Big Oil’s digital hub marks the start of a new era for the industry

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The oil and gas industry is adopting new technologies to save time and money and, more recently, to reduce the carbon footprint of its supply chain as the energy sector comes under increased pressure to reward shareholders while helping to fight climate change.

In the same way artificial intelligence, machine learning, digital twins and robotics, the world’s largest oil and gas companies and oil service providers are leveraging 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, to streamline operations, reduce costs costs and save time, and reduce emissions associated with the manufacture of spare parts.

Over the past decade, some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies have turned to 3D printing to source parts and create digital warehouses to source and manage the supply of needed equipment.

One such example is supermajor Shell, who believes additive manufacturing technology can reduce the cost, delivery time and carbon footprint of spare parts. Shell has projects underway with other industry players, including Baker Hughes, to push 3D printing innovation for the energy sector, say Nick van Keulen, Head of Supply Chain Digitization and Angeline Goh, Head of 3D Printing Technology at Shell.

The energy giant launched its in-house 3D printing processes in 2011 with a metal laser printing machine to manufacture unique test equipment for laboratory experiments at the Shell Technology Center Amsterdam (STCA). Ten years later, Shell now has 15 printers of polymers, ceramics and metals at its technology centers in Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Bangalore, India.

Through 3D printing of spare parts, Shell was able to achieve “substantial savings” in its offshore operations in Nigeria in 2020, van Keulen and Goh said earlier this month.

In the case of Nigeria, the replacement “as usual” of a small component within a large piece of equipment for which spares are no longer produced would have taken approximately 16 weeks. Shell modeled the component with a 3D scanner and had it printed. The 3D printing technology reduced the final cost of maintenance by 90% compared to a conventional replacement, and it only took 2 weeks to produce the parts, explains Shell.

The supermajor is working with suppliers to develop a digital warehouse of parts he might need custom 3D printing. Baker Hughes is one of Shell’s partners.

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“With Shell, we are applying 3D printing to mitigate supply chain risks when deadlines are critical. All players in this value chain must now unite to develop the right framework in which 3D printing brings added value to the energy sector ”, says Alessandro Bresciani, vice president of services for the Turbomachinery activity & Process Solutions from Baker Hughes.

“Additive manufacturing is a tool that allows ideas to become reality in a very short time. said Edoardo Gonfiotti, Project Engineer at Baker Hughes based in Florence, Italy.

At the end of last year, Baker Hughes and Würth Industry North America (WINA) ad offering personalized 3D printing services to customers in the oil and gas, renewable energy, power generation, marine, automotive and aerospace industries.

“Today more than ever, industrial companies are looking for innovative manufacturing solutions to reduce lead times and eliminate physical inventory, while reducing the carbon footprint of operations, and we believe that additive manufacturing plays an important role”, said Scott Parent, CTO of Digital Solutions at Baker Hughes.

Companies in the energy sector are also embarking on 3D printing underwater.

Earlier this year, the Norwegian Kongsberg Ferrotech mentionned he was developing, in collaboration with Norwegian research organizations and the energy giant Equinor, a technology that would allow 3D printing underwater. If successful, the implementation of the underwater 3D printing project could be a game-changer for the maintenance and repair of underwater components, Kongsberg Ferrotech said.

This would be another important step towards “bringing the workshop to the damaged pipe”, notes the Norwegian company.

From saving time and money to reducing the carbon footprint of parts manufacturing, 3D printing could revolutionize the energy industry.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for OilUSD

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