Editorial PROCESS WORLDWIDE 5/2013 A Silver Bullet?
The sea is a harsh mistress — in August 2013, four oilfield workers were killed in a helicopter crash just off the Shetland Islands. Looking forward to spending their well-deserved shore leave, the group was travelling from the Borgsten Dolphin rig to Shetland’s Sumburgh Airfield, when their vessel — a Eurocopter AS 322 Super Puma, a type typical used in offshore operations — crashed into the sea for reasons still unknown. The tragic accident brings back unpleasant memories in Scotland: Already in 2009, the crash of a Super Puma helicopter took the lives of 14 offshore workers and both pilots.
Let’s not forget: In this very moment, some 16,000 people are working in Europe’s offshore industry — and tens of thousands of flights take place between the production platforms and onshore airfields each year. And yet, working offshore has always been a dangerous, difficult and costly affair — and most certainly will always be. But the increasing complexity of production in deeper and deeper waters, further and further off the coast, remains a constant nuisance. No wonder that operating companies are looking for ways to reduce their offshore personnel. Unmanned production is making its way into the oil industry, as Premier Oil’s new 800-million-dollar platform in the Soran field: It will be designed for completely automatic production. The British oil company has just recently granted automation specialist Emerson $ 17 million to set up their Plant Web technology on the rig. Once the site enters production in 2014, it will be controlled from a warm-and-cozy on-shore facility in Aberdeen, Scotland.
Once again, automation is the silver bullet, it seems … Especially European companies are focusing on this option to cut costs, as their comparatively high labor and energy costs are seen as a significant competitive disadvantage. Good news for component suppliers, as new plants are often planned fully integrated from a single source. “Automation is the key” is also a sentence we heard quite often during the researches for our event special for K 2013. The flagship event for the global plastics and polymers business will surely attract a lot of attention from automation specialists — especially, as weak sales in the car industry raise the pressure for plastics manufacturers.