Technology News

Oil majors experiment with technology to weather crisis

By Karolin Schaps and Jessica Jaganathan | LONDON/OSLO
Oil majors including Statoil, Shell and Chevron are experimenting with various technologies, from drones and drill design to data management, to drive down costs and weather a deep downturn. Crude prices have more than halved since mid-2014, forcing companies to cut billions of dollars in costs. Determined to shield dividends and preserve the infrastructure that will allow them to compete and grow if the market recovers, they are increasingly looking to smarter tech and design to make savings.
French oil and gas major Total said it was now using drones to carry out detailed inspections on some of its oil fields following a trial at one of its Elgin/Franklin platforms in the North Sea.
Cyberhawk, the drone company that led the trial, said this kind of work was previously carried out by engineers who suspended themselves from ropes at dizzying heights. It said the manned inspection used to take seven separate two-week trips with a 12-man team that had to be flown in and accommodated on site.
The drones do the work in two days and at about a tenth of the cost, according to the Britain-based firm's founder Malcolm Connolly, who said it had also worked with ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips and BP.
Total declined to comment on how long the manned or drone inspections took, or specify how much money was saved.
Statoil's giant Johan Sverdrup field, the largest North Sea oil find in three decades which is due to start production in 2019, is a leading industry case study for cutting costs in the era of cheap oil.
The Norwegian company has cut its development costs for the first stage of the project by a fifth compared with estimates given in early 2015, to 99 billion crowns ($12.2 billion).
The savings have largely been made by focusing on the most efficient technology and designs from the beginning, Statoil's head of technology Margareth Oevrum told Reuters in an interview.
Executives say the growing attention on technologies that have been around for some time shows how wasteful the global industry had been in the years before the downturn when - with crude at above $100 a barrel delivering bumper profits - oil companies' had little incentive to develop fields efficiently.
For example, simply finding a more efficient route for the oil pipeline that would carry the crude from the Sverdrup field to the onshore refinery cut 1 billion crowns, Statoil said.
Statoil has also developed a drilling "template" that is acting as a guide for the first eight wells to be drilled at the field. It said it had reduced the overall drilling time by more than 50 days, saving about 150 million crowns per production well compared with what it would have cost with 2013 techniques.
"By far the biggest driver (of savings) has been simplification," said Oevrum. "To think much simpler and start from the bottom, or the bare bone, and then rather add to that, instead of starting very big."
The company could not give a figure for its group savings made from improved technology and design. But it said that, partly because of such innovations, projects set to start production by 2022 would be able to make a profit with an oil price at $41 a barrel, down from $70 in 2013.
Global upstream - exploration and production - oil and gas spending has fallen by more than $300 billion across the industry in 2015-16, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), roughly equivalent to the annual GDP of South Africa. Around two-thirds comes from cost cuts, rather than cancelling or shelving projects, it said.
Shell, for example, has developed a new type of pipe, called a steel lazy wave riser, to carry oil and gas from its deepwater Stones field in the Gulf of Mexico for processing. It bends to absorb the motion of the sea and the floating platform, which the company says boosts production at extreme depths.
The Anglo-Dutch major could not say how much the pipes contributed to increased efficiency, but said innovations at Stones had played a significant part in cost savings of $1.8 billion in its projects and technology division last year - equivalent to the 2015 core profits in its upstream division.
The fall in oil prices has led to the introduction of other new engineering and maintenance techniques.
Chevron is using a robotic device to clean and check the inside of pipelines on their Erskine field in the North Sea more quickly. The improvement has helped raise the field's daily production rate to the highest in two years.
Oil services firm Amec Foster Wheeler, working for BG Group which is now part of Shell, has applied a new technique to remove the pillars of an old platform, a procedure that is often dangerous because corroded elements can slip off.
It pumped in expanding foam to hold the pillar's elements together, allowing workers to safely cut the metal away. This work took just over seven weeks instead of the 22 weeks typically needed using traditional methods.
Alex Brooks, oil and gas equity analyst at Canaccord Genuity, said tech innovation in the industry was about "100 tiny things", adding: "The bottom line is you end up with a much lower cost."
The downturn has presented opportunities for some services firms that can offer cost-saving innovations. Inspection drone firm Cyberhawk, for instance, said its revenue from oil and gas had doubled from mid-2014 to mid-2016, while the wider inspection market had shrunk.

