, and puts us in a unique position when it comes to our developments in areas such as AR, VR and Robotics, for example.

It’s personally rewarding to see the positive impact of what we are doing to oil and gas and I am proud to be part of this trail blazing team. As an innovative technology leader, we export digital competence globally.

While earlier iterations of R2S established the foundations for smart facilities, the creation of digital twins, and helped legitimise the drive for innovation we are witnessing today. Through our continuous development, we push boundaries in new areas of technology, while delivering our trusted, proven and evolving R2S solution, not only to oil and gas, but to an increasing array of new industry sectors for our business.