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When offshore is also printing in 3D
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When offshore is also printing in 3D

Constantly new applications make additive production in oil and gas exploration more and more indispensable.

The business of oil and gas companies is likely to become increasingly difficult in the future: The use of renewable energy is growing inexorably. In addition, the earth's increasingly scarce resources are becoming more and more difficult to exploit and are located deep under the sea in exposed places, for example. Shell, for example, works at a depth of 2900 meters in the Gulf of Mexico. The technical effort is thus increasing constantly. That's why the industry is looking for ways to improve the efficiency of its production work.

On the way to greater efficiency, additive manufacturing can make a good contribution. For BP and other companies in the industry, the opportunities offered by additive manufacturing lie, for example, in the cost-effective manufacture of tailor-made components and spare parts. For example, the use of industrial 3D printers on oil rigs, which are usually located very far away, can achieve enormous savings if it helps to avoid failures or increase the safety of production. 

Efficiency right from the start

From the construction of prototypes to the production of large components to the short-term and flexible supply of spare parts on site, the possibilities for the application of additive production also extend to the oil industry.

Shell has been working with additive prototypes made of plastic for a long time in order to optimize designs and processes in advance. Even for Shell's deepest project in the Gulf of Mexico, the Stones, at a depth of 2,900 meters, a demountable system for loading ships with crude oil was produced. Robert Patterson, Executive Vice President Engineering Shell: "Thanks to the high speed of prototype production, we were able to identify problems with this model at an early stage and verify and secure our plans.

In China, Nanfang Additive Manufacturing Technology Co. is working with China National Petroleum Corpo-ration to manufacture components for pipeline construction that weigh up to 400 kilograms, measure 5.6 meters in diameter and are 9 meters high. In addition to the known advantages of more efficient production, this also means that fewer stresses occur in the component and fewer supporting structures have to be taken into account.

The progressive development of the industry is reflected, for example, in the recent cooperation between Aidro Hydraulics and the AM manufacturer EOS. Aidro is an Italian manufacturer of special valves and hydraulic solutions and has expanded its business to the oil and gas industry. The cooperation with EOS is intended, among other things, to develop standards for the qualification of AM metal parts and new technical solutions for the industry.

Potential of additive manufacturing

What 3D "prints" can achieve in the robust offshore world is demonstrated by the cooperation of two Dutch companies: RAMLAB manufactured a 36-ton crane hook (nominal load) based on WAAM technology (Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing), which Huisman plans to use on the "OOS Serooskerke" oil rig. With one ton it weighs far less than cast or forged specimens with the same load-bearing capacity.

Additive manufacturing will certainly be used even more frequently in oil and gas production in the coming years, as the number of applications will also increase thanks to new materials and equipment. According to an analysis by SmarTech Publishing, additive manufacturing is expected to generate sales of $400 million in the oil and gas industry by 2021. By 2029 this could increase almost fivefold to around two billion US dollars.

Anyone wishing to take a closer look at the various technologies, plants and the associated materials and process steps as efficiently as possible will be well advised to visit Formnext, the leading trade fair for additive manufacturing and modern industrial production, from 19 - 22 November 2019 in Frankfurt am Main.

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