The energy sector is undergoing a considerable change in the form of an increasing application of robotics. The impact of these innovations on the future of work is likely to result in a significant increase in productivity, improved reliability and quality, and cost reductions.
Robotics are becoming increasingly popular among energy organizations. Compared to traditional practices such as drilling, robotic technology has been shown to significantly improve efficiency and reduce human labor costs.
In addition, automated robots are capable of carrying out tasks that were too dangerous or challenging for humans before automation came along, thus freeing them up for other more complex activities within their specific field.
What Is Robotics In Energy Sector
Robotics, broadly defined, is the use of machines to automate physical tasks, thus reducing the need for human input. The concept has been around for many years in various forms.
The word robotics has Greek and Latin origins and was coined by Isaac Asimov back in 1940s. It is defined as the science and technology of robots, their design, manufacture, application and operation. As a standalone term it was not introduced until the 1950s but gained prominence in the later half of the 20th century and into 21st century.
According to Micah Horner, Product Marketing Manager at TimeXtender, the energy industry is particularly well-positioned to benefit from these cutting-edge solutions.
The energy field consists of a variety of sectors spanning across traditional industrial as well as unconventional oil & gas exploration/production. As a result, robotic applications are being increasingly adopted across the sectors to achieve three key benefits:
Benefits Of Robotics In Energy Sector
The oil and gas companies are trying to develop energy efficiency projects and renewable energy. They are also trying to create smart energy storage systems. The energy sector is important to the oil and gas companies.
Electricity theft and fraud cost the energy and utilities sector up to $96 billion annually, with up to $6 billion in losses occurring in the United States alone. The global energy storage market is expected to grow significantly in the next few years.
This growth is being driven by the power plants and energy and utilities industry, as well as the renewable energy industry. Energy storage can help these industries collect energy usage data and reduce their carbon footprints.
1. Increase Efficiency
Robotic technology is used extensively to optimize performance of industrial equipment. The technology is capable of performing tasks that would be too dangerous for humans, thereby eradicating the human element from the process.
This significantly reduces human error and increases safety, thereby allowing for increased efficiency of operations in the energy sector. For example, during offshore oil & gas operations, oil rig workers must frequently enter depths that could result in decompression sickness or other related injuries.
With robotic technology in place, these risks are eliminated through automation which significantly increases productivity and efficiency along with reducing downtimes and improving safety of operations.
2. Reduces Cost
Robotic technology reduces the human cost of several activities in the energy sector. While humans are largely responsible for a number of tasks that involve repetitive actions, such as cutting, welding, laying pipelines and other similar tasks, robotic technology has long been used to do these types of operations.
The technology is capable of performing these tasks that require a high degree of precision and accuracy at a much lower cost as compared to the human alternatives.
Additionally, by using robotic technology during off-shore activities like drilling of oil wells or gathering & processing oil & gas, energy sector organizations are able to significantly reduce labor costs without compromising on productivity and quality.
3. Improved Reliability
Robotics technology reduces the need for human interaction in many tasks performed in the energy sector. As a result, there is increased reliability. Human error, fatigue and absenteeism are among the drawbacks associated with repetitive tasks that can be eliminated through automated robotics.
As these technologies are being increasingly adopted across industries, it is expected that in near future, mistakes and errors will be eradicated from various processes in which humans routinely participate.
4. Improved Quality
Over the next ten years, 70% of GDP growth will be driven by AI, machine learning, and robotics. The use of robotic technology has been shown to improve quality performance by eliminating human errors and improving efficiency of operations.
This leads to significant improvements in customer satisfaction as well as cost savings due to reduction of human labor costs and improved productivity.
5. Increased Safety
Robotic systems have been widely implemented in the energy field to improve safety during complex operations. The use of robotic technology has ensured that humans are no longer exposed to risky situations that involve danger to their lives or health.
For instance, during oil & gas exploration drilling, job tasks such as retrieving drill pipe from the wellbore, moving and placing equipment downhole, and sampling & running tests on the sample are being increasingly automated using robotic technology due to its ability to carry out these tasks safely.
6. Ease Of Use
Using automation in the energy sector has resulted in significant improvements in ease of use. This has been aided by several factors affecting the ease of use such as introduction of software that helps to overcome some of the complexities associated with complex activities, collaboration between teams and organizations using the technology and simple design.
For example, due to its ability to carry out tasks that would be dangerous for humans, robotics is often used by oil & gas exploration companies as a supplementary tool for tasks requiring precision and accuracy.
In such cases, manufacturers frequently create simplified robotic products consisting of reduced number of components and also features that can be easily operated through intuitive user interface.
7. Enhancing Quality Of Life
AI is predicted to contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, which is more than China and India’s combined present production. Robotics technology has been increasingly adopted by businesses to improve quality of life by eliminating the need for human involvement in dangerous tasks.
The technology also enables humans to participate in other activities that are far more beneficial for them as compared to routine and monotonous work, thereby contributing towards a better quality of life.
8. Optimizing Operations
The use of robotic technology helps eliminate repetitive tasks that can hamper productivity, reduce safety and affect efficiency at several levels. In addition, it also leads to increased accuracy, thereby improving overall performance and efficiency of operations.
There are several benefits of robotics in the energy sector. In addition to being used to optimize operations, it is also being adopted by organizations for monitoring and network connectivity applications.
The technology is now a viable option for organizations seeking to utilize their existing assets and manage existing infrastructure effectively, especially where a high level of automation is needed.
