As reserves become harder to locate, the oil industry begins tinkering with the latest technological innovation that’s sweeping the globe…
The military uses them regularly to seek out enemy targets.
Amazon unveiled one as part of its concept delivery system.
And the energy sector is familiar with it too…
First, BP launched theirs to monitor the Gulf oil spill in 2012.
Then top oil stock ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP) flew the first commercially approved version in Alaskan air space last September.
Folks, the dawn of drone aircraft is firmly upon us, and we’ve only barely scratched the surface of the technology’s potential.
Defined as unmanned flying machines, drones are capable of efficiently going where no man or woman can go without concerns for human safety.
They are often equipped with advanced instrumentation to collect and process critical data required to accomplish a specific task.
From spying behind enemy lines to dropping off a parcel with pinpoint accuracy, drones have demonstrated their usefulness in a variety of ways.
Now energy companies have decided to kick it up a notch.
Conoco made headlines last fall by launching the ScanEagle drone to help the company evaluate potential drill sites offshore Alaska in the Chukchi Sea.
Though it wasn’t designed to specifically identify where new oil reserves might be located, the drone instead provided other important insights to COP on such things as wildlife location, water levels, and ice movement.
During the 36-minute flight, the ScanEagle was able to gather statistical information needed to help Conoco make informed drilling decisions in the region.
More importantly, the data retrieved is ultimately helping the Company avoid costly errors such as those encountered previously in the Arctic by Shell.
Since 2008, Shell has *ahem* shelled out nearly $5 billion to explore and drill in Chukchi Sea the “old fashioned way”.
And so far, not a single drop of oil has been recovered.
Instead, problems ranging from emissions, to equipment failures, to even running their drill ships aground have plagued Shell’s project, which has now been shelved until further notice.
Even before they were allowed to walk away, the Alaskan government slapped Shell with a $1.1 million fine for 34 different air-quality violations coming from their ships.
Alaska is known for having a rich, yet fragile ecosystem along with its abundance of energy resources, so the reckless development by Shell was simply not to be tolerated.
So for ConocoPhillips, proper due diligence must be undertaken to ensure drill sites are safe and as minimally invasive to the environment as possible.
With lawmakers and environmentalists ever-prepared to pounce on a company’s drilling activities at a moments’ notice, having the foresight to become familiar with the region ahead of time can prove extremely invaluable — both in sustainability and bottom line.
That’s where drones come into play.
Over in the North Sea, Scotland and Norway have recently joined forces to test the limits of current drone capabilities.
The micro aircraft being developed by the University of Aberdeen and the University of Bergen are programmed to scan rock formations between boreholes and create 3D models from the data collected. This in turn allows researchers to better predict how oil will flow and how much companies can recover.
In an industry as cutthroat as oil and gas where every dollar counts, any competitive advantage can mean the difference between rags and riches.
Companies know this, so expect to see more drones flying high above oil fields beginning this year.
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