Does remote work actually work for oil and gas operators?

COVID-19 may well have been the kick in the pants needed to push remote operations into the industrial mainstream, and there’s no shortage of surveys and trends reporting to back up this sentiment.

In a November 2020 McKinsey insights report, the majority of companies said that the potential for remote work is determined by tasks and activities rather than occupations, which jives well with a similarly timed AIRINC survey among oil and gas companies. While an overwhelming 80% of them said that more work will be done remotely, they acknowledge that this simply won’t work for all types of oil and gas tasks.

The reasons for doing more work remotely in oil and gas typically run the gamut of gains in employee health and safety, reduced operating costs, overall greater efficiency (think maximum uptime and better quality control), and last but not least, the fact that it’s finally possible to do more things from home. 

Two companies have made big leaps when it comes to remote operations of their oil and gas field: Equinor and Aker BP. Both have either fully or partially unmanned rigs, with primary operators working onshore. The biggest bonus with this setup seems to be connected to cost, reports Reuters.

Reuters spoke to Safe union head Hilde-Marit Rysst who said that “moving workers from offshore to onshore saves on helicopter transport and reduces the extra costs connected to offshore work” — a savings equivalent to 50% of a total salary. 

Smart use of technology, including data from sensors combined with machine learning, is contributing to further cost reductions. Reuters reports that Equinor’s Johan Sverdrup oil field boosted earnings by $213 million thanks to digital solutions, including a digital twin, since production started. 

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