Rig robots set to cut oil industry wage bill

oil riggersThe US oil industry could save more than $7 billion in wages by replacing human ‘roughnecks’ with rig robots, a new report claims. At least two out of every 10 oil workers employed in drilling, operational support and maintenance posts around the world could be replaced by automation in the field over the next decade, according to energy data provider RystadEnergys report.

Perpetually underwater robotics solutions are already widely in use as cost-effective alternatives to conventional remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for inspection, maintenance and repair (IMR) operations as they can more easily access remote locations and do not have to lowered from the surface in adverse weather conditions. Rig robots are also perceived to have great potential in drilling, where the work is currently cost-intensive and involves carrying out dangerous tasks in challenging environments.

Overall, Rystad Energy believes that at least 20% of the jobs in these segments could in theory get automated in the next 10 years. Looking at the current staffing headcount of some key oil and gas producing countries, the US could reduce its staffing needs by over 140,000 employees and Russia by over 200,000 personnel. Canada, the UK, and Norway could shed between 20,000 and 30,000 jobs each.

“Despite the huge potential of robotics, operators should be aware that these savings will be partially offset by the considerable investments required for the adoption of these solutions, which may vary depending on the cost structure and whether the robots are owned or leased,” the report cautions.