It’s an exciting time to be in the energy industry. Energy specialists say advancements in fossil fuel extraction technologies have sparked a renaissance in energy production.
I wake up every morning eager to be a part of an industry that is always advancing and evolving. I get to work with people throughout the industry who are extremely talented, developing amazing technologies and services that are helping redefine our sector. Every day, new challenges present themselves, and we are empowered to find a solution that could ultimately revolutionize our industry, if not the world. So, given all of these exciting aspects, why are we having such a hard time attracting the next generation?
The next generation is hesitant to pursue work in refineries, plants or the industry. They are extremely bright, and want to be a part of something new, innovative and help make impactful developments and changes, quicker and faster. They want their job to be perceived as cool and positively impacting the future, especially on the geopolitical stage.
Unfortunately, the energy industry for many younger people entering the work force represents the past and not the future. It is sometimes seen as part of the problem, not the solution. So even when the next generation is inspired to work on new energy solutions, they do not want to do so in a traditional energy setting.
It is up to us to change this perception and drive interest in the nearly infinite possibilities the energy industry offers. Our largest leverage is the ability to do this through innovation and advancing technologies.
Technology is the key
Open up any tech publication and it’s easy to see how technology is reinventing retail, entertainment, telecommunications and health care. These articles excite their readers about future possibilities. But there’s little discussion of technology’s impact on energy production. The reality is, the energy sector is continually adopting new technologies, and a lot of funding is going into research and development. Some of these advancements are mind blowing and we need to do a better job of publicizing them in the public sector.
Game technology is no longer just for consumer-based computer entertainment products such as Xbox and PlayStation®. The industry is using similar gaming platforms and controllers to direct steel pipe down more than two miles into the earth, turn a 90-degree corner and then enable the operator to feel his way to a narrow oil-bearing formation of shale thousands of feet from the original 90-degree turn. This would literally be impossible to achieve without this advancement in technology.
Portable laser trackers enable inspectors to take precision measurements at any scale with a remote controlled device. These instruments accurately measure large objects (up to half a football field in length) by determining the positions of optical targets held against those objects. Consistent, accurate measurements are necessary to maintain design intent and performance; however, taking large-volume measurements prior to this innovation was a cumbersome and slow task. Measurements can be imported into different types of software to plot the points or to calculate deviation from the correct position. With the development of these laser trackers, technicians can now streamline the entire measurement and inspection process.
It is rocket science
According to a recent release from Johnson Space Center, a new NASA and Astro Technology Inc. developed fiber-optic monitoring system is helping to increase safety for workers and reduce the risk of leaks and spills on two oil platforms off the coast of West Africa.
Known as the Tendon Tension Monitoring System (TTMS), the system detects subtle changes in tension because of tides, wave activity, storms and routine boat docking operations.
The technology, installed in March on the two platforms in the Atlantic Ocean, uses a fiber-optic strain gauge system and a series of sensor clamps to measure the tension on subsea risers and pipelines. The system senses any stresses along the platform’s four legs and streams the data in real time, enabling operators to make adjustments to maintain the stability of the platform.
A TTMS-derived system could play a role in NASA’s future human space exploration program, providing real-time monitoring on next generation deep space propulsion systems and resource production off the Earth, such as mining asteroids.
Powering the future
As we look to the future, while fossil fuels will still play a significant role in powering the world, there are innovators continually looking to discover and create alternative sources of energy. This sector opens up a huge area for opportunity and a very appealing area of advancement for future generations. The sky is the limit. And that really is the case with the development of airborne wind turbines.
While still a technology in its infancy, the airborne wind turbine is a design concept for a wind turbine that is supported in the air without a tower. The turbine can access stronger and more consistent winds at altitudes near 1,000 feet. This enables the turbine to benefit from the higher velocity and almost constant wind at high altitudes. Thus the turbine is then able to avoid the expense of tower construction. Another airborne turbine design concept in test phases uses a helium-filled, inflatable shell to enable it to ascend to high altitudes.
These innovations provide a miniscule glimpse into the incredibly cool and ever evolving innovations created by talented visionaries in the industry. Ultimately, if technology makes energy, safer, cleaner and cheaper to extract, energy prices and quality of life could improve for everybody — which is important to our next generation of workers. It’s our job to get the word out about how new technologies are accomplishing this.
Become better stewards of our industry
In addition to innovative technologies, we need to be better stewards of our industry. And that starts internally. There was a culture shift in our industry at one point where senior employees felt the need to protect their brain trust. Little mentoring was occurring in fear that passing along knowledge to a junior staff member created a job threat. We would have a tendency to be cautious in giving real responsibility to anyone at a lower level. Those days are over. It is time to provide junior staff with demanding and challenging roles at an early stage, backed with mentoring and solid training programs. It’s time to inspire our younger generation. In doing so, our younger employees will become ambassadors for the industry — a direct connection to the next generation.
This next generation has the ability to be the game changer. They have the ability to protect society but also influence the future way of how we are going to power up our vehicles, homes and businesses. Our industry gives them the opportunity to make a difference for the future, but we need to do a better job of relaying that message. It is up to us to educate our youth through connections with education institutes, publicizing technological advancements in our industry and speaking directly with the next generation. We must do this effectively to engage the best talent who will become the industry drivers of the next generation.
For more information, visit www.teamindustrialservices.com or call (800) 662-8326.