Replacing parts of an outdated Baker Hughes turbine at a petrochemical plant in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, was supposed to halt operations at the facility for at least 10 days and cost $50,000 to fly a specialized U.S. work crew about 9,000 miles.
Instead, according to a Bloomberg.com report, it took only five days and zero air travel—just an on-site technician wearing a helmet camera and a few American engineers supervising remotely. They watched and coached the local crew via the helmet from a Baker Hughes site in Pomona, Calif.
“Traditionally I would have to pay for two people’s travel, two people’s accommodations, and so forth to visit the customer’s site to do the mentoring,” says John McMillan, a regional repairs chief at the company whose team uses the helmet regularly. “It’s saved me a lot.”
The oil industry is adapting augmented reality (AR) technology to their needs more rapidly than the consumer and commercial markets. Some oil and gas companies are investing in AR start ups, some are buying smart goggles and writing their own software. Either way, AR allows an expert engineer's technical expertise to pass through to a technician at a remote site, where verbal and visual supervision will guide the hands-on person to repair the facility's downtime cause.
Communications and safety issues still need to be improved. Remote rigs need more reliable wireless networks and the headsets themselves need to be brought up to standards for working near hazardous materials.
Still, industry estimates are that by 2022, $18 billion worth of AR technology will be used by energy and utility companies.
Remote AR may also been just the answer to hiring the most experienced technicians.
Read more at Bloomberg's These AR Goggles Are Making Faster Fixes in Oil Fields.
image: GE Oil & Gas