As I mentioned in an earlier article, interview with James Causey, that SpaceCom held its annual conference in Houston, in early December. While at the meeting, I got a chance to speak with Jose Gutierrez, PhD in engineering science and robotics; and Director of Technology and Innovation at Transocean. I asked, “how has space exploration helped the oil industry with technology transfer?” His response is very interesting.

Jose asserts that one of the greatest contributions of the space industry to society is “systems engineering”. Transocean builds drilling ships for the oil industry. Before construction on the drilling ship takes place, it has to be engineered. Systems engineering can also be called “detailed engineering” and includes some of the following items:

  • Definition and adherence to industry design standards

  • Requirements engineering

  • Configuration, validation, and verification of each subsystem

  • Reliability and safety integrity engineering

  • Layout drawings indicating placement of beams, tanks, offices, dining areas, etc

  • Quality management

  • and more

A place where this is really important is in geopositioning technology – dynamic positioning of the drillship. The vessel has to stay squarely over the well while drilling. Thus, the design of all the drives, motors, gears, and satellite components of the geopositioning system is critical.

Jose says there was a time in the oil business when constructing a drillship was all “off the shelf”. Today everything possible is engineered. Units are not thrown together capriciously like a bunch of pots and pans. Jose adds that he wants to make the design process systematic. That means sophisticated software for system engineering design, data management, and project controls. Space technology transfer helps everyone.

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