Emissions Reduction at Autonomous and Remotely Operated Oil and Gas Platforms

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Autonomous and remotely operated oil and gas platforms are revolutionizing offshore operations by minimizing human presence on site and relying on advanced technologies for control, monitoring, and maintenance. This shift promises to improve safety, enhance operational efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize the environmental impact of offshore oil & gas production.

Impact on climate action

Autonomous and remotely operated oil and gas platforms can significantly impact climate action by reducing onsite personnel and operational footprint. This innovation lowers emissions through optimized operations, remote monitoring, and autonomous maintenance, thereby minimizing environmental impact and contributing to the decarbonization goals of the oil and gas sector.


This transformative innovation is built upon a foundation of advanced technologies:

  • Robotics and Automation: Autonomous platforms utilize robots and automated systems to perform tasks that traditionally required human intervention, such as equipment inspection, maintenance, and even intervention in emergencies.
  • Remote Sensing and Control: Sensors, cameras, and communication networks enable real-time data collection and remote control of platform operations from onshore control centers. Operators can monitor, analyze, and adjust processes without being physically present.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML): AI and ML algorithms are used to analyze data from sensors, predict equipment failures, optimize production, and automate decision-making processes, further reducing the need for human intervention.
  • Digital Twins: Creating digital replicas of physical platforms and their systems enables simulations, analysis, and remote troubleshooting, facilitating more efficient operations and maintenance.
  • Advanced Communication Technologies: Reliable and high-bandwidth communication networks, including satellite and subsea communication systems, are crucial for transmitting data and commands between offshore platforms and onshore control centers.

TRL : 6-8 (depending on the level of autonomy and specific application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs): These autonomous vessels can perform a range of tasks, including inspection, surveying, and even transporting equipment and personnel, reducing the need for crewed vessels.
  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs): AUVs equipped with sensors and cameras can inspect underwater infrastructure, monitor environmental conditions, and perform subsea interventions.
  • Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs): These tethered underwater robots are controlled by operators from a distance, performing tasks such as maintenance, repair, and well intervention.
  • AI-Powered Predictive Maintenance: AI algorithms can analyze data from sensors to predict equipment failures, allowing for proactive maintenance and reducing unplanned downtime.
  • Autonomous Drilling and Production Systems: Emerging technologies are enabling the development of fully autonomous drilling and production systems, significantly reducing the need for human presence on offshore platforms.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Robotics and Automation in Offshore Operations
  • Remote Sensing and Real-Time Data Analytics
  • AI and Machine Learning in Offshore Platforms
  • Digital Twins for Simulation and Analysis
  • Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs)
  • Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)
  • Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs)
  • AI-Powered Predictive Maintenance
  • Autonomous Drilling Systems
  • Enhanced Safety Protocols
  • Efficiency Optimization Strategies
  • Environmental Impact Reduction
  • Cost Reduction through Automation

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Saildrone:
    • Technology Focus: Saildrone specializes in autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) equipped with various sensors and data collection capabilities. They leverage wind and solar power for propulsion, making them sustainable and cost-effective for ocean monitoring.
    • Uniqueness: Saildrone’s ASVs are notable for their ability to operate autonomously for extended periods, collecting a wide range of oceanographic and atmospheric data. They offer a flexible platform for environmental monitoring and research.
    • End-User Segments: Their technology serves industries such as oil and gas, fisheries management, climate research, and maritime security, where remote data collection and monitoring are essential.
  • XOcean:
    • Technology Focus: XOcean specializes in unmanned surface vessels (USVs) designed for autonomous data collection missions. Their USVs are equipped with sensors and communication systems, enabling remote operation and data transmission.
    • Uniqueness: XOcean distinguishes itself with a focus on high-resolution seabed mapping, environmental monitoring, and offshore asset inspection. Their USVs offer cost-effective and safer alternatives to traditional manned operations.
    • End-User Segments: They cater primarily to industries like offshore oil and gas, renewable energy (wind farms), marine research institutions, and environmental agencies needing precise oceanic data and monitoring services.
  • Nauticus Robotics:
    • Technology Focus: Nauticus Robotics develops autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) for various underwater tasks. Their technology includes advanced imaging systems and robotic manipulators.
    • Uniqueness: Nauticus Robotics stands out for its focus on underwater inspection, maintenance, and intervention tasks in challenging offshore environments. Their vehicles are designed to operate autonomously or via remote control, enhancing safety and efficiency.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions are targeted at industries such as offshore oil and gas, marine infrastructure (subsea pipelines, cables), deep-sea mining, and environmental monitoring requiring precise underwater operations and data collection.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  • Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU):
    • Technology Enhancements: NTNU researchers are pioneering autonomous technologies for oil and gas platforms, integrating advanced sensors, robotics, and AI. Their focus is on developing systems that can operate with minimal human intervention, enhancing safety and efficiency while reducing carbon emissions.
    • Uniqueness of Research: NTNU’s approach leverages Norway’s leadership in offshore engineering and renewable energy integration. They are exploring autonomous platforms that can adapt to harsh offshore conditions, optimizing energy use and reducing environmental impact.
    • End-use Applications: The technologies developed at NTNU have direct applications in the Norwegian Continental Shelf and beyond, supporting sustainable oil and gas production while facilitating the transition towards renewable energy sources.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Technology Enhancements: MIT researchers are advancing the use of AI and machine learning to optimize the operation and maintenance of offshore oil and gas platforms. They are developing predictive models that enhance asset management and reduce operational carbon footprint through smarter decision-making.
    • Uniqueness of Research: MIT’s research integrates insights from data analytics, robotics, and materials science to design autonomous platforms capable of reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Their focus includes developing hybrid energy systems and advanced materials for offshore infrastructure.
    • End-use Applications: The innovations from MIT are applicable globally, aiding in the decarbonization efforts of offshore oil and gas operations worldwide. They aim to improve efficiency, safety, and environmental stewardship in the sector.
  • University of Aberdeen:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Aberdeen are leading efforts in autonomous navigation and control systems for offshore platforms. Their innovations include autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for inspection and maintenance, reducing the need for manned operations and optimizing energy use.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Aberdeen’s research focuses on the North Sea oil fields, where they are developing integrated systems that can autonomously monitor and repair offshore infrastructure. They are also exploring the use of renewable energy sources to power autonomous platforms.
    • End-use Applications: The technologies developed at the University of Aberdeen have practical applications in extending the operational life of mature oil fields and reducing carbon emissions associated with offshore operations. Their innovations support the industry’s transition towards more sustainable practices.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Autonomous and remotely operated technologies are being implemented in various stages of commercialization within the oil & gas sector:

  • Unmanned surface vessels (USVs) are being used for surveying and inspection tasks, reducing the need for crewed vessels and lowering operational costs.
  • Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are widely employed for subsea inspection, maintenance, and intervention, improving safety and efficiency.
  • Several companies are piloting autonomous drilling and production systems, with the goal of fully unmanned platforms in the future.