Thursday, September 06, 2012

If Robots Can Mine the Rocks of Planet Mars, Why Not Use Robots on Earth to Mine Oil, Coal, Minerals

The oil industry wants to bring robotic automation to the oil field, for safer, more precise, and eventually more economical operations.
Engineers foresee a day when fully automated rigs roll onto a job site using satellite coordinates, erect 14-story-tall steel reinforcements on their own, drill a well, then pack up and move to the next site. “You’re seeing a new track in the industry emerging,” says Eric van Oort, a former Royal Dutch Shell executive who’s leading a new graduate-level engineering program focused on automated drilling at the University of Texas at Austin. “This is going to blossom.” _BW Robots the Future of Oil Industry

The technology is being developed for both onshore and offshore drilling -- including very deep sea drilling. Up-front costs for such systems will be significant, particularly in the beginning. But over the long haul, automation is likely to bring significant savings to the oil industry, just as it has to so many other industries before it.
The theory behind automating oil exploration is derived not only taking humans out of dangerous work inherent in oil and gas drilling, but eliminating as much as possible the potential for human error. The BP Oil disaster was caused when a drilling rig opened a pocket of methane, according to a BBC story. A smart drill bit would presumably be able to avoid such pockets. If a disaster like BP happens with a robotic oil rig, there would be few if any human casualties. _Texas Looks to Robotic Oil Rigs

Deep sea oil robots are particularly intriguing, operating at depths of midnight darkness, freezing cold, and crushing pressures.
These new robotic rigs would be used for production and exploratory purposes. They have been designed to operate on the ocean floor, for safe exploration of ultra-deep water and also for exploring the arctic regions that are inaccessible by traditional rigs. Seabed Rig AS has created highly intelligent robots, which are controlled by software, coded by Energid Technologies, a Cambridge Massachusetts firm. According to Neil Tardella, Energid’s COO, the software had been developed for the National Science Foundation and NASA for controlling complex robots, and this was then used to construct the most intelligent robotic rig. _azorobotics

Engineers have been devising robotics systems to replace humans in dangerous mining environments -- such as coal mines -- for decades now. As the technology improves, the possibility of removing humans from hazardous work areas and replacing them with robots becomes more feasible.

Deep sea mining for minerals and gas hydrates represent other areas ripe for the application of robotics. The field is still in its infancy, and it is likely that most applications of robotics in energy-related enterprises have yet to be conceived.

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