3D Printing and R&D Tax Credits for the Oil & Gas Industry

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The current fossil fuel glut is resulting in sustained low prices and an increased need to reduce costs. Numerous 3D printing solutions are under development within the oil and gas industry. Many large players in the oil and gas equipment industry such as Siemens, GE Oil & Gas, Shell and others have been exploring the opportunities that 3D printing holds for increasing efficiency and lowering costs.

The Research & Development Tax Credit

Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:

  • New or improved products, processes, or software
  • Technological in nature
  • Elimination of uncertainty
  • Process of experimentation

Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015 President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum Tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.

Oil & Gas Industry 3D Printing Innovations

Siemens Oil & Gas

[Image: Siemens]

In February 2017, Siemens developed a technique to produce gas turbine blades using a 3D printer. The company tested and validated the performance of multiple 3D printed blades compared to the conventional bladed designs produced without Additive Manufacturing (AM) technology. The AM development process consisted of layers, where each step is done piece by piece. When large companies such as Siemens develop successful methods in implementing AM, it demonstrates the large potential for increased developments in this sector. Siemens’ unique blade design shows a new level of innovation through advanced 3D printing technology. 3D printers serve many purposes including quick prototyping and testing the potential of additional products that may be produced using AM technology in the future gas turbine and combustion industry.

GE Oil & Gas

GE Oil & Gas has developed a laboratory for additive manufacturing technology in Florence, Italy to accelerate advancements in the technology for 3D printing. The advanced equipment is capable of prototyping, allowing for rapid testing of prototypes to single out those that will condense the development cycle. GE developed their “Fastworks approach“, which attempts to shorten development cycles, but primarily speed up the time it takes for new products meet the market.

For example, GE is developing prototypes extremely fast for components of their AM development for the burner of the new NovaLT16 gas turbine. GE Oil & Gas developed plastic and metal 3D printers in the AM lab, where the design loop for prototyping some parts were reduced from 12 weeks to just 12 hours. Implementing 3D printers into operations decreases the time it takes for ideas to become tangible, allowing for developments to become useful in actually improving the company’s overall operations.

Chevron USA Production Co.

The use of 3D printing in the manufacturing process has reduced the production cycle time by 40% for Chevron. Chevron’s EI 252 I platform (Eugene Island platform) was developed with the goal of increasing manufacturing capacity and production efficiency. They had also implemented laser scanning to allow detailed mechanical designs to be virtually real through 3D laser scanning. The 3D scanning allows Chevron to capture an accurate geometry of existing work areas where that information is not readily available. Utilizing 3D modeling allowed better visualization for potential conflicts in projects by changing original plans to fit the needs that would not have been discovered if it weren’t utilized.

The use of 3D laser scanning and modeling aspects has decreased front-end costs dramatically for Chevron’s projects. It reduces costs and time of engineers significantly by having engineer’s work to only be done once without being revisited on-site at the platform.

Shell Global

[Image: Shell]

Shell Global is currently using the same model as NASA, which uses 3D printing to manufacture metal parts for its new Space Launch System. Shell believes that the utilization of 3D printing will avoid cutting products out of blocks of materials and instead build them up in layers. The company has a Research and Development Center in the Netherlands, where many innovative ideas are being tested and implemented.

Shell’s research team finds the 3D printing solution to drastically reduce the time it takes for a design to become a finished product. For example, once a design in finalized, the product could be printed within 60 hours, rather than the conventional method that may take weeks.

Achieving successful, innovative products from advanced technology allows firms like Shell to improve their production efficiency, reduce costs, and decrease future maintenance procedures.

BP Global

[Image: BP Global Energy Outlook 2017 Study – Future Gas Supply]

BP Global is conducting research to find solutions that will improve their supply chain, reduce transportation costs, and how to conduct remote off-shore drilling. For the oil industry, freight transportation accounts for more than one-fifth of total oil consumption cost. Long distance shipments worldwide account for a large portion of these consumption costs.

BP Global’s Energy Outlook 2017 Study reflects that 3D printing should be shifted away from mass production and focuses on local manufacturing in the markets where the products are sold. Adjusting to the economic and energy shifts is BP’s goal when implementing 3D printing into their process management. BP believes 3D printing use will increase its substantial presence in the oil industry in future years, but it believes 3D printing will have a higher impact on industries in the global supply chain that the oil industry relies on.


3D printing is increasing its presence in the oil and gas industry. The technology provides solutions for a more efficient production system, while also reducing costs. 3D printing research and development is now demonstrating it will have a significant impact on the oil and gas industry.


Charles Goulding and Tricia Genova of R&D Tax Savers discuss 3D printing and the oil & gas industry


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