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Robots To Control Oil Drilling Platforms

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the nothing-can-go-wrong-can-go-wrong-can-go-wrong dept.

Robotics 96

Roland Piquepaille writes "In 2015, and if everything goes well, oil drilling platforms located offshore Norway will be controlled by robots. Even today, these platforms don't use many people. But the idea behind the new platform concept is to install large modular process sections in unmanned areas to allow access by one or more robotic manipulators. In a few years, operators should be able to remain on land and to remotely control the oil drilling platforms. Obviously, this should reduce risks and costs. Tests have already started in a new laboratory in Trondheim. According to the plans, the researchers have 8 years in front of them to deliver the robotic tools able to control these very expensive platforms. But read more for additional references and pictures."

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96 comments

What could go wrong? (0, Offtopic)

lecithin (745575) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817464)

Fender: [singing] I'm singing in the oil / I'm singing in the oil / After all that work and toil / I'm just slipping in the oil / I know where I've been sent / I'm covered in lubricant... My life has been turned around. From now on, I'm a winner!

-Robots (2005)

Re:What could go wrong? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817478)

that reminds me of my favorite robot [xrl.us]

PARENT IS A SPAM LINK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817498)

Great. Another Minicity link.It feels dirtier than Goatse links.

I, for one, am never clicking on shortened URLs by ACs.

Re:PARENT IS A SPAM LINK (0, Troll)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817534)

I thought that was already illegal.

Re:PARENT IS A SPAM LINK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817764)

the userscript i posted earlier on my blog [blogspot.com] should help!

Re:PARENT IS A SPAM LINK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817824)

how come this doesn't work?

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817536)

out of curiosity, why is the link always at the end?

Re:What could go wrong? (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817550)

To help identify troll links of course. If you don't like them, you can turn them off in Preferences>>Comments. Second to the bottom is an option to turn them off ("Display Link Domains?")

Re:What could go wrong? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817552)

maybe she should mix [ripway.com] it up a bit so they don't catch on to her

PARENT ANOTHER SPAM LINK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817576)

Gosh. Why doesn't MyMiniCity.com have some sort of abuse report feature? I would be rounding up and reporting these guys so quickly if they did!

I, for one, am blocking xrl.us and ripway.com in my Privoxy [privoxy.org] setting so I don't accidentally help these spammers any more (at least not through these services).

Re:PARENT ANOTHER SPAM LINK (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817598)

thats is an awsome idea. i also found this to help combat [tubeurl.com] this bullshit. They also have a complaint form [shortenurl.com] that can be filled out in detail.

peace

PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817630)

Thanks for letting me know about those services. I've sent complaint email to those URL shortening services, imploring them to add a preview features so that spammers like you will starve.

Dirty bastard.

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817654)

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817860)

Slashdot needs to follow links, and display the final destination host behind the link!
That way you'll see it's really a link to that stupid city website, or goatscx, or whatever.

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817934)

That would be one way, but that places the burden on the wrong entity.

To be fair, all these URL shortening sites need to implement a feature like TinyURL's preview feature [tinyurl.com] , since they are the enabler of these acts of spamming. Until they do, I am blocking all these URL shortening services (which is a snap with Privoxy [privoxy.org] ).

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819536)

You can't place the burden on the redirect sites... that's like trying to place the burden of spam on the bot-infested PC's all of the world. Good luck with that! Sure it's not fair, but it's reality.

I don't see slashdot displaying the real domain name as placing the burden on the wrong entity anyway. I think slashdot should post the final domain the redirects get to with all links, not just the spam ones. No it won't solve the problem, but it will help.

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819614)

The only problem is, following redirects generate traffic (HTTP redirects can be gathered without actually loading the page, but script or META redirects can handled only by loading the whole page). Generating traffic does two thing (that I know; a more knowledgeable admin can probably think up more): 1) costs Slashdot (or its parent) bandwidth money (it's not like just changing Slashcode); 2) if not done correctly, Slashdot can be liable for more things ... (I don't know exactly what; all I know is you have to be extra careful in programming if your program is going to generate traffic).

This is certainly not an easy problem. Perhaps if we ignore it, it'll go away. :)

I, for one, have myminicity.com blocked in my Privoxy setting (and I haven't seen other deceptive links related to anything else, not even Goatse or other such shock sites).

