The company previously began integrating additive manufacturing to produce parts within its chemicals division, including agitators used inside catalytic reactors.
According to recent comments from David Eyton, BP’s head of technology, “3D printers are fantastic for making quite bespoke devices.”
“IT COULD BE TRANSFORMATIONAL FOR PRODUCT SUPPLY CHAINS [AS] YOU CAN MAKE IT WHERE YOU NEED IT.”
3D printing is a manufacturing technique that creates physical objects from digital models using a range of materials from metals to resins. The ‘printer’ deposits very thin layers of material from the ground up, side-to-side and backward and forwards to build the object.
The oil and gas industry – and many others – see opportunities to use this technology, especially to produce parts on-demand in a specific material. For example, 3D printers on an offshore facility may mean complex components can be manufactured in remote locations, saving time and improving efficiency. Uses of 3D printing is set to grow over the next 10 years as applications are identified and opportunities arise with new materials and equipment.
The concept has been around for more than 30 years, but the increasing sophistication of the technology, advances in digital technologies and lower equipment costs mean it is now on the verge of becoming mainstream.
What impact could it have on the energy sector?
According to Accenture, there are two drivers for the oil and gas industry. The first is to reduce costs and increase operational efficiency, for example by producing new parts that weren’t available for the manufacture or improving the design of current elements to enhance safety, efficacy, and reduce costs.
The second is that in the Downstream, 3D printing represents a potential new revenue stream for oil and gas companies who can provide the chemical powders and plastics used as ‘ink’ by these printers.