Nowadays, many people believe that companies involved in the exploration and extraction of oil and gas are all profitable and that their owners are millionaires rolling in money. However, this is a false notion, and the same people would be surprised to learn just how challenging it is for companies to thrive in the oil and gas business.
Only those who have worked in this market understand the great efforts and expenditures that go into training workers, exploring and developing extraction sites, and numerous other staples of the industry. It can take a monumental effort to lift a new oil or gas platform project off the ground, making the case to investors that the project is worthwhile. Furthermore, the construction and planning process can be rather chaotic, requiring input and organization from hundreds of different specialists. Fortunately for those involved in the oil and gas industry, many of these difficulties can be removed or mitigated with the help of a cutting-edge technology – virtual reality.
Virtual Reality – all you need to know in 2019
The 21st century has been dubbed “The Digital Age” by many due to the large role that the Internet, computers, and digital technologies are expected to play in this time. Virtual reality (VR) is just one of many technologies on the cusp of making their way into our everyday lives, just as the internet did over the past several decades. Virtual reality can be simply described as a simulation of a place, experience, or event created by a computer and existing only in digital form. The experience can be realistic or completely outlandish, and people can experience the simulation with the help of special hardware and gear.
When speaking about virtual reality (VR), it is important to mention its sister technologies – augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). Unlike VR, augmented reality does not create a wholly digital environment, but rather adds digital animation and elements to our standard reality. For example, an AR mobile application might use your phone’s camera to display on your screen what the camera records, with a digital character or image overlaid on top of it. Mixed reality, on the other hand, applies some digital elements to real-world surroundings and allows you to interact with them.
Although virtual reality is often associated with games, the technology has a much broader range of uses, including research, education, art, healthcare, and many others. For example, a typical oil and gas platform simulation would let you see and manage the structure of the platform from a distance or be at the platform with the ability to visit and access its different areas. It might also allow users to move objects and interact with simulated characters (bots). To access VR simulations, most users wear special gear, ranging from headsets and goggles (e.g. the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) to full-body suits and other accessories. The more motion-tracking elements and items are attached to the user, the more the user can interact with the simulation.
The Benefits of Using an Oil and Gas VR Simulation Platform
Apart from the entertainment value, you can reap many great benefits from the simulation if you integrate it into your business.
Reduction of training costs
Training new workers for an oil or gas extracting platform represents a particular challenge, especially if the rig is stationed off the shore. Most of the knowledge and experience necessary for manual laborers to perform their job properly is gained through practice on-site, so companies incur additional expenses by ferrying potential candidates to the platform and back. However, if the workers receive their oil and gas training through a VR simulation, it can make the process much simpler and less costly. They would still carry out the same basic exercises in a no-risk environment, with the option for senior employees and supervisors to monitor their progress.
A new way of presenting
If you are looking to impress your colleagues, partners, investors, or competitors with a presentation of your oil and gas platform, making this presentation in virtual reality will show that you mean business. Such large scale projects have been traditionally presented with flashy videos, practical models, or lavish tools, but all of the same goals can be achieved with a virtual simulation and at a fraction of the standard cost. Just consider that anyone who takes a few minutes to put on a headset and explore the virtual world of your oil/gas rig will be able to see its scope, design, inner workings, and peculiarities just as they would in real life.
Simplified management and logistics
There is one thing that everyone knows about oil platforms, and it is that they’re very big. Managing staff (which can consist of hundreds of workers) and distribution of supplies and materials can be a logistical nightmare if you are not familiar with every room and section of the platform. However, knowing every room and full design of the platform is not a necessity when you have a virtual model of the rig. With a few customization options added to the software for oil and gas rigs, you should be able to walk the platform and simulate distribution of personnel/supplies/etc. without ever leaving the comfort of your home/office.
Working on an oil platform is hardly the safest job, and workers in this industry understand that there are serious risks involved, even with the right training and precautions. There are some difficult and dangerous situations that are impossible or near-impossible to recreate in a training environment for various reasons, but this changes when the environment is digital and does not require any physical props. For instance, an oil simulator can recreate the occurrence of an oil leak, allowing the user to respond accordingly without ever risking their life. This kind of practical knowledge will be much more useful in the event of an emergency than a set of memorized instructions.
Features Your Oil or Gas Platform Simulator Might Need
In case you opt to invest in a gas or oil platform simulator, you can customize it according to your needs and intent. For example, the VR functionality for training employees will be different from architectural/construction functionality and walking tour functionality. Still, some features and functions can be combined if you want the program to have more than one purpose. You can find a brief rundown of the most common features present in oil and gas simulation platforms below.
- Realistic geophysics. Movement and changes of underground elements occur in lifelike patterns.
- Mud systems. Users practice drilling through mud and other surfaces within the simulation.
- Directional drilling. The drilling process, angle, and trajectory become adjustable.
- Realtime downhole view. Drill visuals in the simulation extend over great distances.
- Downhole effects. Lifelike downhole mechanics are added and are visible to the user.
- Customizable equipment. Users can operate an array of tools and modify them individually in VR.
- Drilling rig instrumentation. The drilling instruments can be operated in automation or manually.
- Constructible formations. The drilling surface and material parameters can be freely customized.
- Well control methods. Hydrostatic pressure and drilling efficiency are maintained via user control in the simulation.
- Image-based lighting. Realistic light and moving shadows are applied to all objects and characters.
- Geospatial technology. Simulation objects and surfaces maintain physical fidelity at any distance.
- Screen space reflections. Subtle but accurate reflections appear on surfaces and liquids.
- Simulated workers. Models and characters of platform workers can be added in various locations.
- Intelligent animation. The workers and VR characters on the site respond and act realistically.
- High-end shaders. Shadows are very detailed and move based on angle and position.
- Accurate modeling. Both the appearance and motion of VR models in the game are lifelike.
- Realtime post-processing effects. Animation and environment made gorgeous with special filters.
- Optimized 3D graphics. Character and object models are rendered in 3D with great accuracy.
The Big Picture in Oil Simulation
Amazing things can be achieved by harnessing the power of virtual reality simulation, and there is no reason why it cannot apply to your oil and gas business. With the help of a capable team of programmers and designers, any oil or gas company can expand its business in one way or another, whether it be for training, presentation, logistics, or safety improvements.
As a rule, such investments prove to be worth every penny, achieving far more than their intended purpose. While there are multiple oil and gas software development companies offering services today, few have the resources needed to commit to large projects and a solid track record. Program-Ace is one of the select few with the skills and resources to handle projects like this, and a relevant case study is featured on the website. The future of VR and simulation technologies in oil industry operations is looking bright, and the companies willing to embrace the changes can share in the success.