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21823994)

You realize slashdot already tries to load slashdot.org/ok.txt from your IP address when you post AC right? That's how the check to see if you're posting from an anonymous proxy.

Point being, they already generate traffic.

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

novakyu (636495) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826292)

Hm. I didn't know that. I assume it's done through the newer Javascript stuff?

Perhaps if they cared enough, they could implement what you suggest to apply to AC postings. I still think the traffic/bandwidth generated might be a problem if it's done for every single post, but implemented only for AC posts, they might be able to throttle it down.

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (1)

liquidpele (663430) | more than 6 years ago | (#21830426)

Right. You would only have to do it for AC posts, and then only for AC posts with links. I honestly don't think the bandwidth would be much at all compared to what they already serve out since usually you'll have about 1 article every hour on average, and each of those probably has maybe 50 AC posts with links, so that's about one check every minute? That's not too bad. If it got heavy, they'd need to do a random sample so it can't get DOS'd by a ton of AC posts with links, but you get the idea.

Re:PARENT YET ANOTHER SPAM LINK (0, Offtopic)

the_shane_company (1040310) | more than 6 years ago | (#21820676)

All I got was a 'you'd have to be dumb enough to install Flash to be spammed by this site' message. Clean and efficient blocking of webgarbage.

Re:What could go wrong? (1)

dieth (951868) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817904)

Ok guys, I hate the myminicity-com guy too. This is made by a french company called Motion Twin. You can email them at contact@motion-twin.com . This idiots myminicity is called fohootville. Diluge this address, maybe even their http://support.motion-twin.com/ [motion-twin.com] website. With requests that this asshole be tarred/featered, burned at the stake, shot X number of times, where X is the number of posts he's made. And to request the cancellation of his account. I'll probably be trying to troll this message under each of his posts sorry for that :(

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21818076)

he could just make another city. it doesn't require registration and no identifiable information is taken.

Re:What could go wrong? (0, Offtopic)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818606)

is there a way to filter by poster user id ?

Re:What could go wrong? (1)

the_shane_company (1040310) | more than 6 years ago | (#21820650)

You can make somebody your 'foe' and then mark the default moderation of 'foes' at -5 or so. Really, it's trivial these days to killfile somebody.

sex robots (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817484)

they should use sex robots to do this job [tubeurl.com]

Re:sex robots (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817510)

Parent is yet another minicity spam link.

Re:sex robots (1)

Arcturax (454188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818378)

So is the article author. I mean hey, if I create a blog that just regurgitates news stories, can I get published on /. every day too?

oil (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817490)

why would they repair the platforms when they are running out of oil? [snipurl.com]

And what about... (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817496)

Security guards?

Re:And what about... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817526)

did you hear the one about the drilling platform, a secuirty guard and a robot? [dwarfurl.com]

Re:And what about... (1)

hyfe (641811) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817806)

Security guards?
This is the North Sea we're talking about. *North* sea. It's cold, stormy and miles away from civilization (if you can call my dear home Norway civilized).

I mean, piratebay jokes not withstanding, it's not exactly teeming with criminals.

Re:And what about... (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817914)

it's not exactly teeming with criminals
Maybe not criminals, but millions of gallons of unprotected oil could attract quite a number of terrorists wishing to cause an ecological disaster. OK, so Islamic terrorists don't have many problems with Norway (that I know of), but they could decide that it would be better for their cause if the Middle East were the sole source of oil in the world.

Re:And what about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21818028)

Yes, and the Steven Seagal watchmen will protect the rigs...

Re:And what about... (3, Insightful)

hyfe (641811) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818056)

terrorists
If you want to protect against a boat filled up with explosives, you need an army. Not security guards.

Either way, I'm about as scared of terrorists as I am of the roving angry bands of pedophiles that roam the countryside. There's no global conspiracy; every single terrorists attack has had very real and very local causes. In my humble opinion the 'too much generalization is as dangerous as too little' proverb is as apt for understanding society as it is for programming.

Re:And what about... (2, Funny)

westyx (95706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819592)

Actually a navy would work much better, what with all the sea stuff.

