The oil industry has always been one which, to put it mildly, has been prone to risks and hazards. Even the most cursory of online searches will reveal countless industry disasters and sobering statistics. Whether it be onshore or offshore, oil production traditionally has been fraught with danger.
Over the past decade or so, however, things have begun to change. More stringent regulations have been introduced, more accountable and transparent legal frameworks have been put in place, and significant technological advancements have been made. All of which sees the industry in the safest position it’s ever been.
There’s no room for complacency, however. After all, the Deepwater Horizon disaster was only 10 years ago and while annual fatalities are indeed showing a downward trend, those are lives lost, not just some statistics. With that in mind, let’s look at how the industry is making proactive steps towards a safer future.
One of the greatest additions made to the oil industry over the past few years has been the advancement and implementation of drone technologies. Whether fixed-wing or rotary-based, these now relatively commonplace aerial vehicles have a wide range of applications within the sector. From surveillance through to routine inspection work, their efficacy is perhaps most demonstrable in terms of safety improvements.
Their benefits in this regard are two-fold. First, they’re used for the predictive maintenance of critical rig infrastructure, meaning that problems can be spotted before they become problems. This invariably helps the development of various hazards, from explosion risks to general machinery wear and tear (which, if left unchecked, can lead to serious personal injury).
Second, they’re being used for the more dangerous inspection processes: the examination of flare towers, for instance, or confined storage spaces. These highly versatile drones can be fitted with a whole host of different sensors (including ultrasonic, thermal and LiDar, as well as high-resolution photographic cameras), meaning that the “picture” they paint is as comprehensive, if not more so, than that which a manual inspection could provide, with the added benefit of not having to put workers in potentially hazardous situations.
While perhaps not as eye-catching as state-of-the-art drone technology, there’s no getting around the fact that better industry education can (and does) save lives within the sector. This means education across all facets of the industry—from extraction through to logistics and delivery.EHS Today