With additive manufacturing in oil and gas, the future starts now

For the oil and gas industry, digitalisation is much more than automation, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

For the oil and gas industry, digitalisation is much more than automation, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. It’s the opportunity to reimagine the design, manufacturing and operation of the assets and technology, leading to expansive breakthroughs in safety, efficiency and performance.

Nowhere is this promise more evident than in additive manufacturing (AM). More commonly known as 3D printing, AM will provide oil and gas companies with the power to transform how parts are created and optimised. The ability to fabricate parts on-demand stands to upend established and often inefficient supply chain models, reducing costs and opening the door for innovation.

Radical change is coming. The successes of early adopters, coupled with the wealth of expertise and resources now available, gives little reason for companies to press pause on starting their AM journeys. The barriers to entry have never been lower – and the rewards so high.

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Will 3D printing change the future of oil?

BP said this week it was studying the potential impact of 3D printing on oil demand in the event that manufacturing becomes local and global shipping declines. Pilita Clark, FT environment correspondent, discusses this and other potential threats to the industry with Andrew Ward, FT energy editor

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The power of 3D printing

Any outlook covering a period of several decades is surrounded by plenty of uncertainties that could significantly alter its projected trends. That is the key reason why those who compile these outlooks often avoid the word “forecast”, and talk instead about “scenarios” (the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook) and “cases”.

BP’s latest Energy Outlook “considers a base case, outlining the ‘most likely’ path for global energy markets over the next 20 years based on assumptions and judgments about future changes in policy, technology and the economy”. Sixteen of its around 100 pages focus on “key uncertainties” to 2035, which include the possibility of a more rapid penetration of electric cars, increased energy efficiency and a faster-than-anticipated transition to a lower-carbon economy.

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Industrial 3D printing in oil and gas sectors on the rise, Gartner reveals

Though hobbyists, researchers and manufacturers are all quite optimistic about the 3D printing revolution in the near future, Gartner has proven itself to be one of the most reliable sources out there when it comes to market growth. Their previous prediction that 10% of people in the developed world will own 3D printed products by 2019 is therefore quite promising. But as Gartner’s Research Director Morgan Eldred just revealed at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai, industrial 3D printing is also on the rise. Especially oil and gas companies are set to profit from the technology, it is revealed, and Gartner predicts that ten percent of all O&G companies will partially rely on 3D printing manufacturing by 2019.

Gartner, of course, is the world’s leading information technology research and market advisory company, and are known for their detailed and often correct interpretations of market mechanisms. With 3D printing quickly becoming a crucial innovative technology, it has been the subject of several specialized reports already, of which Impact of 3D Printing for Oil and Gas Industry IT Leaders is the latest. At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo in Dubai (1-3 March 2016), Morgan Eldred also discusses the opportunities and challenges this technology brings to the oil and gas sector – one of the largest industries in the world.

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