Re:And what about... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21818442)

I'm more afraid of what happens when a crazy US president decides that Norway would be a great place to steal oil ;-)

Re:And what about... (3, Funny)

dvice_null (981029) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819706)

> Maybe not criminals, but millions of gallons of unprotected oil could attract quite a number of terrorists wishing to cause an ecological disaster

You mean greanpeace?

Re:And what about... (1)

Deb-fanboy (959444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819902)

Terrorists would be much more likely to target neighbouring UK who are deeply involved with the Middle East rather than Norway.

In fact choosing Norway as a target over the UK would be very counter productive, it would be saying that you might as well get involved in the Middle East, because you will be a target anyway.

The UK sector has always been a possible Terrorist Target, so the SBS (Like the SAS but more expertise with boats) trains regularly on various offshore installations. I have been on a platform during some of their training exercises. Sometimes they get dropped from over the horizon in canoes (by submarine) paddle over and climb up the platform stairs, from underneath! But on this occasion they rather tamely arrived by military helicopter.

Oblig (0)

SamP2 (1097897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817516)

I for one welcome our new oil-drilling robotic overlords.

Re:Oblig (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817772)

In Soviet Norway, oil-platforms drill you!

Re:Oblig (1)

TheDugong (701481) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819832)

In Norway, only robots work oil rigs.

Are robots the new Mexicans? (1)

djasbestos (1035410) | more than 6 years ago | (#21821310)

They took our jerbs!!!!!

ObOhNoItsRoland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817522)

damn it I clicked didn't see it was a Roland article

Re:ObOhNoItsRoland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817560)

Admit it, you're just one of Roland's Ad Clicky Whores.

Why are frieghters still manned? (2, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817546)

Makes you wonder why freighters aren't robotic. You'd have to load human pilots for the relatively short hop from international waters into port but there wouldn't seem to be any reason to have a full time crew. GPS, satellite communications, video cameras, radar, infrared...it would be near real time, at least at the speeds a freighter moves. If something goes wrong helo a repair crew out and fix it.

Without the need to accommodate a full time human crew you could weld a cover over the top and seal it. Modern freighters are pretty automated these days, just take the next step. If they can automate a frickin oil rig, they should be able to automate a freight container.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

The-Pheon (65392) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817570)

What about pirates? Container ships have valuable cargo.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

Viceice (462967) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819692)

Thats even more reason to automate ships. Crew or not, pirates will take a ship if they want it's cargo. Having a crew on board just gives them hostages to hold for ransom.

With an automated ship devoid of crew, not only could you harden it against intruders, i bet you could even have some interesting booby traps put in.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (2, Funny)

eh2o (471262) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819950)

I predict disaster. This will only encourage the pirates to go robotic as well, ultimately escalating to a global war fought out with robots remotely controlled by ninjas.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (3, Interesting)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817572)

Watch a season of Deadliest Catch and get back to us with your revised automation estimate. Granted the ship size is different, but when things go Charlie Foxtrot on the high seas you need not so automatic-able judgement call decisions made - and good luck getting a helo on a pitching and rolling ship.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1, Flamebait)

the_humeister (922869) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817862)

I wonder why such fishing is not illegal yet. You'd think that someone somewhere would have sued to keep such workers from working in such conditions. Oh well, I suppose as a society, we value our seafood more than the people who catch them...

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (3, Insightful)

don depresor (1152631) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818226)

You know these guys are some of the best paid non-executive people in the world, Right?
And that nobody forces them to do it, Right?

Making their job illegal would only piss them and make some silly holier-than-thou people more happy because the world would be a better place (tm)

And while you're at it, why not forbid people making other dangerous things, like... you know being cops or soldiers.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

don depresor (1152631) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818256)

I meant manual labor when i said non executive, brain fart, sorry :P

Well, (0)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819846)

robots are coming to soldiering. My guess is that within another 10-15 years, we will see America using robots to do the bulk of the work. Why would the USA military do that? So that they do not have to worry about body bags, or large fast logistics, or a troop in the field saying no, or reporting interesting things to the press, etc. The simple fact is that America is one of the smaller countries amongst the majors. It has been our tech advantage that makes 1 troop be do so much. Now, much of that tech is being stolen by those that will most likely be fighting us.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (2, Insightful)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819292)

While we value lives, we also value the power and freedom to live our lives as we choose. Paternalism is condescending and degrading.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21821226)

Watch a season of Deadliest Catch and get back to us with your revised automation estimate. Granted the ship size is different, but when things go Charlie Foxtrot on the high seas you need not so automatic-able judgement call decisions made - and good luck getting a helo on a pitching and rolling ship.

