Oqton, a Belgian software company specializing in solutions for the additive manufacturing (AM) sector, announced that the company has entered into an agreement to develop and commercialize software for Baker Hughes, one of the world’s largest oilfield services companies. Through the partnership, Oqton will integrate its signature Manufacturing OS software platform with the catalog of AM processes that Baker Hughes has developed and accumulated over the past decade.
Image courtesy of Oqton
Moreover, once that initial phase of the partnership has been completed, the companies plan to expand the resultant software platform with further applications and plug-ins, as part of a strategy to branch out into other markets beyond oil & gas. Especially, Oqton and Baker Hughes seem intent on applying their joint expertise to other industries that face the most stringent regulations, such as healthcare and aerospace.
Image courtesy of Baker Hughes
As I frequently mention, there is a strong multifaceted argument to be made in favor of the oil & gas industry’s vastly expanding and rapidly accelerating its adoption of AM-driven digitization. One of the most crucial elements to that argument is that doing so could allow oil & gas companies to move as seamlessly as possible into alternative energy sectors, if those companies can leverage advanced manufacturing technologies to take direct control over their own equipment supply chains.
This particular story has added another, highly significant wrinkle to that overall argument: AM could potentially allow oil & gas companies to expand into sectors that have little or nothing to do with supplying energy, at all. This has implications not only for the oil & gas sector, but also for the economy-at-large, and above all, for the paramount 21st century consideration of decarbonization.
One of the most difficult angles involved in reducing overall carbon emissions is that fossil fuels are so inextricably tied to economic growth — while maintaining near-term economic growth is, in turn, indispensable if the necessary transition to renewable energy is to be successful. Thus, as much as oil & gas companies may deserve to fail for moral reasons, there are, in the end, unassailable practical considerations dictating that the fossil fuel industry has to be viewed as a key decision-maker in the energy transition.
With that said, all of the economic growth represented by fossil fuels will not be able to be replaced simply by forcing oil & gas companies to become renewables providers. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that the world’s largest stakeholders in manufacturing will try to break down as many barriers as they can, between the supply chains of all the various heavy industries. It seems likely, then, that Oqton and Baker Hughes are at the forefront of what should be an increasingly noticeable trend.