Saving the bottom line, one drone at a time

09 Feb 2015

The sudden fall in oil prices presents an invaluable opportunity for operators to embrace cost-saving technologies, writes Cyberhawk’s Global Sales Manager, Patrick Saracco.


After a four-year spell of oil prices consistently over $100, the recent price plummet has come as quite a shock to the oil and gas industry. Whether down to a decrease in demand from China and Europe, an increase in production in the USA or continued high production in the Middle East, the glory days, when operators could afford to function inefficiently with minimal consequences, are long gone. In their place come the tough times, the less than $50 per barrel times, when the same old business-as-usual approach just isn’t going to cut it.


It’s time to think differently. One of the most effective ways to make production more efficient is to minimise unplanned shutdowns and keep Turnarounds (TARs) tightly on schedule. To do this, operators must routinely check the integrity of their assets, especially those whose maintenance requires operations to be shutdown. Inspections of this kind, typically involving hard-to-reach assets, used to mean costly scaffolding, Rope Access Technician (RAT) teams and a delay to production. Not any more.


Since Remotely Operated Aerial Vehicles (ROAVs), otherwise known as drones, were first deployed in the North Sea four years ago by global innovator, Cyberhawk, an inspection revolution has been bubbling away. A game-changer in the industry, ROAV technology represents the perfect screening tool that can detect anomalies and issues while a plant is still operating. What’s more, since inspections can be carried out from the back of a supply boat, very often there’s not even a need for personnel to be on board the oil rigs, avoiding the common problem of insufficient bed space.


The cost savings offered by this technology are huge, and operators should overlook them at their peril.  Time is money: what a RAT team takes 14 weeks to inspect, an ROAV can complete in two days. Then there’s the drastic reduction and sometimes elimination of production deferment, both during the inspection itself and the planned TAR. ROAVs give operators the information they need so that maintenance work scopes can be planned ahead of a TAR and predictive maintenance soon becomes part of every asset integrity plan.


The low oil price is forcing oil and gas leaders to change their business model to protect their bottom line. Forward thinking operators are now looking beyond limited inspection budgets to rollout ROAV inspections, having identified the approach as the major cost saving opportunity it really is. It’s time the masses joined them