How are Augmented & Virtual Reality Overhauling the Oil & Gas Industry: Opportunities and Use Cases

Aug 17, 2021
Energy and Resources | 6 min READ
The State of Oil & Gas Industry
The Oil & Gas industry is in a constant state of flux due to the nature and scale of its operations. The slightest fluctuations in the operational ensemble result in dramatic changes that are huge in proportion. Oversight, inexperience, and unawareness result in extreme eventualities, sometimes leading to fatalities.
Todd Wolfe
Todd Wolfe


OT, Energy & Utilities Vertical


However, an equivalent positive spectrum exists in the industry that assures huge and unimaginable gains with even small measures undertaken to improve safety, efficiency, and visibility.
To this end, the evolution of technologies such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) can disrupt the O&G industry, which operates on extreme operational parameters. There are several specific use cases for these technologies to drive efficiency, safety, and reliability. For example, familiarizing the offshore personnel with the environment using VR by simulating the Oil Rig conditions, even before they land upon the Oil Rig, is a lifesaver for the new team taking charge for the first time.
Similarly, using AR, the field technicians can troubleshoot assets and equipment with the help of an offshore technician saving time and money while reducing the risk.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Oil and Gas - Use cases
The growing use of wearable devices, mobiles, tablets is leading to mushrooming of AR and VR use cases in oil and gas industry. Combining AR with technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence in oil and gas industry promises more comprehensive solutions that will help drive digital transformation in oil and gas sector.
Augmented Reality For Field Servicing and Asset Maintenance
GE's report The Impact of Digital on Unplanned Downtime states that the losses that an offshore O&G company could incur owing to the unplanned downtime ranges up to $49 million. These losses can easily double for the non-streamlined companies.
It is thus imperative that to optimally operate and perform the drilling and completion activities seamlessly, the condition of the assets used needs to be monitored regularly for their health and performance. AR-based application on a smartphone provides deviations in key pointers like a magnetic field, temperature, etc., to track any anomalies in the equipment. The field technicians maintaining this equipment often do not have easy and handy access to equipment condition data to ensure preventive maintenance.
AR-enabled rig monitoring systems and sensor readings enable smooth operations by allowing visualization of complex processes for addressing the problems quickly.
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Field Personnel Training
AR-enabled applications are used to train and familiarize new personnel with the standard procedures instead of handbooks and manuals. ExxonMobil has launched an immersive VR-based training platform that simulates real-life scenarios like abnormalities, emergency breakdowns to test the reflexes and reactions of the personnel. By connecting to live data and predictive maintenance, the current status of the machinery is visually shown.
These applications are extremely useful in training, operating, fixing, and maintaining any complex equipment issue. With AR solutions, all employees can effectively address technical faults by using an AR-ready device and visually troubleshooting the problem. The immersive nature of the VR training simulations in safety training aids in faster learning and better decision-making.
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Oil and Gas Industry - Use cases
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Oil and Gas Industry - Use cases
Rescue Operations in Adverse Events
Field safety is of utmost importance in the O&G industry, where field technicians deal with heavy equipment, hazardous materials, and the environment. The rescue teams leverage the VR technology to simulate real-world scenarios that they might face in adverse events and incidents.
The VR simulations allow the rescue teams to change the parameters of the adverse incident and gauge its impact on their rescue operations. This kind of VR-enabled scenario-based training allows the rescue professionals to get acquainted with the site of action, facilitates better preparedness, helps in a swift and thorough response, improves the response time, and ensures foolproof safety.
Case for Oil & Gas Industry to Embrace Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality
Improved Asset Management and Maintenance
AR-based applications have a tremendous impact on streamlining the regular maintenance of the vital rig equipment, parameter analysis, retrieving user manuals, and predictive maintenance. These applications provide pointers to identify failure points that, in turn, help improve asset care and monitoring by studying real-time data and identifying spikes or variance in the readings enabling tracking and mitigation of issues even before they occur.
Lower Costs of Maintenance
Augmented reality in oil and gas has transformed the art of remote troubleshooting by enabling the field technicians to immediately connect and provide a real-time feed of the assets and equipment to the right technical expert. On average, it takes around ten days for a technician to survey, report, and analyze a site. However, with the advent of AR/VR technology, the subject matter expert can use its features to guide the technician through the troubleshooting process through a series of visual steps.
For instance, GE designed a smart helmet that connects with expert technicians in remote locations to fix malfunctioning equipment at a customer site, saving effort, cost, and time. It ensures that the experts are within easy reach at any place, leaving out the transportation costs of getting them to the field. The expenses incurred during the downtime of the asset are also minimized as the issues are addressed quickly and expertly under guidance from anywhere.
Highly Skilled and Productive Workforce
AR-enabled wearables increase a field service technician's accuracy, efficiency, and decision-making. These wearables are used to provide digital checklists of regular tasks, create voice notes during repairs, offer notifications or reminders on upcoming or pending jobs, thereby increasing the engineer's productivity.
The VR training simulators help provide quick access to visual instructions and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) from handbooks and manuals to troubleshoot and tackle issues preemptively. Dynamic simulators are leveraged to mimic real-life scenarios to upskill engineers to work in a complex environment. Several case studies highlight how AR/VR technologies enable improved productivity and faster decision-making.
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Business Case for Embracing AR/VR in Oil & Gas Industry
Better Responses to Adverse Events
VR simulations of the O&G site immensely enhance the response to adverse incidents and accidents by providing complete visibility of the impact site to the rescue personnel. These simulations also ensure better preparedness to face adverse events by enabling the rescue team to simulate various scenarios and plan the response.
Safer Oil Rigs and Wells
There is a significant value in using AR applications to improve oilfield safety by efficiently relaying necessary information in real-time. The pre-programmed information and directives provided by the AR-enabled system can support field operatives to ensure the safe undertaking of any job. For example, AR headsets, smart glasses help technicians to get location coordinates.
In the event of an emergency, a simple AR app can guide field technicians in reaching safer destinations or locating injured personnel. This also helps the O&G sites adhere to the prescribed safety regulations.
Embracing AR/VR
Cost optimization, efficiency improvement, personnel and asset management, and safe operations in hazardous conditions are the top four priorities for the Oil & Gas industry. AR/VR technologies have strong use cases and applications in all these priority areas, enabling the O&G industry to turn a new leaf in driving efficiency at scale.
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