Robotics has the ability to be integrated into some of the core systems deployed in energy sector that are essential for safety, allowing use of automation as an additional tool to address some of the challenges faced during repetitive tasks performed by humans.
While there are many benefits associated with robotics in energy sector, it also has a number of drawbacks and limitations that need to be addressed properly when implementing robotic technology across an organization or industry.
Risks Of Robotics In Energy Sector
The efficient energy grid is the backbone of the modern economy, and energy efficiency projects are key to reducing energy demand and improving energy infrastructure. Energy storage systems are critical to efficient energy use, and the development of new storage technologies is a top priority for the energy industry.
62% of CEOs are making preparations to flourish in a world of connected devices and intelligent automation; 16% have already made investments and are doing well. As energy usage data becomes more readily available, energy companies are looking for ways to better monitor energy generation and create virtual power plants.
One way to do this is through the use of energy storage technologies. By storing energy when it is not being used, energy companies can better control the flow of energy and create a more efficient system.
1. Inadequate Maintenance
Robots are prone to failure, just like any other technology. As a result, there is an increased need for maintenance of these technologies. If there is any interruption in the proper maintenance of robots in the energy sector, it can lead to significant disruptions impacting operations and the overall business.
For instance, if there isn’t proper maintenance of robotic systems used by oil & gas exploration companies in remote locations, it can lead to damage resulting from mechanical or electrical breakdowns that could cause significant downtime during exploratory drilling activities.
Overall, it can also result in damage to equipment resulting from fire or flood due to inadequate maintenance of robotic technology which includes tightening of bolts and screws on equipment. Furthermore, it can also cause an increase in the number of accidents and injuries due to malfunctioning of robotic technology.
2. Lack Of Robustness
The lack of robustness is another key drawback associated with robotic technologies across industries including the energy sector.
Machines that are not designed to handle failure or malfunctioning, or poorly crafted and programmed can lead to a failure in operations, injuries among humans or damage to equipment or other equipment due to offline programming file corruption.
Furthermore, if there is any interruption in service due to a breakdown of robots, it can lead to significant disruption in workflow and operations impacting productivity and customer satisfaction. In the event of a fire or other incidents, equipment can also become damaged due to malfunctioning robots.
3. Incurment In Costs
Robotics are designed to perform tasks that are not limited by the amount of payload they can carry or how complicated they are. As a result, these machines don’t need to follow the same design specifications as humans, providing users with greater flexibility and ease of use.
They are not necessarily robust as compared to human operators, making it difficult for people to handle failures that might be encountered due to the emergence of new technology or rapid development of new systems. In addition, they consume less manpower than human operators and machinery making it cost effective.
4. Training Delays
Robotic technology requires a significant amount of training in order to minimize risks associated with the technology. Due to the complexity associated with robotics, they are prone to malfunctioning and breakdowns.
In some cases, robotic technology is unable to function properly even if it was originally designed and manufactured by a reputed company. Undesigned mistakes can also lead to damage or injuries due to unexpected failures during operation that might not have been accounted for in designing of the system.
Therefore, there is an increased need for training and documentation detailing the use of the technology in order to avoid such incidents.
5. Developing Operational Knowledge
By 2030, the market for energy storage is expected to increase 20-fold. In order to operate robotic systems in the energy sector, it is important for businesses and consumers to develop operating knowledge of the technology that may be significantly different from traditional systems.
In order to utilize robots effectively, it is necessary for consumers or businesses to invest a significant amount of time and effort into developing operational knowledge about the technology used.
This can be costly as compared to traditional technologies due to cost associated with training employees, time spent by people getting acquainted with new technology, or delays in determining system errors during operations.
6. Decrease In Productivity
Robotic technology can lead to significant productivity reduction compared to humans. An increase in automation in the energy sector has the potential to cause a decline in production output, leading to an increase in costs and decreased profitability.
Humans are more efficient than robots and therefore can produce more output per unit of time, and at a lower cost. In comparison, robotic technology is limited by its physical size, weight or mobility that can be used effectively while performing tasks.
This leads to slow production or stoppage of operations if there is any malfunctioning of the system when operators are unable to respond.
7. Robot-Human Interaction
Due to the complexity associated with robotic devices, there is an increased risk of robot-human interaction which will result in an increase in safety risk. As robots become more sophisticated or have more advanced features, it can lead to increase in injury or complete malfunctioning of equipment that can lead to significant damage to humans.
In some cases, some human operators might not be able to effectively handle newly designed and engineered robotics that do not function similarly as compared to human operators. This can lead to injuries and damages due to misuse of such technology.
8. Intentional Misuse
Robotic technology is prone to intentional misuse by users due to lack of security measures. If the technology is not designed in such a way that it can be rendered useless if it is used for illegal activities, there might be increased risks of theft and vandalism.
In some cases, even though robotic devices are made to be secure against unintentional external damage such as fire or flood, they are still prone to intentional misuse.
If the technology is being used by an individual or group of people who don’t have authorization or authorization has expired, it can lead to significant losses due to data leakage, theft or vandalism.
Due to the number of drawbacks associated with robotic technology, its future in the energy sector is uncertain. However, there is growing interest in robotics across industries as new technologies continue to emerge.
In order to reap benefits from robotic technology, businesses and consumers need to increase their operational knowledge of the technology as a result of which they will be able to adopt it successfully and reap the benefits that come with its use in various industries.