While the adoption of augmented reality (AR) in the oil and gas industry is in the introductory phase, this evolving technology has the potential to disrupt the traditional operational functions in the sector over the next five years, according to leading data and analytics company, GlobalData.
Worth nearly $4 billion in 2018, the global AR market is expected to reach $76 billion by 2030, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24%, it said.
Early adopters of the technology have seen use cases within inspection and maintenance, monitoring applications, employee training and on-field worker safety within the energy sector, stated GlobalData in its latest thematic report, Augmented Reality in Oil and Gas.
There are notable improvements in both the hardware and software space within AR technology, and this is reflected in the growing number of use cases, it added.
Ravindra Puranik, Oil and Gas Analyst at GlobalData, said: "The growing use of wearable devices, smartphones and tablets in the oil and gas industry is making it conducive for the adoption of AR applications in the industry."
"Combining AR with technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), big data and artificial intelligence (AI) will help in the creation of more holistic solutions for oil and gas applications, including real-time detection and repair of equipment breakdown," he noted.
According to him, oil and gas companies are collaborating with tech firm such as Microsoft and Google to develop industry-specific AR solutions.
These tech start-ups are also joining in the effort to develop customized AR solutions for the specific needs of the O&G companies.
Leading oil and gas company Chevron has equipped its field technicians with the Microsoft’s Hololens for undertaking routine maintenance tasks.
These Hololens enables the technicians to receive remote technical assistance while performing challenging tasks, thereby improving efficiency, explained Puranik.
Chevron conducted several trails with Hololens and is now set to increase the deployment of these kits at its operations worldwide.
This could encourage other operators to follow suit and thus increase the penetration of AR technology in O&G in the near future, he added.
Puranik said: "AR startups, such as Fieldbit has developed solutions for aiding oil and gas operations by delivering real-time information to field technicians. BP successfully tested these solutions in 2017 and then went for mass adoption in its US operations."
"AR can be used to facilitate field technicians to maintain a digital checklist of regular tasks, offering notifications and reminders on pending tasks," he noted.
According to Puranik, the ability to deliver remote technical assistance via AR devices is helping companies save transportation costs and eliminate delays in attending to equipment breakdown.
"It speeds up maintenance activities while also safeguarding personnel by preventing them from making technical errors," he noted.
GlobalData’s thematic research identifies Baker Hughes, BP, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Arabian Oil Company and Schlumberger, among the leaders in the AR theme in the energy sector.
It also highlights some of the AR technology providers for O&G industry, namely Google, Amazon, Facebook, Fieldbit, Magic Leap, Microsoft, and Unity.
Rupantar Guha, the thematic analyst at GlobalData, said: "Enterprises are starting to recognize the benefits of AR in training, remote assistance, maintenance and repair, and customer support."
"Covid-19 is fueling the adoption of AR devices such as smart glasses across several industrial applications, and it will continue in the coming years. Despite this, GlobalData believes large-scale enterprise adoption of AR is still some way away," explained Guha.
"The technology’s high cost and relative immaturity, combined with significant privacy concerns, will prevent widespread enterprise adoption of AR for at least the next three years. Large enterprises will be the prime adopters of AR during this period, while small and medium-sized businesses across all industries will wait to see evidence of long-term benefits before investing," he added.
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