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Technological Advancements That Helped Us Reach More Offshore Oil

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A recent oil rig count from industry analysts Baker Hughes showed there were 741 in place across the US, a rise of 200 from a year ago. The 2016 Annual Statistical Bulletin from OPEC stated that in 2015, world crude oil production increased by 1.75 million barrels a day, a 2.4 per cent rise compared to 2014. Despite many issues being faced, the sector remains buoyant. A key factor in this is the impact technology has had on how offshore oil is discovered and obtained, which takes many different forms.

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Robotic Oil Rigs
As with any business, a major obstacle to production will always be manpower. Any significant technological developments that occur will always be seen for how they can push productivity and efficiency, and with Robotic Oil Rigs this push appears stark. Ranging from the Iron Roughneck robot produced by National Oilwell Varco Inc., to the fully robotic oil drilling rig being developed by Robotic Drilling Systems (RDS) in Norway, robotics impact is borne out by examination of employee figures. Recent American Bureau of Labor Statistics show a steady and ongoing decline from 2014 onwards, despite rising levels of production. The Iron Roughneck is capable of connecting drill pipes through the ocean and rock faces as well as cutting down on the number of roustabouts needing to be employed. RDS’s rig goes even further, with multiple robots performing tasks ranging from pipe handling and lifting to drilling operations. With new robotic technology constantly being developed, employee numbers look set to continue their decline. A rise in productivity and an increase in profitability are likely to be by products of the decline in employee numbers.

ROV Developments
In a similar manner to the advances in robotics, the recent technological advances in the world of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) have facilitated the development of offshore oil fields since the 1980s. Their use became vital in the exploration of ocean depths that are inaccessible to humans. New technological breakthroughs and changes remained few until recent years, when automation control and machine vision technology improved significantly. The result of this has meant ROVs can now be used efficiently for inspection of underwater structures, pipelines and platforms, for repair and maintenance, as well as being used for construction purposes. The end result, of these advances in technology is a more streamlined, quick and efficient process, aiding a rise in production levels.

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Advanced Drilling Techniques
With traditional drilling always taking place vertically, new methods of reaching reserves have enabled production levels to advance significantly whilst lessening the environmental impact. Horizontal drilling, possible in certain locations, allows the well to branch off from its vertical trajectory at points, creating horizontal patches which can stretch to a mile long. This means fewer wells are necessary, with surface disturbance therefore minimalised. Multilateral Drilling works similarly, but creates branches from the traditional vertical well at various depths, with similar benefits to those of Horizontal Drilling. Extended Reach Drilling will allow wells to be created large distances from the rig, while Complex Path Drilling incorporates many turns and angles in a well in an attempt to reach as many deposits as possible. 

The future
Industry speculators look to a future in which technology increases the dominance it already holds over oil, with new developments inevitably controlling the way in which offshore oil is reached. Developments such as Hydraulic Fracturing, a process which sees fluid injected at high pressure into a wellbore, are increasing in practice, yet remain controversial. Advances in Seismic Technology are a potential aid, helping to provide details of what is contained within rocks, as well as the depth and thickness. Technological advances in drilling, subsea inspection and requisite software are also forecast, in an industry that will look to technology to combat and alleviate volatility in an unreliable marketplace.

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Fircroft has been supplying engineering professionals to the biggest names in the Oil & Gas industry since 1970. With extensive experience in the Oil & Gas sector, Fircroft is well-positioned to match highly skilled professionals with offshore jobs. 

Browse our latest offshore vacancies online and register your CV with us today. 

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Technological Advancements That Helped Us Reach More Offshore Oil - Time to read 4 min
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