Actually, when I watched "Deadliest Catch" and "Ice Road Truckers" I wondered to myself when they are going to fully automate both tasks.

For one, an automated fishing boat no longer needs any cabins or space for human living. Hence, they can be water tight sealed like a submarine before leaving the docks and could simply capsize and not sink. Hopefully it would be designed to right itself automatically through buoyancy The trawling part of the ship could be separate which could store the catch and still not interfere with the water tight part of the ship.

Heck, the things could work 24/7 and automated cow ships could refuel them in the open waters.

As far as "Ice Road Truckers" the argument against would most likley be what about the live truckers. Well, if they were all automated then the trucks could talk with each other about accidents and slow downs etc etc.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21822904)

You might make some headway with an automated trawler, but sorting at the dock would then bring deepwater species into the shore, not a good thing. Fish factory ships could ease that, but good luck automating them and the feeders...

Crabbers and long line (long=40 mile) fishing would be a whole lot more problematic. Hard to imagine automating that much imprecise work with many judgement calls.

For contrast - we can pretty reliably dock two spacecraft with human hands standing by, in empty space with no shifting ambient forces on them - much less in 12 ft seas with 30 knot winds.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817662)

Makes you wonder why freighters aren't robotic.

Man, and I thought everybody had seen Hackers [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817698)

Makes you wonder why freighters aren't robotic.
One simple explanation -- pirates.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

FireNWater (1182607) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817966)

Yeah, robotic pirates. . . .

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

TimSSG (1068536) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818052)

So, I have a solution to fight global warming. 1. Make robotic freighters. 2. This will increase pirates. 3. The number of pirates trends inversely with the global temperature. 4. Reduces global warming. The above is base on very few facts, but the same is true for other global warming solutions; so, I don't feel bad. Tim S

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

freedom_india (780002) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819834)

Wrong! In fact robotic freighters are more safe. Imagine pirates board a normal vessel and kidnap the crew, which leads to negotiations, etc.
Imagine the crew is sitting near the swimming pool in Ceasers' Palace and controlling the ship. They see the pirate ship approaching and shoot off a couple of 15mm rounds from the freighter's guns (assuming they had). And EVEN if the pirates board, today's ships are so complex that they can be electronically locked down and even flood the cabin with argon gas.

However for some reason we don't have robotic ships, while we build robotic voyagers who navigate gravity and pummel out of the solar system.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21821750)

Explain how pirates aren't a good reason for robotic freighters. It's not like the crew is going to fight them tooth and nail over their cargo. They're going to do what every crew that survives pirate attack does: hide out somewhere, hopefully behind a bulkhead, with a big heavy door that locks from the inside, and hope the pirates don't A) find out where they are and/or B) care enough to find a way in and kill them.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

so sue mee (660717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21820180)

In Soviet Russia there was a proposal to have humongous submarines that transport oil under the Arctic ice. A submarine submerged 30 meters will not experience must storm

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

toddhisattva (127032) | more than 6 years ago | (#21821438)

If something goes wrong helo a repair crew out and fix it.
Because one helo hop costs as much as a full-time crew for a transoceanic trip?

Also, helicopters do not have the range of their lesser, fixed-wing cousins. So the disabled freighter would need to drift within helicopter range of shore facilities.

Freighters are manned because they have to be. People who know more about freight shipping than you and I combined have worked out amazing ways to shave cost and crew.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (1)

downhole (831621) | more than 6 years ago | (#21822042)

Helicopters have pretty short range compared to freighters. Once they get more then a few hundred miles offshore, you'll need an aircraft carrier in the vicinity in order to run a helicopter out to it.

I'd also bet that half the time something goes wrong is due to storms. Good luck landing a helicopter on an unmanned freighter that has probably lost communication in a storm.

