IoT Technology to Reduce Need for Oil, Gas Workers Offshore

Internet of Things (IoT) technology will change the daily life of oil and gas workers by enabling more of them to conduct offshore work from an onshore monitoring facility or even from home.

Oceaneering International Inc., a provider of offshore oilfield engineered services and products, is seeing a big push from its oil and gas customers for communications and data management technology that allows them to bring workers in from their offshore facilities, said Mark Stevens, director of global data solutions at Oceaneering, in an interview with Rigzone at the OilComm 2016 Conference Oct. 12 in Houston.

The trend of reducing the number of workers needed offshore is partly due to the age gap between older offshore workers who are leaving industry, and younger workers just starting their careers, Stevens said. Younger workers need access to the Internet and connectivity; this makes recruiting younger workers to go offshore difficult, Stevens told Rigzone.

Getting workers out of harm’s way is another factor in oil and gas companies looking to reduce the number of offshore workers they need. Two fatal helicopter crashes involving oil and gas workers this year – one offshore Angola, one offshore Norway – are a reminder of the hazards that offshore oil and gas workers face, Stevens noted.

Stevens told Rigzone he believes the trend of reducing worker headcount offshore would have occurred regardless of the oil price downturn, which has triggered massive layoffs and spending cutbacks in the oil and gas industry.

To reduce the number of workers offshore, companies are looking for ways to stream data from remote operations offshore to onshore monitoring centers, Stevens said during a presentation at the OilComm conference. This includes data gathered from data platforms such as remotely operated vehicles (ROV), unmanned aerial systems (UAV), or drones, autonomous underwater vehicles, autonomous surface vehicles and automated guided vehicles.

To meet these needs, video and data integration for asset management through a common operating picture (COP) – a computing platform based on a geographical information system technology that provides a single source of data and information to support emergency management, response personnel and other stakeholders involved or impacted by an incident – is needed.

“The ship has become a data center,” said Stevens. “Now there is a push to simply and reduce the ship’s footprint.”

Communication technology deployed offshore needs to be able to withstand shock and vibration, transported by truck, plan or ship, light enough to be deployed quickly and operational in remote sites with little or dirty power.

“Clear communications are critical when you’re trying to stream video and data from a remote site or vessel,” Stevens said during the presentation.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at


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