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Editorial comment

In today’s world, it is near on impossible to avoid the increasing level of technology that has become interwoven into everyday life. Phones are no longer only used to call a friend or family member; they are also our cameras, calendars, alarms clocks, maps, etc., and contain fingerprint and face recognition technology. We use computers to work, cars to get there, and relax in the evening by watching television (which now can connect to the internet, unlocking the potential to use streaming services, or just mindlessly scroll different websites from the comfort of the sofa). Artificial intelligence (AI) is also making an appearance in our homes, with over 1 billion AI assistants sold in 2018.1 Not only can these devices perform tasks such as play music or turn on lights by a simple voice command, they also interact and respond to instructions, and can occasionally crack jokes. But no need to worry, they are not capable of thinking for themselves. Yet.

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While we are still far from the verge of living in a world threatened by the rise of robotic humanoids, the oil and gas industry is definitely experiencing a rise in the use of robots and AI in operations. According to GlobalData, the global robotics industry is set to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16% from US$98.2 billion in 2018 to US$277.8 billion by 2025. Complex industry challenges, particularly in the exploration and production of hydrocarbons, are demanding research into alternative solutions. Across the upstream, midstream and downstream segments, companies are preparing to deploy robotics across a wide range of applications. GlobalData’s report, ‘Robotics in Oil & Gas’ identified oil and gas companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Gazprom, Repsol, Equinor, Total, Saudi Aramco, Sinopec and ADNOC, as seeking potential in complex engineering robotic solutions to work autonomously or in conjunction with field operators.

Safety is of key concern to those working in dangerous environments, such as in underwater configurations. Thus, technology advancements are helping carry out tasks that have been deemed too risky to be undertaken by field personnel.

In the UK, the defence and subsea sectors have joined forces in a first of its kind collaboration, in order to work on the development of advanced underwater technology including underwater robotics, unmanned operations, sensors and other technological and digital innovations. Subsea UK and its technology arm, the National Subsea Research Initiative (NSRI), have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UK Defence Solutions Centre (UKDSC) to work on the R&D of underwater autonomy capabilities and technologies.

‘Automation,’ ‘AI,’ ‘digitalisation’ and ‘robotics’ are the current buzzwords of the industry with companies seeking safer, more efficient and cost-effective methods to improve operations. Neil Gordon, Chief Executive of Subsea UK, comments: “digitalisation is bringing forward a number of technological solutions we could only have dreamed of before and will help revolutionise our industry.”

In this month’s issue of Oilfield Technology, our cover story by TETRA Technologies highlights the benefits of automating water supply and treatment systems for oilfield services. To learn more, turn to p. 34.


  1. KINSELLA, B., ‘New Report: Over 1 Billion Devices Provide Voice Assistant Access Today and Highest Usage is on Smartphones,’ (November 2018),