The oil and gas industry stands apart from others because of a large number of factors. Safety risks, politics, industry regulations, changing markets — all of these influences present challenges for oil and gas businesses.
It’s not surprising that this industry has turned to modern technologies that emphasize efficiency, relying on highly skilled and trained individuals working within well-developed software ecosystems that ease the burden of routine tasks and bring about better results.
Companies in the oil and gas field often implement Virtual Reality. In this article, we will examine key trends in the use of VR, use cases for applying immersive technologies, and a success story about how HQSoftware partnered with an oil and gas company.
Virtual Reality in the Oil and Gas Industry: Key Trends
According to Technavio’s report, the need for advanced technologies is a key driver for the oil and gas industry.
And one of the most important technologies is VR, which is deployed in a variety of important tasks in these three main categories:
- Staff training in virtual environments;
- Building digital versions of real-world objects and scenarios for tests, experiments, and other purposes;
- Improving understanding of safety procedures and enhancing response to emergencies.
According to research by GlobalData, the leading adopters of VR in the oil and gas industry are giants such as BP, Chevron, Shell, and Saudi Aramco. These companies are using VR for all operations, at the upstream, midstream, and downstream levels.
For example, these companies are investing in virtual subsurface mapping of prospective exploration sites. This helps in prior observation of the terrain before drilling. We will discuss even more use cases later.
It’s clear major petroleum companies and others in the oil and gas industry are using Virtual Reality solutions extensively to solve day-to-day problems and global tasks.
VR Use Cases in Oil and Gas
Let’s look at some of the many benefits of VR for the industry in a variety of iuse cases.
VR can lend a hand to IoT solutions, a partnership that can be used to create more advanced systems.
For example, companies put sensors and gadgets on plant equipment and other infrastructure objects to gather as much data as possible. This increases operations visibility and aids in decision-making.
All this data is then compiled to build a Digital Twin of a plant and all the equipment inside it —- a digital copy that offers a thorough simulation of a plant’s operations.
Digital Twins can provide a ton of benefits:
- Employees can train in a virtual environment using all the equipment they need without fear of hitting the wrong button;
- All plant operations can be replicated inside a virtual environment to identify problems and overcome them in reality;
- An equipment engineer can observe a malfunctioning piece remotely, via a VR simulation using a Digital Twin, and then give advice on how to fix it;
- Equipment and plant architecture can be developed in a Digital Twin before building the real thing, to test their viability and identify opportunities for improvement.
VR is capable of replicating a wide range of plant and equipment situations and details, helping oil and gas businesses foresee emergencies, build and test virtual models, and even educate employees.
Product design and manufacturing
VR is a great tool for product development as well. It allows for using 3D rendering to simulate digital designs and offers the opportunity to test the results long before the manufacturing stage starts.
VR can even be integrated with 3D printing to develop prototypes right away.
When a company is developing critical oil and gas equipment, VR reduces turnaround time by accelerating the process of product design. It reduces resource consumption by eliminating the need to manufacture a series of prototypes for testing.
It’s typically expensive and risky to train oil and gas industry service personnel. Proper professional training is a must, and as the technology moves on, industry requirements change, new equipment comes online with new operating methods, and workers need to upgrade their skills or even learn completely new ones.
Training in Virtual Reality brings the following benefits, especially in the oil and gas industry:
- Cost-effectiveness. With VR, there is no need to use and wear out expensive equipment, or bring high-wage coaches or busy experienced employees to farflung sites for training. All training is done inside a simulation, with educational content that can be reused and updated over time.
- Safety. A well-thought-out VR training application can fully recreate a real working environment without all the hazards associated with the job on a petroleum plant or an oil rig. Using VR, trainees can learn new skills with no risk to themselves or the equipment.
- Efficiency. VR provides trainees with the ability to learn by doing — they can practice new skills in a virtual environment so that this knowledge is better retained and can be applied in real life with less hesitation.
- Engagement. With an education in VR, trainees are put through a set scenario where they obtain new skills. The solution can provide tips, hints, and instructions on the go and in an interactive manner. Gamification features can be added as well! All of this helps to boost engagement in a way no educational video or textbook can do.
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- Assessment. It is much easier to assess training results in VR than in real life. The Virtual Reality solution can record every move of the trainee, track and analyze it automatically — and there is no need to involve dedicated personnel in this process.
