How virtual reality is increasing the safety of offshore operations

Posted on October 31, 2023 | By Ashley Fitzpatrick | 0 Comments



Inside ExxonMobil’s office in St. John’s, N.L….
past the security doors… down an isolated corridor… well away from the shared workspaces, coffee stops and main office shuffle… behind another set of locked doors… this is where you’ll find the land-based control room for the Hebron offshore oil platform. It’s one of the best examples of new connectivity and modernization in the local oil industry, where operators and service companies are pushing forward with more technologies and digitalization.

Hebron asset technical supervisor Bill Browne pre-arranged a brief visit to the room on this September afternoon, but he wouldn’t normally be here. The area is restricted, to avoid distractions for the control room operators.

“They’re running Hebron as you would if you were on the platform (340 km out to sea),” he explained, referring to the two control room operators on shift. There’s also an industrial controls specialist in the room, running through extensive checklists. The operators face wrap-around monitors filled with real-time information from the oil platform, as well as a live feed from inside. It comes complete with crystal clear sound and video (with redundancies available for backup).

It’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t have been imaginable in the early days of oil production in Newfoundland and Labrador but is an increasingly important part of the new offshore. A powerful fibre op connection was always part of development plans for the Hebron offshore oil project. Apart from Hebron, existing operators and, increasingly, service companies are seeing the value of improved connectivity and digitalization. Industry work is framed less and less by a geographical gap between offshore and onshore and more by digital capabilities. The physical work offshore remains, and the distance is never forgotten, but innovation is introducing unexpected benefits and opportunities.

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