Methods and Applications

This year's Offshore Technology Conference, which recently took place in Houston, attracted more than 2,000 companies from various energy sector segments. The event, which was centered around oil and gas industry professionals, showed four industry trends that are influencing mining, drilling and other industrial companies.

There are numerous ways to make plants more efficient, from limiting waste by improving insulation to operating machinery more effectively. For example, machine maintenance software can collect data about how equipment is utilized over time, which allows managers to make smarter decisions about how to schedule work and optimize the use of equipment over the course of a day, week or month.

A decade ago, energy analysts said that much of the world's oil had already been tapped and that reserves were running dry. But since that period, new drilling methods and technology have emerged to enable companies to find previously inaccessible deposits of oil and gas.

In the manufacturing process, human error and industrial accidents are on the rise. Operator fatigue is a concern because workers become less alert, vigilant and effective at real-time decision making. This makes equipment reliability even more important, with automated systems like equipment maintenance software able to more consistently track the condition and performance of machines than could be done manually by workers.

Coal output in the Illinois Basin, which encompasses southern Illinois as well as Indiana and western Kentucky, rose 10 percent in 2012, even as overall coal production in the country declined by 7 percent.