At a time when oil prices are hovering at around $50/barrel and are expected to stay there for the foreseeable future, these technologies offer the chance to transform previously manual, expensive and precarious processes into cheaper and safer digital ones. Inspecting difficult-to-access offshore oil rigs, for example, used to require an engineer and, in some cases, could see production shut down for days.
Today such tasks can be carried out by drones. Similarly, active oil and gas pipelines used to be monitored manually, which made identifying and responding to accidents or issues quickly a challenge. Sensors, however, can be deployed to monitor these pipelines in real time. As the downswing in the oil market rolls on, these smart technologies will continue to take hold in the industry.
Longer term, all eyes are on renewables to meet the planet’s burgeoning energy demands and it is arguably solar that holds the most obvious and immediate promise. Plummeting panel production costs and increasing energy generating capacity saw the unit cost of solar PV-generated energy drop below that generated by fossil fuels in 2017. The economics of solar PV are set to become more attractive still in the coming years as grids get smarter and batteries for residential and commercial solar installations become more affordable. While battery technology exists today, it is, for many, prohibitively expensive.
As prices drop as manufacturers achieve greater economies of scale and PV cells improve we will see a fundamental rebalancing of the energy market, with households selling energy back to the grid through smart grid and IoT technology.