new fleet

Robots roll into Houston operations of global energy industry giant

Among other things, the robotic capabilities will enable constant monitoring of oil and gas assets, and earlier detection of methane emissions. Photo courtesy of Wood

Houston employees of Wood, a Scottish giant in engineering and management services, are helping drive the robot revolution in the oil and gas industry.

Wood recently received nearly $3 million in funding from Canada’s province of Newfoundland and Labrador to support development of robots that will carry out autonomous inspection and maintenance of onshore and offshore oil and gas infrastructure in that region.

“As we prepare for the transition to renewable energy, we do it knowing that oil and gas will be needed for the foreseeable future. Our government will continue to work to support the women and men who work in the oil and gas industry as we collaborate with industry to support new innovative ideas to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Andrew Furey, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, says in a news release.

Among other things, the robotic capabilities will enable constant monitoring of oil and gas assets, and earlier detection of methane emissions. Wood says that if the Canadian project succeeds, it could lead to the rollout of more robots.

Some of Wood’s robots will be roaming the show floor at this year’s Offshore Technology Conference (OTC), set for May 2-5 at NRG Park. An OTC session on May 3 will shine a light on the emerging sector of offshore robotic technologies. Rami Jabari of Houston-based ExxonMobil and Ross Doak of Shell, which has a major presence in Houston, are co-chairs of the session. Both ExxonMobil and Shell have embraced robotics in recent years.

The Houston office of Wood — which employs nearly 11,000 full-time workers locally and whose 2020 global revenue totaled $7.5 billion — has been toiling away on the robotic technology for several years. The technology already has undergone a successful pilot in Wyoming, where robots and drones have captured data to create 3D models of oil and gas assets.

“In a nutshell, this technology is making routine inspections and maintenance of assets safer and more efficient, leading to reduced carbon emissions and lower-cost sustainable operations,” according to Wood.

A key focus of the robotic technology is helping more than 100 countries that have pledged to slash methane emissions by 30 percent before 2030 compared with 2020 levels. According to the United Nations, decreasing methane emissions is one of the most cost-effective ways to achieve global goals tied to climate change.

Wood, whose U.S. locations are in Houston and Alpharetta, Georgia, isn’t the only company with strong local ties that’s innovating in robotics for the oil and gas sector.

For instance, Webster-based Nauticus Robotics specializes in offshore robotics for the oil and gas sector and other industries. Nauticus, previously branded as Houston Mechatronics, is preparing to merge with CleanTech Acquisition, a publicly traded SPAC, or special acquisition company.

The pending merger values Nauticus at $560 million. The company envisions generating revenue of more than $90 million in 2023, up from an estimated $8.2 million this year.

The first product from Nauticus, founded by former NASA engineers, is called Aquanaut.

“Aquanaut is an unmanned underwater vehicle that can transform itself from a nimble submarine designed for long-distance cruising into a half-humanoid robot capable of carrying out complex manipulation tasks. It can inspect subsea oil and gas infrastructure, operate valves, and use tools,” according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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Building Houston

 
 

Supporting and honoring our Hispanic-Latino clients is not just a month-long initiative, it is a long-term, generational investment in America and we are proud to be investing in a stronger economy for Houston now and for years to come. Photo via Getty Images

Every year at this time ― Hispanic Heritage Month ― we collectively celebrate the economic, cultural, and social contributions of the Hispanic-Latino community to our nation. We honor the work of past generations which have allowed children and future generations to benefit from more opportunities.

As diverse a community as is the world, we strive to build a future where there are no barriers for success, and at Bank of America, we do our part to make an impact by helping build Hispanic-Latino wealth in Houston.

The numbers are clear: The 2020 Census revealed that the Hispanic-Latino population in the United States rose to 62.1 million, making up 18.7 percent of the total U.S. population and accounting for slightly more than half (51.1 percent) of the population growth between 2010 and 2020. Hispanic-Latinos now open more small businesses than any other group in the country and are also the fastest-growing demographic of small business owners across the nation. It is not surprising that Hispanic-Latino economic power continues to rise year after year. According to Nielsen Scarborough, the number of Houston Hispanic businesses have increased 85 percent since 2013.

Investing in business

Investing in Hispanic-Latino wealth means supporting entrepreneurs so they are set up for success. Early-stage funding is critical for the growth of a new business, especially when Hispanic-Latino entrepreneurs are still faced with gaps in financial literacy and business education, funding, and networking opportunities.

According to data from Crunchbase, Latino-founded startups accounted for only 2.1 percent of venture investments in the U.S. last year. This is unjustifiable.

As part of our commitment to advancing racial equality and economic opportunity, we have dedicated $350 million in minority- and women-led companies through capital investment by mission-focused venture funds. Of the funds we have in our portfolio, one in every four are led by Hispanic-Latino managers, providing capital that will help entrepreneurs and small business owners grow their businesses, create jobs, and improve financial stability.

An important element to creating opportunities for Hispanic-Latinos to build wealth, whether as a business owner or an employee, is ensuring that young people recognize higher education as a pathway to achieve success. That means partnering with colleges and universities and investing in job creation, skills-building, and support services for students to do so. Locally, we do this with EMERGE Fellowship and with the University of Houston College of Medicine. When we invest in students, we are investing in future professionals and business leaders who will build Hispanic-Latino wealth and contribute to Houston’s economy and culture. This is something we can celebrate together for years to come.

Investing in sustainable homeownership

Sustainable homeownership provides a lasting investment for future generations and cycles capital into the community. The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP) recently released data showing an increase in Latino homeownership, from 47.5 percent in 2019 to 48.4 percent in 2021, the highest level since the mid-2000s. Through the Community Homeownership Commitment, which provides low down payment loans and closing cost grants, families can take their savings and turn them into lasting legacies. It is a pillar for families to build wealth.

Here in Houston, we also support organizations that assist with homeownership, like Tejano Center, Avenue CDC, and Houston Habitat for Humanity. Building Hispanic-Latino home equity increases the amount of capital families can use now or in the future helping build our Houston economy.

During the past decade, the rate of Hispanic-Latino economic development has far outpaced rates among non-Hispanics. Supporting and honoring our Hispanic-Latino clients is not just a month-long initiative, it is a long-term, generational investment in America and we are proud to be investing in a stronger economy for Houston now and for years to come.

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Rick Jaramillo is the market executive for Bank of America Houston.

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