When the technology in consumer goods like cell phones improves, we all know about it instantly, because we all use these gadgets. But truthfully, technological improvements in specialized equipment like oil rigs, is probably just as important, if not as reported.
For instance, in the wake of the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, GE Oil & Gas created more advanced blowout preventers that use the water pressure surrounding the well to seal it in case of an emergency. The company also developed a black-box system similar to those used in airplanes. This black box will record data if something goes wrong on the rig or with the well so the problem can be quickly analyzed and corrected.
Intel, the same company that likely made the memory for your computer, has invented sensors that are housed inside heavy-duty cases meant to be strapped directly to the oil rig. Several of these sensors could be fitted to any oil rig and would feed information to a central computer set up to collect the data. This warning system could tell well workers when it was time to start emergency procedures, which could save lives, oil and the environment, too.
Fossil fuel drilling is even using green energy. GlassPoint Solar has created a system of mirrors inside a glasshouse that generates the steam required to force oil to the surface of the Earth. Normally, this steam is heated by natural gas, but using the sun’s power is cheaper and cleaner. Plus, this glasshouse system produces five times more steam than other solar facilities used for the same purpose.
It will be years before fossil fuels are phased out of our daily lives, but in the meantime, technology is improving to keep workers and the environment safer as oil drilling and exploration expands.