4 Must-Know Tech Trends for the Oil & Gas Industry

Categories: Infrastructure

Autodesk talks game-changing trends to watch at Offshore Technology Conference 2014

Instead of the usual show-and-tell booth product demonstrations, this week at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, Texas, Autodesk representatives are talking about four game changing technology trends reshaping the global Oil and Gas industry.

1. Digital Reality – from reality capture to immersive environments, technology is increasingly blurring the lines between the real and digital worlds, bringing the promise of digital reality ever closer. Today, digital reality can be said to have two components.  First, ‘reality capture’, the process of using digital photographs, LIDAR, laser scans and other data-sets captured from or directly reflecting an actual environment to help build a 3D project model – opening the door to modeling ‘in reality’ by accurately capturing the existing context. Second, advances in the fidelity of the digital environment, where trends in graphical capabilities and developments in human-computer interfaces are bringing greater visualization capabilities to project teams – boosting productivity, improving project-wide communication, accelerating new hires through the learning curve and more, by supporting decision making with confidence.


Trends in graphical capabilities and developments in human-computer interfaces are bringing greater visualization capabilities to project teams. Images courtesy of Autodesk.


Digital images and point clouds captured on-site can be used to create 3D models of existing infrastructure.Shown here are digital images combined with laser point clouds to create a model via Autodesk ReCap. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

2. Cloud Computing – In the same way as the personal computer displaced the mainframe, putting computing power in the hands of those with a desktop, so cloud computing is displacing the notion of limited computing power, and indeed the desktop itself, placing ‘infinite computing power’ into the hands of anyone – on demand, in real time, as needed, anywhere, anyhow, and from any device. As Oil & Gas projects are becoming larger and more complex, so are the business and design challenges. Preventing cost and schedule blowouts of capital projects by improving the Front End Loading process and improving return on capital by finding ways to drive out waste across the asset lifecycle through better design are just two of the ways this power could deliver dividends for the industry.


Cloud-enabled, on-demand, real-time access to intelligent 3D models is transforming analysis and simulation. Offshore oil rig model image courtesy of RDS.

3. Digital Fabrication – 3D printing, CNC-based subtractive fabrication, fused deposition modeling (FDM) for thermoplastics and related technologies offer the prospect of reducing the number of steps it takes to transition from a computer model of components for an oil & gas infrastructure asset from many steps to potentially just one.  Modern manufacturing has evolved around the paradigm of mass production.  Traditionally complexity and uniqueness in manufacturing have meant a hefty price premium – it’s always been more expensive per unit to produce a short-run of bespoke objects than a high volume of standardized objects. But digital fabrication technologies and processes are bringing us to the threshold of turning that paradigm on its head for a growing number of objects made in an increasing range of materials. How might the ability to ‘print’ the component parts of an Oil or Gas infrastructure asset change the construction process? How might that free the industry to move beyond using standard catalogue items and design the best component for the job, unique to each installation? And how might that change the service and supply requirements for example for spare parts if it might be possible to simply print a spare valve seal on a rig?


Advanced design software is helping to break the traditional hefty price premium in manufacturing for complexity and uniqueness. Shown here is the use of stress analysis checking to identify design flaws before fabrication. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

4. Social & Mobile Computing – as the digital environment continues to shorten the distance between individuals, it’s ushering in new ways to collaborate and cooperate around complex tasks, and new ways to access talent. Both social media and mobile technology are offering the prospect of tapping into infinite human capability to solve complex, abstract problems quickly through crowd sourcing. As the skills crisis continues to challenge the industry’s ability to deliver on an increasingly growing project pipeline, these digital trends offer the prospect of seamlessly tapping a globally-dispersed talent base, rather than being restricted to those in proximity to the project office.