Subsea infrastructure and the offshore rigs they are connected to are complex mechanical ecosystems. They must be efficient and reliable, but first and foremost they must ensure the safety of those who operate on and with them each day.

The rigs of today look much like they did a generation ago, and there has been little reason for fundamental change in that time. However, assets depreciate over time, and at different rates. This uncertainty over the integrity and health of this equipment has some in the oil and gas industry asking what should be done to replace or repair aging assets.

“There is a lot of equipment that’s been put out that had a design life for maybe 30 years, that is either fast approaching or is already past its life,” Southwest Research Institute Program Director Joe Crouch said. “So, we’re at a point now where we need to start understanding whether we can keep it and safely operate it. To some degree that aging infrastructure is a safety question mark.”

At OTC 2019 in Houston, Texas, this topic was discussed at length and potential solutions were offered. One encouraging development was the increase in predictive maintenance sensors and automated monitoring of equipment.

“With sensor technology where it is, we’re able to gather information, and with the computer power that we’ve got we’re now able to capture that data and process the data so we get a true picture of the current state of that equipment and we can monitor it throughout its life,” Stress Engineering Vice President Terry Lechinger said.

Emerging technology, and the data it gathers while in use, could usher in a new era of safety into the offshore drilling industry. Ultimately it will be up to humans to figure out how to put this data into use effectively.

Read more from OTC here.

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