Transforming the Oil and Gas Sector with an Extended Reality- and 5G-Enabled Workforce

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Worker safety is the paramount concern in the oil and gas industry. Complex environments like oil rigs and refineries require solutions that ensure the well-being of employees, while still enhancing operational efficiency. In this article, we will delve into how the adoption of new technology has provided game-changing advancements for these objectives.

The oil and gas industry’s long-term viability hinges on an intensified commitment to safety. This is not only essential for attracting younger talent to replace retiring workers, but also aligns with sustainability goals by helping to prevent incidents like hazardous leaks. Improved safety practices not only safeguard employees but also reduce costs, making it a critical focus. Technologies such as Extended Reality and wireless connectivity are being increasingly utilised by oil and gas companies to support these goals.

The role of Extended Reality in revolutionising worker safety in the oil and gas industry

Oil and gas facilities are challenging workplaces, demanding real-time access to information while keeping workers’ hands free for safety and efficiency. Extended Reality (XR) smart glasses can support this, offering a head-mounted display which can be voice-controlled. Industry leading solutions purpose-built for frontline workers, such as the latest RealWear Navigator Z1, feature a display which sits just below the eye (as opposed to over the eye). This is critical to maintaining a clear field of view for oil and gas workers, while allowing them to still access the information they need at a simple downwards glance – ensuring both safety and efficiency.

XR smart glasses can support multiple formats of information; from simple technical manuals to complex digital workflows, workers can be kept informed and be steered more easily on processes. Features like live streaming and real-time assistance also improve productivity and reduce downtime, while promoting adherence to safety guidelines. With these simple but powerful use cases, XR can also help to optimise resource utilisation by removing the need for specialist engineers to travel to site –dramatically reducing oil and gas companies’ carbon footprint and travel costs.

Leading companies in the oil and gas industry have already showcased some compelling applications of this technology:

Shell has led digitalisation in the oil and gas sector using smart glasses technology to connect their global workforce, and remotely assist frontline workers. This innovative approach is helping them to resolve complex issues more quickly and reduce unplanned downtime. Read more here.

Saudi Aramco are also utilising the same technology to enhance their inspection activities, resulting in significant time savings and safety compliance improvements. Read more here.

Private 5G plays a pivotal role in making Extended Reality and other technologies possible for oil and gas

Reliable, secure, and high-capacity connectivity is crucial for Extended Reality applications and devices, along with many other modern technologies today. Unlike traditional communication platforms like voice radio and WiFi, private 5G networks can offer super-fast, low-latency, high-capacity connectivity, simplifying deployment and maintenance even in remote environments. The introduction of 5G technology into the oil and gas industry can help to accelerate communication services and significantly enhance worker safety by enabling new technologies to be more easily deployed and connected. So great is the potential that, according to Deloitte, the global market for 5G in the oil and gas industry is projected to reach an estimated size of $7.4 billion by 2025.

While private 5G offers many possibilities for oil and gas, public cellular networks also have a role to play. Onshore pipelines have long utilised cellular technology for remote monitoring and maintenance, even since 2G, enabling them to better track their assets and infrastructure to protect against leaks or theft going unnoticed. As cellular networks have progressed, these remote monitoring capabilities have been able to expand and address more complex requirements too – continuing to support the industry with their efficiency and safety objectives.

The combination of Extended Reality wearables and cellular technologies are key driving forces for digitalisation in the oil and gas industry. These innovations not only drive efficiency and productivity but, most importantly, prioritise the safety and well-being of workers in challenging and hazardous environments. As the industry embraces these technological advancements, it secures its future, attracts new talent, mitigates risks, and improves sustainability.

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