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Energy Giants Can Gain From Investing in Drones. Here's How

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The prerequisite to restructure the manner in which oil and gas companies inspect their industrial assets has brought about a major change in the industry. Lately, these companies have started using commercial drones for easier inspection and collection of crucial data at reduced overhead costs. So this makes it a good time to focus on a few energy companies that are following this trend.

Drones to Significantly Benefit Oil & Gas Companies

Commercial drones have tremendous potential to transform the way oil and gas companies conduct inspections of their industrial assets. According to statistical data, the global oil and gas market spends as much as $37 billion annually on monitoring and inspections alone. In such a scenario, using drones to improve inspections can be highly advantageous.

In fact, a 2016 Goldman Sachs report estimated that the market for pipeline inspections carried out by UAVs could reach $41 million and the market for offshore oil and gas rig and refinery inspections could be worth $1.1 billion globally.

The spectrum of applications unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can perform is wide. Tasks such as monitoring pipelines, storage units, roads, bridges, power lines etc, which are performed manually can be executed by drones in a much more efficient manner. Inspections such as oil spill detection, gas emissions and damage assessment are carried out by UAVs smoothly as well.

Inspecting energy infrastructure and collecting vital data using drones can cost significantly since it involves deploying ground crew and manned flights. Drones can get much nearer to infrastructure, helping them gather more accurate data. Using drones doesn’t interrupt operations either, which gives these the advantage of catching malfunctions and leaks, thus lessening remediation costs.

In addition, drones are a better choice where manual inspection of considerably dangerous infrastructure is concerned. The data collected by drones under hazardous conditions can be highly accurate as well, owing to their multiple cameras and sensors. This data can be simultaneously used to offer real-time solutions, which gives drones a definitive edge over manual inspections.

Global Oil & Gas Companies Are Investing in Drones

The North American oil and gas market for drones is projected at worth $4 billion by 2020, implying a compound annual growth rate of 40.1% in the 2014-2020 forecast period. In fact, a few major energy companies in the United States and elsewhere have begun deploying drones to carry out industrial inspections.

The trend was started by British oil & gas company BP (BP - Free Report) , which signed a five-year contract to use UAVs to monitor its oil operations in Alaska. The London-based energy company had hired American drone maker AeroVironment (AVAV) to inspect its Prudhoe Bay oil field in North America, a Wall Street report had cited.

BP carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) and its expected earnings growth rate for the next year is 30.5% compared with the Zacks Oil and Gas – Integrated – International industry’s projected rise of 13.8%. The company has outperformed the broader industry in the past one-year period (+8% vs +2.4%).

California-based Chevron (CVX - Free Report) is already using unmanned aerial systems for a wide range of tasks that include detection of offshore oil spills, measuring oil buildup along coastlines and visually inspect flare tips.

Chevron carries a Zacks Rank #3 and its expected earnings growth rate for the next year is 17.3% compared with the Zacks Oil and Gas – Integrated – International industry’s projected rise of 13.8%. The company has outperformed the broader industry in the past one-year period (+7.6% vs +2.4%).

American energy company Exxon Mobil (XOM - Free Report) is deploying drones to detect methane emissions across their sites. The company plans to use the data gathered by these unmanned aerial vehicles to manage and lessen methane emissions.

Exxon Mobil carries a Zacks Rank #3 and its expected earnings growth rate for the next year is 22% compared with the Zacks Oil and Gas – Integrated – International industry’s projected rise of 13.8%. The company has outperformed the broader industry in the past one-year period (+8.2% vs +2.5%).

Brazil-based Petrobras (PBR - Free Report) is also using drone photogrammetric methods to study engineering data assets (data, drawings, three-dimensional models etc) to take better data-driven decisions.

Petrobras carries a Zacks Rank #3 and its expected earnings growth rate for the next year is 1.3% compared with the Zacks Oil and Gas – Integrated – Emerging markets industry’s projected decline of 2.9%.

You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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