O&G + IIoT = >$ | Benefits of the Industrial Internet of Things in Oil and Gas

By Neil Bedekar | Aug 26, 2015

Have you realized? We’re living in a world with drones and sensors. The sound of this is like something out of a movie, but it’s real. In fact, drones and sensors are changing the oil and gas industry. Some oil and gas companies are already looking into deployment options for drones. Why are oil and gas companies investing in drones and the Internet of Things? The rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is allowing first-mover Oil and Gas (O&G) companies to dramatically increase operational efficiencies while decreasing safety and environmental risks.  These benefits can be seen in all phases of the Oil and Gas supply chain including Predictive Maintenance, Pipeline Monitoring, Location Intelligence and Automated Workflows.  In the near future, companies must adopt and even embrace IIoT technologies to remain competitive in the marketplace.

Predictive Maintenance

Embedded sensors and connected systems are being leveraged to determine the condition of in-service equipment in order to predict when maintenance should be performed.  In the past, companies would implement time-based maintenance schedules regardless of the condition of in-service equipment.  Unfortunately, time-based maintenance schedules cannot eliminate equipment that deviates outside of the manufacturer’s published specifications and need to be addressed at an earlier date. (ie. Companies are abusing equipment by leaving them running for long periods of time.) Additionally, some equipment based on usage profiles may require less frequent maintenance schedules to remain within the manufacturer’s published specifications.  Embedded sensors and connected systems are dramatically increasing uptime and decreasing needless effort through accurate maintenance activities on in-service equipment. Also, all the information from the sensors can be synced with internal systems and into a mobile app so that field workers can access this data easily.

Pipeline Monitoring

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) equipped with sensors are being leveraged to inspect and monitor thousands of miles of pipeline to ensure safe and efficient midstream operations.  In the past, companies would use large teams of inspectors to drive and even walk pipeline with inspection equipment.  The United States, alone, depends on a network of more than 185,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines, nearly 320,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines, and more than 2 million miles of gas distribution pipelines to move energy and raw materials. Manually inspecting this pipeline is not sustainable and introduces human error into the equation.  UAVs can inspect pipeline faster and more accurately than traditional methods resulting in less safety and environmental incidents.

Oil and gas CIOs are already exploring deployment options after learning about the business benefits of utilizing UAVs. UAV-based applications help improve the life cycle management of assets such as mines and quarries and offshore oil rigs. Also, UAVs can replace manned rope or scaffold inspections for offshore rig operators. Think all this technology isn’t worth it? According to a report, a UAV deployment saved a rig’s operator 4.6 million pounds. That’s a huge amount of savings and that number can get bigger as you deploy more of this technology to other areas of the business.

Location Intelligence

Location Intelligence is a form of business intelligence where the dominant dimension used for analysis is location or geography.  Embedded sensors and connected systems are providing companies with real time data as to the state and location of an asset.  This information allows companies to efficiently deploy assets to the right location while minimizing the costs associated with storage, logistics, downtime and inventory.  Additionally, maintenance cycles can be efficiently scheduled between billable engagements at the servicing facility closest to an asset’s current location.  Location Intelligence is decreasing the cost of doing business as well as downtime experience while waiting for the right asset.

Automated Workflows

Embedded sensors and connected systems are interacting with Enterprise Applications to trigger workflows essential to efficient operations. In the past, a technician would be responsible for gathering data about equipment, operations or safety and correlating that data with predefined workflows to address any issues. This model often resulted in the technician being the common point of failure in terms of identifying an exception scenario and triggering the correct workflow to address the issue. In the IIoT world, complex workflows are triggered by an unlimited set of parameters to ensure that oil and gas operations are efficient and safe. Automated workflows are decreasing downtime and safety and environment risks.

Summary

As you can see, the IIoT is making serious waves in oil and gas.  Companies who are investing in and embracing these technologies are seeing an instant return on their investment as well as setting themselves up for sustainable success in the future. Of course, ensuring that the information that the IoT sensors and UAVs collect are properly displayed in a mobile app is crucial. These visualizations need to be designed properly so that the mobile app can have a great user experience. Companies that are continuing to operate as they have for years are really feeling the effects of the market downturn and will be fighting to remain competitive as the market rebounds.
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