Autodesk has announced the release of AutoCAD 2017. Since its initial release in 1982 AutoCAD has been one of the most widely used CAD products, fulfilling the needs of engineers, civil drafters, architects, and more.

In its latest update, AutoCAD 2017 has addressed various user functionality requests and delivered a number of features that improve everything from workflows to graphics processing.

Enhanced PDF importation in AutoCAD 2017

Enhanced PDF importation in AutoCAD 2017

The first major improvement added to AutoCAD 2017 is its enhanced ability to handle PDFs. Using  2017’s new “Import PDF” feature, users will be able to import geometries, TrueType text, and raster images from a PDF directly into AutoCAD as editable objects.  In the past, this type of PDF import was awkward, and often required costly work-arounds. Now, users can more reliably import PDF data, eliminating the need to redraw geometry. 

Improved centerline handling in AutoCAD 2017

Improved centerline handling in AutoCAD 2017

On the modeling side, AutoCAD 2017 features an improvement to centerlines. Now, thanks to a feature called “smart centerlines,” whenever a user moves associated objects all connected centerlines will move as well, making drawing centerlines much less tedious. When it comes to the backend that supports AutoCAD 2017, Autodesk’s engineers have made a number of additional improvements. Most notably, 2017 will come packaged with the Autodesk Desktop App for managing software updates, no doubt the new normal in their subscription-only future. With this companion app users can receive the most up-to-date security patches for previous versions of AutoCAD and any future updates without disrupting their workflow.

In addition to the Desktop App, Autodesk has focused on improving the stability of its 3D graphics while continuing to improve the performance of its 2D graphics tools.  READ MORE HERE


Google: There's No Hub Like Home

Google: There's No Hub Like Home

No longer willing to let Amazon have the space to itself, Google on Tuesday officially launched Google Home, its long-awaited wireless hub. Google Home is an interactive personal assistant and entertainment center that takes full advantage of the company's deep advantages in Web search, AI and machine learning.

Google's vision is to place a customized version of its Google Assistant technology into the hands of every customer, said CEO Sundar Pichai, so it can be wherever they are -- whether out and about with a mobile phone, at a desk using a computer, or relaxing in the living room.

The Google Home device, inspired by the look of a wine glass or candle, is designed to blend seamlessly into the home decor.

Interactive Operation

The voice-activated speaker, powered by Google Assistant, allows users to do everything from listening to music, news and traffic updates to getting a rundown of personal schedules, getting answers to individual questions, beaming photos and video to their televisions, and controlling basic smart lighting and temperature systems.

Google first previewed Home this spring at the annual I/O developers conference. Although the company was more than a year-and-a-half behind Amazon in launching the product, it brought some advantages to the table with its Google Assistant, machine learning and AI capabilities that already were in use in phones, tablets and other devices.

By simply saying "OK Google," a Home user can take advantage of its far-field voice recognition to get a rundown of a daily schedule, listen to traffic and weather updates, or listen to music from one of several launch partners, including Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, YouTubeMusic or, coming soon, IHeartRadio.

Home Automation Chops

The Google Home hub will be able to control lights, thermostats and electrical switches manufactured by four launch partners: Philips Hue, Nest, Samsung SmartThings and IFTTT.

Google Home is currently available for preorder for US$129 from the Google Store, Best Buy, Target and Walmart, and it will be available in retail stores starting in November. New users will be eligible for a six-month trial of YouTubeRed, which offers ads-free music and video.

Google Home an excellent product to go up against the Amazon Echo, said Kevin Krewell, principal analyst at Tirias Research. Read more Google: There's No Hub Like Home

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