Robots could replace 140,000 US oil and gas jobs over next 10 years

After losing thousands of jobs to the pandemic downturn, robotics and automation could slash hundreds of thousands more oil and gas jobs around the world and sharply reduce labor costs by 2030, according to Norwegian energy research firm Rystad Energy.

At least 20% of the jobs in drilling, operational support and maintenance could be automated in the next 10 years, Rystad said Monday, with U.S. employment needs reduced by more than 140,000 workers, according to the Houston Chronicle. 

The industry has already seen significant job losses. Nearly 60,000 oil exploration and production jobs in Texas were lost in 2020, as the global pandemic caused an unprecedented oil crash. Nationally, the oil and gas industry lost an estimated 107,000 jobs during the pandemic, according to global consulting firm Deloitte.  

The use of robots is already emerging as a low-cost alternative in the offshore industry, where they can stay underwater permanently and easily access places that are difficult to reach for submersibles remotely operated by humans.

But their use in inspection, maintenance and repairs is where robotics has gained the most traction in recent years. For example, the self-propelled robotics arms developed by Kongsberg Maritime and used by Norwegian operator Equinor can travel longer distances and carry out subsea maintenance and repair in confined spaces.

Drilling, which is costly work and involves dangerous tasks in challenging environments, also stands to be upended by robots. See the full story.