Re:Why are frieghters still manned? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21822570)

Apparently you didn't watch the movie hackers... *ducks*

Reduce risk? (3, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817578)

From TFA:

Obviously, this should reduce risks

Reduce it for whom? Why is it that nobody ever thinks about the robots??

Re:Reduce risk? (0, Troll)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817590)

You REALLY do need to get out of the basement.

Reduce risks? Kinda sorta. (2, Insightful)

fname (199759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817604)

It reduces risk to the human crew operating the platform. But if something goes wrong on the rig, I think that the risk of a minor accident turning into a major problem is much larger. What if there's a fire? Damaged by a passing ship? Sabotaged? With no human crew on board, the ability to improvise and solve new problems is seriously hampered.

Re:Reduce risks? Kinda sorta. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817734)

What's going to stop a terrorist/competitor/hacker from casually dropping by and making a few "adjustments" to the programming?

Re:Reduce risks? Kinda sorta. (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 6 years ago | (#21821258)

With no human crew on board, the ability to improvise and solve new problems is seriously hampered.

We aren't talking about the Mars mission. You can always fly a helicopter out there if you had to within a few hours.

Most of the time, when something major goes wrong on a tower they don't try to fix it other than shut everything down and abandon the tower. Chances are, if they couldn't shut it down remotely they couldn't do it in person which puts lives in danger anyways.

Re:Reduce risks? Kinda sorta. (1)

RockDoctor (15477) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826480)

We aren't talking about the Mars mission. You can always fly a helicopter out there if you had to within a few hours.

Wrong.

Sometimes you can get a helicopter out there in "a few hours". Other times ... go whistle. The weather at the heliport might be too bad to take off. The weather at the rig might be too bad to land. The maintenance crew you need almost by definition are going to be highly skilled and in small numbers, so you can guarantee that the flange-sprocketing expert is currently on a different rig, working for a different client. And it is not economic to have three people trained for that job, because it doesn't go wrong that way often enough.

Then you've always got the other big unknown - can you get a crew for your helicopter? Since pay rates for flying fixed-wings are better than for flying rotary-wings, the industry is running a worsening shortfall of pilots. Train one, lose two.

I've spent part of today collating an End-of-Well report for a North Sea exploration well where 3 days were lost to misbehaviour of the automated pipe-handling system, followed by 8 days of fishing operations after an "unexpected event". The misbehaviour had the rig's specialists foxed, and the maintenance expert from the manufacturer foxed. It's been continuing on that "racking arm" for the nearly 3 months that I've been associated with that rig. So, with the best-in-the-world specialists on site, they still haven't got it fixed after 3 months of intermittent work.

Is this system going to shuttle people out to the rig every day, and back in again? (Do the sums on integrated risk from flying versus regular work - no one likes "shuttling", and most people refuse to do more than a few weeks of it per year - it's not worth the risk.) If they're shuttling by helicopter, what do you do when the weather deteriorates during the day and you can't get your crew off for a week? Oh, suddenly you have to have a refuge accommodation on board. Which throws about half of your justifications out of the window.

Maybe you're going to put the specialists onto a "floatel" ("floating hotel") and transfer them to and from the fixed rig over a hydraulic bridge. Yeah, that'd work. Except for a couple of things : the bridges are called "widow-makers" for damned good reasons ; they're even more weather sensitive than helicopters (due to the heave on the rig against the fixed platform) and get closed down or even unlatched while the paraffin budgies are still flying ; so you've still got the fixed costs of a refuge accommodation. And finally, have you seen the day rates for a floatel? They're higher than for a drilling rig.

OK, automation is good, but it is far, far short of the level of reliability required to replace drilling installations. For process and wellheads installations, it's not so far off. But you're going to have to take the hit of losing weeks of production when the robots can't handle a problem. Sure, this sort of work is going to have an effect, but it's not going to be a revolution. Not even a sea-change. Just another step towards lowering costs and (to a degree) lowering risks.

Risk calculus is important. Given that the industry's own figures for flying risk put the hazard of a crew-change (flight out, flight back in) at equivalent to approximately 2 weeks of normal working, you can do your own estimates of how many flights per month of productive maintenance work you'd be prepared to do. It's pretty unlikely that you'd want to do 20 crew changes (40 flights) for a 20-day working month.

