Automation of oil rigs means that one rig can do more with fewer workers, according to a release by writer Scott Santens. Namely, the application of new technologies to oil drilling means that of the 440,000 jobs lost in the global downturn, as many as 220,000 of those jobs may never come back, he notes.
“What should be immediately apparent is that as the number of oil rigs declined due to falling oil prices, so did the number of workers the oil industry employed. But when the number of oil rigs began to rebound, the number of workers employed didn’t.”
The chart below is a plot of oil rigs in the United States compared to the number of workers the oil industry employs, revealing how we can expect both automation and the discussion around automation to continue unfolding in the years ahead.
Automated oil rigs are called “Iron Roughnecks” and they automate the extremely repetitive task of connecting drill pipe segments to each other as they’re shoved deep into the Earth.
According to Mr. Leonhard, companies are investing in automation because it means they can produce more at a lower cost, as wages, salaries, and benefits are all just overhead that can be eliminated by use of machines.
“This is a story of technological unemployment that is crystal clear, and yet people are still arguing about it like it’s something that may or may not happen in the future. It’s actually a very similar situation to climate change, where the effects are right in our faces, but it’s still considered a debate.”