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Editorial comment

The implementation of new technology has long played a key role in the success of the upstream sector and today’s highly pressurised, cost-sensitive industry is no different. Indeed, despite the challenges it brings, the current ‘lower-for-longer’ oil price environment can be seen as an opportunity; both for companies offering new, cost-saving technologies and operators looking for ways to increase efficiency and improve their bottom lines.

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One of the most obvious examples of new technologies being adapted for the oilfield is the use of remotely operated vehicles, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or ‘drones’) or autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Whilst such technologies have existed for a while, it is only in recent years that they have begun to see widespread use across the upstream sector. For example, UAVs have proven to be highly effective in inspection and maintenance roles, particularly offshore – it is generally far more efficient to use a UAV to inspect the underside of a platform, than it would be to send personnel. To quote DNV GL, which recently conducted its first offshore drone survey, “the inspection of such spaces can be both costly and time consuming, and even in some instances potentially dangerous. Using drones to visually check the condition of remote structural components can significantly reduce survey times and staging costs, while at the same time improving surveyor safety.”,1

UAVs, AUVs, etc., aren’t the only new technologies making life easier for operators. The rise of ‘Big Data’ and the so-called Internet of Things is set to bring about significant changes to the upstream industry over the coming years. One example of how this is already happening is GE Marine and Maersk Drilling’s ‘digital partnership.’ After positive results on a one-vessel pilot programme, the partnership has been extended and will see GE’s SeaStream Insight Marine Asset Performance Management (APM) solution implemented on nine units across Maersk Drilling’s fleet. The solution is designed to provide “real time efficiency reports and performance indicators based on data gathered during daily offshore operations.”2 The two companies have also worked together to develop ‘digital twins’ – virtual representations of rig equipment, which are updated with data from sensors and other equipment. This allows for improved understanding of the status of various assets, and can be used to detect signs of impending breakdown. Serving as the basis of a predictive maintenance programme, the virtual twins concept can help potential faults be prevented before they occur. Overall, the expanded partnership is targeted at reducing maintenance costs by 20% and increasing drilling efficiency.

However, it’s not just in the areas of operational efficiency and maintenance that technology is pushing the upstream industry forward; new systems and technologies are routinely developed to help with the industry’s primary task: extracting oil and gas. Galex Energy Corporation’s SWEPT system is one such technology. SWEPT uses acoustic waves to create microfractures in reservoir rock and thus increase permeability. The technology also creates cycles of high and low pressure, which “encourages the hydrocarbons to flow towards the well.”3

The above covers just a few examples of how technology is helping the upstream industry meet the challenges it faces today and those that will inevitably arise in the future. The Oilfield Technology team will be attending Offshore Europe (5 - 8 September), and we’d love to find out about the new technologies your company is bringing to the industry – we look forward to hearing from you!


  1. ‘DNV GL carries out its first offshore drone survey’ –
  2. ‘GE Marine and Maersk Drilling Accelerate Their Digital Partnership to Drive Industry Transformation’ –
  3. ‘Future energy: The technology allowing more oil extraction’ –

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