(Caveat - before people tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about - I've been working offshore in the North Sea, and other places, for over 20 years now ; I expect a serious flight incident every 3 to 5 years ; watching that sea coming up to hit you while the pilots are desperately trying to re-start the second engine really makes you think about how much risk you're willing to tolerate for your pay packet.)

Peak oil (1)

bananaendian (928499) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817640)

Norway's oil production peaked in 2001 at 3.4 million b/d. When they get these robots down there in 2015 there isn't not much left. On the bright side, oil will be at least a 1000 dollars a barrel.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil [wikipedia.org]

Re:Peak oil (3, Insightful)

CodeBuster (516420) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817736)

On the bright side, oil will be at least a 1000 dollars a barrel.
No doubt you are backing that up by locking in some "low" prices on long term oil futures contracts with your own money right? I mean, who wouldn't want to act on such valuable information if they were privy to a "sure thing" in the commodities markets?

Re:Peak oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817812)

Who says it isn't 'not' going to happen!

Re:Peak oil (1)

Comatose51 (687974) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819306)

"I mean, who wouldn't want to act on such valuable information if they were privy to a "sure thing" in the commodities markets?"

The sort of generous anonymous benefactors you would meet on the Internet? I mean it is Christmas after all. Maybe Scrooge has discovered a heart or the Nigerian scammers are out in full force to help pay for presents to their families.

Re:Peak oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817828)

You are wrong. According to the national prognosis the production will be reduced by 35% by 2026. And half of the production at that point in time are expected to be from undiscovered fields. Btw, oil isn't everything, gas production isn't close to a peak, it has barely begun.

Re:Peak oil (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21820362)

And half of the production at that point in time are expected to be from undiscovered fields.

That's right, technological innovation will allow them to discover completely new oil where they couldn't find any before. Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for someone to invent the metal detector that will find the pirate treasure buried in my back yard. It must be there, I just don't have the technological capability to see it yet.

Attention Minicity trolls (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21817838)

Post something funny, like the drunkard city guy does, and I'll click your links.

Well, when I start my new job on an oil platform.. (1)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817902)

I, for one, will welcome my new robot overlord.

Think how much less messy office politics will be as I try and work my way up, as my worth will now be mathematically calculated based on my productivity, efficiency, and company history.

What does it do if the remotely control link goes. (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#21817916)

What does it do if the remotely control link goes down?

Just coming to a stop can be a bad thing.

Re:What does it do if the remotely control link go (1)

netik (141046) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819156)

There's a reason why network engineers, like myself, exist, and why we build redundancy into links. If you design for failure, then you assume that a link will go down. A number of protocols already exist for this use, and any good design for a critical system will include a high degree of redundancy.

uh ho (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818002)

there are going to be a lot of angry unemployed roughnecks with a damaged ego, replaced by a robot...

OPEC 2.0? (1)

punterjoe (743063) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818046)

Uh oh. Here come the Offshore Petroleum Extracting Cyborgs.
Once they have the oil, what further use will they have for us? :o

Sounds less like robots (1)

sgtrock (191182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818432)

and more like waldos. Or am I missing something obvious?

Sounds more like, were's Waldo's. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21819796)

Aw Man! On top of the other problems. Now we have to go looking for him too?

Remote Drilling (1)

phrostie (121428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21818562)

about 10 years ago i worked for a company in Austin that was designing a system where everything was remote controlled from chairs that looked more like the command chairs of STNG. pretty slick stuff.

seems like this was the next step. if anything i'm surprised it took this long.

Re:Remote Drilling (3, Interesting)

Deb-fanboy (959444) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819970)

There are various stories of North Sea Oil platforms which were designed to be "remote controlled" but ended up being manned. Its pretty hard when you have a some conflicting gauge readings and you want someone go check. Eventually it is cheaper to man the platform rather than try to find someone to go out, learn the plant, and check those conflicting readings. Humans are very flexible and good at adjusting to a system that does not operate exactly as planned.

I am reminded of a story my Dad told me from when he used to maintain radio equipment for drillers operating in the desert in the Middle East. He used find that the power supplies for the Radios were burnt out, and usually the output power valves were blown.

