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Robots could replace 20% of jobs in oil fields

The US oil industry could save more than $7 billion in wages by replacing humans with robots on platforms.

The report indicates that at least two in 10 oil workers globally in drilling, operational support, and maintenance jobs could be replaced by on-site automation over the next decade. That would translate to more than 100,000 total jobs replaced in the US.

Sumit Yadav, an analyst at Rystad, wrote that even when the covid-19 slowdown has finally passed, operators will have to keep exploring new avenues for cost reduction. However, there are obstacles to overcome, including regulatory approvals and resistance from labor organizations.

The downsizing in the US by robots would be a further blow to an industry that has struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Using robots is already progressing in the offshore industry

The application of robots is already developing as a low-cost alternative in the offshore industry. Their advantage is that they can permanently stay underwater and quickly access places that are difficult to reach for submersibles that are operated by humans remotely. 

In recent years, robotics has gained the most traction in inspection, maintenance, and repairs. 

Drilling is costly work, and it involves critical tasks in dangerous environments. 

Robotic drilling systems can potentially decrease the number of roughnecks needed on a drilling rig by 20 to 30%.

The emergence of robotics in the oil and gas industry seems inevitable. Still, some challenges will delay full-scale adoption by a few years, including their long-term reliability. However, robotics has to be widely tested. Besides, they have limited communication capabilities between units.

On the other hand, labor organizations are likely to fight against further automation and the application of robotics. It may be subject to tests to guarantee they meet federal safety and environmental criteria. 

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