- Customizability. If required, a separate VR environment and training scenario can be created for any skill, as VR capabilities are limited only by one’s imagination. Also, VR training requires no interruption of work processes, so custom training can be done on-demand and even for one person alone.
Along with all these benefits, VR training offers many potential scenarios for oil and gas companies. To name a few:
- Gas leak emergency response,
- Facility locating,
- Patrolling transmission pipelines, etc.
With the ability to recreate any scenario for training in a virtual environment and all the benefits of using VR, it is clear why businesses are choosing VR training over traditional education methods.
In the oil and gas industry, employees are often exposed to dangerous working conditions, where they are susceptible to harm from hazardous chemicals and gases.
These conditions can lead to disasters that your workers will have to manage somehow, or at least be able to react to properly to save their lives.
With VR, all possible dangers can be recreated inside a simulation. Which means all employees can be trained to respond to dangers without actual risk to their health.
For example, it is possible to develop VR solutions for:
- Evacuation simulation;
- Training in highly toxic environment situations;
- Disaster response training.
Theory-based programs can’t fully prepare field workers and first responders for disasters that can happen in a plant. VR is highly superior to traditional education here; in VR, trainees are exposed to signs of danger and can train how to act around them. All this practical knowledge can then be applied to real-life disasters.
Now, let’s see how some actual companies are using simulations for day-to-day tasks.
3 Examples of Companies That Adopted Immersive Technologies
Along with Virtual Reality, some oil and gas companies use Augmented Reality. Both can be described as immersive technologies.
Here are some examples of how they are successfully applying immersive tech:
ExxonMobil extensively utilizes immersive technologies for staff training. Field workers participate in immersive education programs to enhance applied skills or gain new ones.
The educational solution allows trainees to enter a virtual plant environment to obtain information about equipment and processes.
This solution, designed mostly for plant operators and engineers, simulates a set of real-life scenarios:
- Emergency shutdowns;
- Abnormal operations;
- Disaster response, etc.
Royal Dutch Shell
Shell uses Virtual Reality to build simulations for deepwater safety training. Shell’s workforce at the Malikai platform in Malaysia uses custom VR training solutions that incorporate a detailed 3D simulation of the Malikai platform.
In this simulation, workers learn operational safety procedures:
- How to deal with potential hazards
- What happens when an unsafe action is performed
- The steps to responding to unforeseen events
VR allows trainees to practice vital skills in a safe environment.
The helmet is essentially a safety gadget that can display video streams, equipment schemes, and photos to a field worker. It has wireless headphones, a camera, and a microphone attached to the helmet, so that engineers can provide expert guidance and assistance remotely.
At HQSoftware, developers work with immersive technologies, applying their know-how to help companies solve business issues and introduce new, more efficient tools.
Here is one of our success stories.
Our Success Story: AR for Oil and Gas
AR has been used extensively in the oil and gas sector, and we at HQSoftware have found a perfect way to apply this technology for 3D visualization.
AR Model of an FPSO Vessel
The customer is a company engaged in developing oil, gas, and renewables, and is the largest operator in Norway, providing power to more than 1 million homes.
The company was about to develop a new oil field in the Barents Sea, but the recent dramatic fall in oil prices interrupted the plan. The usual approaches to building production infrastructure and vessels were no longer viable, so the customer had to come up with a new design concept.
As a result, the company developed an advanced version of a floating production storage and offloading unit (FPSO).
To find a way to attract new investors, the company contacted HQSoftware to create a highly detailed 3D model of a vessel.
Partnering with HQSoftware, the customer delivered an AR mobile application that allows for viewing a 3D model of its new FPSO vessel. This eliminates the need to build a real prototype while providing investors with a detailed, interactive model of a new vessel.
To Sum Up
The potential and real benefits of immersive technologies for the oil and gas industry go far beyond cost savings. Among these benefits are advanced training, proper disaster management, convenient remote collaboration and guidance, and more.
Using Virtual Reality in the oil and gas industry, businesses reap all the benefits of 3D visualization and simulation tools and can advance in the market, the way some large-caps already have, e.g. ExxonMobil.
Read more about our Virtual Reality development services here.
A developer with extensive expertise in AR/VR, very ingrained into the topic of Mixed Reality development. Shares his knowledge and the results of many years of work.
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