The oil and gas industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. Activity is driven by the need for efficient production, safety, cost control and improving the long-term sustainability of operations. Digital technologies are playing a transformative role in meeting these objectives. This is characterized by the growing importance of technologies such as artificial intelligence, cloud computing, internet of things, and robotics, within the industry. In the last three years alone, there have been over 523,000 patents filed and granted in the oil & gas industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Robotics in oil & gas: inspection robotsBuy the report here.

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According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which uses over 196,000 patents to analyze innovation intensity for the oil & gas industry, there are 60+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Inspection robots is a key innovation area in robotics

Remote inspection robots enable maintenance personnel to conduct asset inspections entirely from remote locations. They can deploy these robotic systems in different types of locations to perform numerous checks. These bots can operate with varying degrees of autonomy.

Inspection robots are primarily used in industrial settings where they assist the workforce in inspecting equipment to find faults or recover from outages. They can deliver a level of accuracy that humans cannot always provide and also improve worker safety, as inspection sometimes requires access to hazardous locations.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established oil & gas companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of inspection robots.

Key players in inspection robots – a disruptive innovation in the oil & gas industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to inspection robots

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Saudi Arabian Oil 35 Unlock Company Profile
Atlas Copco 23 Unlock Company Profile
Epiroc 23 Unlock Company Profile
Halliburton 22 Unlock Company Profile
iRobot 11 Unlock Company Profile
Baker Hughes 10 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 10 Unlock Company Profile
Johnson Matthey 7 Unlock Company Profile
Rio Tinto 6 Unlock Company Profile
Oceaneering International 3 Unlock Company Profile
Chengdu Qinchuan Internet of Things Technology 2 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 1 Unlock Company Profile
Shanghai Xpartner Robotics 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leaders in inspection robots for oil and gas include Saudi Aramco, Atlas Copco, Fanuc, and Epiroc. Fanuc, one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of industrial robots uses sensors, analytics, and cloud computing to provide a continuous service to its customers by anticipating equipment and process problems and organizing the automatic replacement of parts.  

Saudi Aramco’s in-house R&D team has developed several robots for inspection and maintenance of its oil and gas assets. These robots are designed to provide inspection, surveillance, mapping, and emergency response services. The company has also developed the Shallow Water Inspection and Monitoring Robot (SWIM-R) for pipeline inspections.

The company also developed the Saudi Aramco Inspection Robot (SAIR), a magnetic robotic crawler capable of conducting visual inspection, ultrasonic thickness gauging, and gas sensing on hard-to-reach steel surfaces.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the oil & gas industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Robotics in Oil and Gas.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.