SmarTech publish last week its newest r3port – “Additive Manufacturing Opportunities in Oil & Gas Markets. We explore, that 3D print hasn’t been fully adapted by companies from oil and gas industry but in the next decade it may be crucial for their development.

During last years we were witnesses of decreasing prices of oil and gas. Big corporations are reducing operational costs and number of personal, trying to increase margin and smaller companies from this sector are fighting to survive. The current situation has never been that dramatic from 30 years and it doesn’t seem to change. In spite of appearances, it has an influence on ordinary consumers…

In the past gas companies weren’t eager to invest in innovative technological solutions, which were far away from safe standards, regardless profits of about 20%. The effects are visible nowadays, and these companies are looking for technologies, which reduce operational costs and optimize manufacturing processes. The 3D printing technology can help to make it real.

The leader in implementing additive technologies in the oil& gas industry is GE (General Electric). A pioneer in using of 3D print was the aircraft branch of the company, which has used 3D printers for production from 2013 (in this case only small lot production is meant). In the course of time the corporation decided to use it also in another branches. In Italy GE prints metal nozzles and tips of burners of, it’s going to print 44000 fuel jets in India and from 2015 Mastuura machines have produced parts of steering valves.

Undoubtedly GE is a pioneer of implementing of 3D printing in gas sector. SmarTech predicts, that a real “arms race” with 3D printers in the background is still before us. The biggest companies  from power engineering sector are interested in additive manufacturing, which may help them to optimize production and cut its costs.

Shell has published recently a case study of using SLS technology in creating of prototypes. The engineers from the company created a prototype of very complicated system called “Stone Project“, which will connect FPSO (Floating Production, Storage and Offloading Unit) with pipeline from the sea bed.

Another example of using of additive technologies – this time in form of full-colour CJP, is creating of physical representation of tridimensional seismic researchers. This type of mock-ups assists communication between business units and teams working on a project, it helps also to judge a productive potential of an analysed area by physical imitating of its geological properties.

Exhibit A companies investing

On the other hand, the biggest obstacle in adapting of 3D print in gas and power industry is conservative attitude in implementing of solutions based on that.  Transocean and OneSubSea – two biggest deliverers of specialistic extraction equipment used in naval extraction industry of fuels (petroleum and natural gas) are very sceptical about it and don’t believe that professional 3D printers will help them in manufacturing of productive machines. It’s obvious, that they use 3D print for quick prototyping, however it has still  a marginal character and it’s hard to compare it with that, what GE does.

Why the prognosis of SmarTech are that optimistic? The graph below shows how drop of prices of petroleum and gas stimulates interest in new technologies.

Exhibit B willingness to invest

It turns out, that oil and gas industry may follow in aircraft companies footsteps which started from using of 3D print to optimize designing and producing of components for planes and reduced their weight and, what goes without saying – reduced also use of fuels.

An area, where 3D printers will be needed is still quick prototyping of new devices used in extracting of natural raw materials, necessary to produce power and fuels, however SmarTech predicts, that in time big concerns will follow GE and will print read components to their machines.


Paweł Ślusarczyk
CEO of 3D Printing Center. Has over 15 years' experience in buisiness, gained in IT, advertising and polygraphy. Part of 3D printing industry since 2013.

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