Eventually he found out that when the drilling rig was sticking, ie the bit had hit something hard and couldn't turn, the Toolpusher would go and increase the voltage on the camps inverter, so that instead of 240Vac, you would have around 300Vac. This would give the drill motor enough power to get the bit turning again, but of course blow all the comms equipment.

The driller is a different type of animal to the computer geek in my experience, and he speaks a totally different language, so it will be interesting to see how the computer controlled drilling system copes with , for example, when "greedy drillers create wooly sheep which block the shark hoses", as I read in our toolpushers report while I was fixing his PC yesterday (yes worked through Christmas Day).

I for one... (1)

maciarc (1094767) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819668)

I for one welcome our new oil company overlords. Wait... they're already in power... never mind.

"A new life awaits you in the off-world colonies!" (1)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 6 years ago | (#21819924)

"The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity and adventure!" Philip K. Dick would be pleased.

An unmanned platform will need security devices (1)

ls671 (1122017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21820252)

An unmanned platform would need security devices to protect it from the "evil people" that may want want to blow it up, or damage it/disable it. Radars and laser beams blasting anybody that approaches ? What if that someday is lost at sea and means no harm to the rig but is just seeking refuge ?

Leaving a platform of that price unguarded seem unrealistic. So will humans remain to guard it (cheaper probably) or will the platform be equipped with its own defense system, or will they send "Delta Force" when somebody approaches (involving at least detection systems)? I am just curious.

G. B. Blackrock would advise against this (2, Funny)

ChicagoFan (125489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21820372)

We need to be careful. I once read a documentary [seibertron.com] about robots taking control of an oil drilling platform. It didn't work out well for any of the humans who worked there; the platform designer even suffered a mental breakdown [seibertron.com] due to injuries suffered at the hands of the robots.

G. B. Blackrock owned that oil platform and I'm sure he would advise against robot control of other oil platforms.

Now they control their food (1)

gatkinso (15975) | more than 6 years ago | (#21821098)

Great. Why not automate the factories next?

From an offshore engineer's perspective (1)

Vitamin J (720510) | more than 6 years ago | (#21826568)

As an electrical engineer who designs these platforms and also works offshore, this article was of genuine interest to me. However after reading it, I'm somewhat unconvinced. From what I gather, these robots are to be used on normally unmanned / minimal facilities platforms (usually wellhead platforms) or small production platforms at most. My objections to this are as follows:

  • Alot of these facilities are normally unmanned anyway. Operators go out to them to stroke a few valves and tweak some settings and perform maintenance duties. Insofar as maintenance is concerned, I doubt the robots would be capable of doing some of the tasks requiring fine motor skills, so people will have to go out there anyway. Besides, the robots themselves will need to be maintained.
  • Environmental conditions on an offshore rig are usually pretty harsh - it is salt-laden and equipment is subject to a fair amount of sea spray and extreme heat and cold (cold especially in the north sea). You try to limit the number of moving parts on these things. Robots sliding around on a gantry will surely suffer in the environment. I noticed in the photos, that the robots in the demo are operating in what looks like a pretty clean room.
  • I'm not sure what the power consumption of these robots are, my guess is 5kW per unit. For a team of 6 robots, that's 30kW. Minimal facilities platforms typically have a load less than 10kW, and many are supplied by solar and wind. With these robots, you'd need either a subsea power cable or offshore generation like gas turbines, Ormats, diesel gensets, etc. All of which require more maintenance which the robots won't be able to perform.
  • It's naive to think, as the guy in the article claims, that they can do away with the platform fire and gas systems. When people are onboard for maintenance, you'd want to be sure the F&G system is there and works.

These are all technical challenges that can be overcome, but when you look at the economic cost/benefit analysis, I suspect that this system is only viable for a very small subset of offshore facilities.

PS. Some people commented on security on offshore rigs. As far as I'm aware, there isn't any. On the platforms I've been to, I've never seen any security or anyone with a weapon for that matter. There are CCTV cameras in some places, but if you were determined to destroy a rig, it wouldn't be hard... it's full of explosive hydrocarbons to begin with. I don't know why anyone would really bother though, they are hard to get to and easy targets such as onshore pipelines would likely do more damage in disrupting operations (though less overall capital damage).
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