Resource industries have always been significantly impacted by new technologies, each requiring a workforce with different skillsets. This impact occurs in three areas:
New technologies have been used to increase the proven reserves of different resources – by enabling extraction at increased depth (the primary reason that ‘peak oil’ concerns were never valid), or by improved extraction technologies, such as the introduction of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) and horizontal drilling, which is turning the US from a major importer of oil into oil self-sufficiency.
As supply-demand ratios change, some resources are replaced by others. So lighting went from requiring whale oil to kerosene to electricity. Currently, environmentally-friendly sources of energy (solar, wind, etc.) are reducing the demand for electricity. In the next few years, the demand for gasoline to power vehicles will be decimated by the use of electric motors.
When considering the demand for human labour, increased supply causes an increase, often requiring new skills; resource substitution usually requires new skills, but may not cause an increase or decrease in demand; and improved productivity causes a reduction in demand, especially if the overall demand for the resource does not increase materially. All of the active technologies tracked by this website impact the resource industry:
- Additive manufacturing is producing spare parts needed in remote areas.
- AI is enabling autonomous mining equipment (such as haul trucks and drilling machines), helping to discover new mineral deposits, and increasing ore extraction.
- Blockchain is being used to share energy among consumers.
- Drones are inspecting oil and gas pipelines, and offshore oil rigs.
- Robots are working underwater to fix pipelines, and checking the safety of mine-shafts.