Drones Are Coming to the Oil Patch

Can oil companies use drones to reap bigger profits?

image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

Taylor Muckerman

Interest in commercial drones has been picking up speed lately, especially in consumer goods and delivery. But these aren’t the only sectors eyeing the possibilities that come with usage of flying drones.

In this week’s episode of Industry Focus: Energy, Motley Fool analysts Sean O’Reilly and Taylor Muckerman talk about a few oil and gas companies that are looking into drones to more efficiently and safely check for methane leaks, explore for new oil, and more.

Also, the hosts look at two opposing statements from U.S. government agencies — theEnvironmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — on the leading contributor of methane production. Find out where the controversy lies, where most methane really comes from, and how much hot-button issues like this should worry long-term energy investors.

Transcript follows:

Sean O’Reilly: Welcome to Industry Focus, the podcast the dives into a different sector of the stock market every day. Today is Thursday, October 13th, 2016, so we’re talking about energy, materials, and industrials. I’m your host, Sean O’Reilly, and I am joined by Motley Fool Canada general associate manager, Taylor Muckerman. Mr. Muckerman, any big Halloween plans coming up?

Taylor Muckerman: I don’t know yet, I’m deciding whether or not to spend the time in D.C. or New York.

O’Reilly: You and the wife not getting any joint costumes like the Underwoods or anything?

Muckerman: We have before, but I don’t know about this year.

O’Reilly: What were you before? Crayons?

Muckerman: I stuffed a pillow under my shirt, and she dressed like a cake. So, I was the fat kid that loved cake.

O’Reilly: Oh my God.

Muckerman: That’s about as far as it goes.

O’Reilly: You two are something special.

Muckerman: (laughs) That’s why we got together.

O’Reilly: So, for our first segment here, don’t know what to say other than drones are coming to the oil patch.

Muckerman: Yeah, they sure are, thanks to GE (NYSE:GE), among others.

O’Reilly: One, I did not know that GE has a fancy $125 million facility called the Oil and Gas Technology Center. They’re rolling out this helicopter drone called The Raven, and it’s going to help out oil companies cut down costs, be more efficient all that good stuff. Really quick, walk us through what exactly The Raven will be doing, and if you think it’s good for the industry.

Muckerman: The latest version of The Raven can fly for about 40 minutes without needing to be repowered. It can fly 50 miles an hour, has infrared sensors on it to test for methane leaks, and they say that it can do the same task as a human can three times more efficiently, in terms of the time it needs. They’ve tested it with Southwestern Energy and Oklahoma State University, and the test went well enough where Southwestern wants to test again, basically allowing this drone and its pilot to test pipelines or the well site for methane leaks, without the need for a human to be walking around with a handheld infrared scanner.

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