• How Has Oil Rig Technology Improved?

Fuel for Thought

How Has Oil Rig Technology Improved?

Nov 15 2014

Technology has developed in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, across all walks of life. We now have phones which double up as maps, compasses, cameras, mp3 players, portable televisions, handheld computers and so much more. We have spectacles which open up a doorway into cyberspace. We have cars which drive themselves … and the hover-boards and jetpacks can’t be too far away (fingers crossed!).

Though it perhaps doesn’t receive as much publicity as in other aspects of life, the oil rig industry has also benefited from our better understanding and manipulation of technology. In the last 20 years, science has achieved some truly remarkable things with respect to our oil rigs - here are just some of the astounding advances that have been made.

Disaster Prevention

In the wake of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 – which experts believe could still take decades to recover from – oil rig companies set about trying to find new and improved methods of safety and regulation.

One such company, GE Oil & Gas, came up with a sophisticated blow-out prevention system. The innovation in this system comes from its ability to use the power already present in the water pressure surrounding the drill-head to seal it off in case of emergency.

The same company is also responsible for the development of a new reliable method of monitoring, recording and processing data on a rig. Reminiscent of the black boxes used on aircraft and ships, the device is designed to record information in real-time, relay it to a control point and offer information on any potential mishaps.

Similarly, the computer company Intel have developed sensors which can be placed on any part of an oil rig and which collect and relay information continuously. The sensors are protected by heavy-duty casings, in case of accident or emergency – though their presence on the rig will do much to avoid such calamities.

Evolving Rigs for the Future

The way the rigs themselves are being assembled is also subject to change. A company called GlassPoint Solar has attempted to integrate green technologies with the fossil fuel industry by installing glasshouses on rigs. The solar rays captured by these glasshouses produce the steam which is used to force oil to the Earth’s surface. This is not only cheaper than burning natural gas, but much more beneficial to the environment as well. And also is much more efficient than traditional solar power harvesting.

Meanwhile, in Norway, the face of off-shore oil rigs may have been altered forever – or even done away with altogether. This story, Is This the End for Oil and Gas Platforms?, discusses how new compressor technology means that traditional free-standing oil rigs, above sea level, may have become a thing of the past.

Back on dry land, over in North Dakota, the problem of expense and time involved in relocating rigs to new prospective sites has been surmounted with the introduction of portable “walking” rigs. This technology allows rigs to be moved from one site to another without the necessity of detaching them from their drilling pads, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can read more about this incredible technology in the article: Walking Oil Rig Solves Relocation Difficulties.

With more emphasis being placed on renewables with every passing year, and oil rig technology advancing at an incredible rate, it is nigh on impossible to make firm predictions about the future of the industry. One thing is for sure - oil rigs are evolving. 

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