Amid intense pressure to optimize processes and reduce their environmental footprint, oil and gas companies are looking into technologies like IoT for answers. Find out how the Internet of Things is transforming oil and gas operations.
The Internet of Things is a tremendous force. Its ability to enhance operational efficiency and business outcomes has made it impossible for any industry to ignore.
As a system integrator, the IoT ecosystem encompasses sensors, communication, cloud servers, edge computing, and data management systems, all working together to monitor, control, and automate extraction, production, and distribution processes. IoT solutions are also ideal platforms for real-time data access, facilitating faster and more effective decision-making.
In our last two articles, we discussed the potential of the Internet of Things and how it is transforming the energy sector. Today, let's look into IoT transformations in what is arguably the most critical energy categories: oil and gas.
The Massive Potential of IoT in Oil and Gas
The energy sector is in a transformative period, and petroleum is no exception. The overwhelming push to satisfy increasing demand at lower cost and with fewer emissions is forcing oil and gas players to rethink strategies and add emerging technologies like the Internet of Things to their budgets.
Despite being new in oil and gas, IoT promises significant improvements throughout all upstream, midstream, and downstream segments of the extensive supply chain. Investing in IoT unlocks opportunities for reducing costs through more efficient and automated operations and proactive fault-fixing.
Top Four IoT Use Cases for Oil and Gas Operations
A report by BIS Research
suggests that the IoT market for oil and gas will be worth $43 billion by 2024, registering a five-year CAGR of 21%. The industry is expected to realize much of this value with compelling use cases in exploration, drilling, pipeline, refinery, and shipping operations.
1. Exploration and Drilling
In recent years, the skyrocketing demand for oil and gas has pushed exploration and drilling exploits to some of the most remote and dangerous parts of the world. Off-shore drilling, for instance, is happening at depths of more than 2,000 meters, with wells as deep as 8,000 meters. In addition to the high drilling costs, these operations come with significant safety and environmental demands, and any mishap can lead to catastrophic losses and adverse long-term impacts.
The Internet of Things can be highly beneficial for minimizing risks and streamlining challenging exploration and drilling operations. For example, cameras and sensors in oil shafts can detect abnormalities in critical parameters like temperature, pressure, and vibrations and alert concerned personnel well before a disaster.
Additionally, connected robots can be deployed in hazardous environments to perform exploration, inspection, and maintenance tasks efficiently without putting human workers at risk.
2. Pipeline Monitoring
A pipeline leak can cause immense financial, environmental, and reputational damage to the company involved. Fortunately, oil and gas players can count on IoT systems to minimize the likelihood and impact of pipeline leakage. IoT devices can monitor the pipeline grid and deliver accurate, real-time performance data to inform routine checks and maintenance.
When interfaced with end-user applications, these solutions can help operators keep track of critical parameters and adjust the process accordingly for safe and efficient operation. Moreover, immediately after a leak, sensors can autonomously activate valves to cut off supply and alert technicians to fix the issue before it causes significant damage.
Besides predicting spillages, IoT solutions can help make clean-up processes more effective. For instance, response teams can use underwater surveillance robots to identify fault points and isolate an affected line. IoT devices mounted on boats and aircraft can also monitor ocean currents, winds, and other physical processes, enabling responders to accurately compute oil spill trajectories and get ahead of the crisis.
3. Plant Management
Oil refineries involve a great deal of data collection and measurement. When done manually, these processes can be time-consuming and erroneous, particularly in areas that require precise, frequent measuring. IoT solutions can monitor performance parameters in real-time, minimizing the need for manual inspection. Devices and machines on IoT networks can also replace on-site monitoring and control in hard-to-reach or potentially dangerous areas.
Companies can also build end-to-end connected systems, where sensors detect parameter changes and communicate with control units to automatically change a process as required, eliminating delays, improving efficiency, and reducing refinery emissions.
Another significant benefit of IoT in plant management is efficient staff deployment. Real-time monitoring enables technicians to only carry out maintenance to the equipment and sections that need it. That way, staff can spend less time on repetitive tasks and more on optimization and risk-management projects.
Real-time fleet management is a crucial aspect for oil and gas supply chain managers. Companies demand a 100% guarantee that their cargo will reach its destination safely and on time. Oil and gas prices constantly fluctuate, which means delays can translate to significant losses. Furthermore, like pipeline leaks, tanker accidents can be devastating to the company and the environment.
IoT can help mitigate the many risks of oil and gas logistics and keep shipping operations running as smoothly as possible. For example, onboard sensors connected to satellite internet can provide all parties involved with precise location data, enabling them to plan with accurate delivery times. The collected information can also help logistics planners to identify optimization opportunities along the supply chain.
Additionally, localized IoT networks can provide easy monitoring options for parameters within the ship. By replacing periodic manual inspection with real-time IoT monitoring, shipping companies can promote efficiency and minimize accident probability while in transit.
A Promising Future for IoT in Oil and Gas
Admittedly, despite the apparent benefits of deploying IoT, adoption in oil and gas is still slower than in other sectors. Experts attribute the lag to the industry's highly secure, regulated, and capital-intensive nature, which creates unique concerns regarding cybersecurity and the over-reliance on technology in critical, dynamic, or potential hazardous operations.
Nevertheless, the benefits of IoT far outweigh the risks. As the sector strives for sustainability and efficiency, the Internet of Things will become a definitive factor for surviving and thriving in the future market. If you run an oil and gas enterprise, you owe it to your business to start looking into IoT as a critical piece of your operations puzzle.
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