Once formidable giants with a monopoly on the energy sector, the oil and gas industry is having a bit of an identity crisis. The rise of environmental activists like Greta Thunberg; Google’s announcement that it plans to invest $2bn in wind and solar energy with the aim of making it powered entirely by renewable energy sources; and the enthusiastic adoption of technology in other industries − it’s no surprise that the public perception of the oil and gas industries is that they are dinosaurs and belong in the past.
In Great Britain, for example, we feel much more positive about renewable energy sources than traditional ones, with a European Social Survey revealing that over 70% of Brits think a large or very large amount of electricity should be generated from renewable energy, as opposed to 27% thinking it should come from gas.
Keeping up with the times
Traditionally, the gas and oil industries have done so well that perhaps the drive to improve and innovate simply wasn’t there. The product was in high demand, so what was there to worry about? Industry chiefs instead focused on a model of growth and reserve exploration. Technology like automation and robotics, which other industries such as retail, manufacturing and even trading have embraced have been slow to be adopted by the fossil fuel industries. However, they are beginning to catch up and realise the benefits.
Robotics has made a lot of boring and dangerous elements of drilling safer. For example, connecting and disconnecting drill pipes − an integral part of the drilling process, but an extremely dangerous operation for the men and women who did it. Nowadays, technology like the Iron Roughneck robot automates this process, taking risk to human life completely out of the equation. There are also robotic snake arms that can carry out vital inspections in confined spaces.
AI, used by so many industries to predict trends, manage stock levels, handle large levels of data and so much more, is now being harnessed by the gas and oil industries to automate processes, predict trends, improve performance and generally make their operations more efficient and cost-effective. It can even help in resources exploration by mapping and identifying petroleum deposits beneath the earth or detecting equipment failure or gas leaks.
The large levels of data that AI can generate means that many gas and oil companies will now be relying on cloud computing to improve how that data is processed.
The environmental issue
The biggest hurdle that the oil and gas industries face is the thorny issue of pollution. For many, oil spills, burning methane and noxious fumes are the faces of fossil fuel, with a recent study showing that air pollution from oil and gas production is visible from space.
When we think of a clean planet, we’re not really thinking about the oil and gas industries. Is there a place for them in a greener world?
Using progressive air pollution control technologies, like those offered by ERG, will go a long way to help improve industry emissions and will also improve public opinion of them. Fossil fuel companies have also successfully integrated the Internet of Things into their systems, which has not only lead to improving the quality of data, but it has also led to reduced energy use and oil spillages, meaning they have less of an impact on the environment.
So, there could still be a place for the oil and gas industries. They just need to grasp the technological advances to help them become cleaner, more efficient and relevant in a changing world.