3D Printing and the Oil Industry

BP is studying 3D printing and its potential impacts on oil markets. Specifically, it seeks to ascertain whether the rise in small-scale digital manufacturing will reduce the need for worldwide shipping of goods. Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, and his team intend to research whether 3D printing could unravel complex global supply chains providing a source of growth for the oil industry.

Fighter jet parts, jewellery, wheelchair ramps, and medical implants are all made using 3D printing. It is vastly expanding to other areas, leading to the development of 3D printed arms. Global sales of 3D printers doubled from 2015 to 2016, with an exponential increase forecast in 2020, totalling over 6.7 million. Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner, stated, “3D printing, once a niche market, has rapidly transformed into a broad, mainstream technology embraced by consumers and enterprises around the world”. He added, “3D printers are utilised for several applications and subjects by students, preparing them for many career paths, such as engineering, manufacturing, aerospace and robotics”.

Mr. Dale claimed 3D printing would be added to the growing range of disruptive forces considered by his team in their long-term forecasting, alongside factors such as electric vehicles. Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) is preparing to introduce battery charging points at some European petrol stations, Total is preparing a similar venture. Shell’s downstream director, John Abbot, accordingly stated a selection of stations in Britain and the Netherlands will be the first to offer the service in late 2017. Despite electric vehicles’ portrayal as a threat to oil companies, Mr. Abbot has stated that the transition from the demand for petroleum to electric cars will take decades.

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