How augmented reality is changing the oil industry – Chevron

The Houston Chronicle featured an article about how augmented reality is changing the oil industry sharing their story of remote assistance.

A design engineer at Chevron’s sprawling El Segundo refinery in California used to travel from her office to the plant as many as five times a day to assess operations. Each time, she would bike to where she was needed, suit up with safety gear, assess the problem and bike back to the office, spending considerable time and energy in the process.

Not anymore. Plant workers outfitted with high-tech goggles equipped with a camera and connected to the internet now beam her in with a video call, allowing her to assess the problem on her computer screen and make the necessary recommendations. The goggles serve as holographic computers for the workers, allowing them to view a video call screen projected within their field of vision.

Chevron is betting these augmented reality devices will save the company millions of dollars in the coming years as it ramps up its use of Microsoft’s HoloLens technology, which was recently developed to support the sort of remote assistance functions now in use in El Segundo. The company this year nearly doubled its inventory to include more than 110 sets, which it’s now rolling out across its many business units to reduce operational downtime and improve productivity.

Ultimately, the company expects the technology to cut down on miles traveled among its specialists around the world. The company operates in more than 100 countries, and some of its facilities are especially remote.

“We have some experts that travel a half-million miles a year,” said Ed Moore, Chevron’s enterprise architecture and strategy manager. “There’s a lot of opportunity to make savings.”

Chevron’s rollout comes as oil and gas companies across the board look to adopt Silicon Valley technologies to improve efficiency as they heed the lessons of frugality taught by a two-year oil bust and face increasing competition from electric vehicles and renewable power sources.

Tech giants including Google, Microsoft and Amazon are marketing their cloud services to the oil and gas sector, and a host of startups are courting energy companies with applications using artificial intelligence and data science.

For the wearer, the HoloLens goggles project an interactive screen showing not only the video call, but also documents and mark-ups from the expert dialed in from afar. With thumbs and forefingers clicking in the air — sort of like air guitar for computers — users can pull up files and scroll through them while working on a project or repair.

By the end of the year, Moore expects more than half of the company’s facilities will have some form of the technology. He sees particular potential in deploying them on offshore rigs, which require helicopter charters and days of travel for engineers.

Right now, the technology doesn’t come cheap: Each set costs about $5,000. But the company estimates that international travel to its facilities costs between $5,000 and $12,000 a trip, and perhaps thousands of dollars more if the destination is particularly difficult to reach.

Read the full feature article from the Houston Chronicle.

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