With digital transformation driving the future of the world economy, the oil and gas industry is taking advantage of innovations. IoT connectivity helps take operations to the next level and put an end to the sad statistics saying offshore platforms use 77 percent of their potential only.
IoT connectivity and big data analytics are the two pillars of higher productivity in the energy sector. They enable companies to become at least 20 percent more efficient, according to DNV GL. Without further ado, let’s dive into the exact use cases of IoT in the oil and gas industry and review its key benefits for businesses.
IoT connectivity solutions as a driver of productivity
Connected devices can be leveraged at any stage of O&G assets’ life cycle, from geology interpretation to field optimization. But what is more important, the provided benefits outweigh the required investment and guarantee business sustainability in the long run.
Below, we will discuss each of these benefits in detail.
IoT for drilling management
Drilling safety and efficiency depend on many factors, from workers’ competence to seismic activity. Neglecting or misinterpreting any of these factors can lead to sad consequences. Studies of offshore rig disasters conclude that most accidents could have been prevented if more data had been available. For instance, using seismic sensors for drilling site mapping reduces errors at the planning stage. When drilling is in progress, sensors help rig operators get the most precise measurements of the subsurface and continue the process safely.
As a result, organizations don’t need to spend costs fixing errors and dealing with accidents that could have occurred. Instead, they invest more in well management and optimization. Once a large oil and gas company builds an IoT connectivity platform, it can reduce operational costs by 25 percent per barrel.
Digital twin technology for data and project management
Implementation of IoT connectivity is an important step in field digitalization that can be followed by the development of a digital twin. As a complete virtual replica of a physical field, it has the following use cases:
- Remote real-time tracking of field assets. This means not only collecting separate metrics but staying on top of the entire system functioning. If there are interdependent components, like valve control defined by a flow rate in another place, it’s reasonable to monitor them concurrently. Any changes detected in one part of the system can be instantly transmitted to make proper adjustments in the other part. This secures system stability.
- Building predictability models. An unlimited number of metrics provided by connected sensors is a powerful base for calculating benchmarks. This makes operational teams aware of platforms’ performance capabilities and helps streamline field projects and avoid bottlenecks.
- Better project management. Oil and gas industry case studies show that IoT connectivity solutions improve collaboration between teams. Fast data transmission enables engineers to provide prompt recommendations to on-premises staff. Meanwhile, the latter has a deeper understanding of real-time conditions in the field and can share their observations to improve data interpretation.
Remote condition monitoring for proactive maintenance
Traditional maintenance based on a predefined schedule is becoming outdated. Manually collecting data from each part of the pipeline system is time-consuming. Moreover, the maintenance schedule doesn’t always match the actual need. Sometimes, it’s done when everything is functioning at its best, and no check is needed. In this case, a company spends employees’ working time without any measurable outcome. Or some parts of the equipment collapse without waiting for the time of maintenance to come. And a company must deal with consequences.
While with IoT connectivity, no manual measurements are needed. Instead, condition-based monitoring is put in place. This means that sensors collect data about pipe pressure and flow rate in real time. Predictability models described above provide performance benchmarks, and once there’s a deviation, operators can quickly step in and deal with it before it causes considerable damage. In this way, companies can prevent accidents and save resources (workforce, time, and costs). Remote condition monitoring and data analysis can bring oil and gas companies an average $17 million improvement in the bottom line.
IoT for offshore and cargo shipping
Cargo shipping is a sensitive part of a business. It takes place in severe conditions, where the internet connection is unstable. Ship personnel can’t access all parts of a ship, and therefore, they are blindly doing their job. IoT can use a low-powered wide area network (LPWAN) to monitor the equipment and the cargo itself. Numerous detectors connected to one central point collect key measurements and send alarms in case of emergency. This helps secure the cargo and minimize threats to shipping personnel.
Connectivity for responding to ethical challenges
Apart from improved productivity, connected sensors and technologies help the industry deal with ethical questions that bother the government and society.
Connected sensors for safer work environments
Every seven seconds at least one US employee suffers a workplace injury, as estimated by the National Safety Council. Potentially dangerous environments, like drilling stations or offshore platforms, put employees’ health and lives at risk. Organizations that prioritize safety should invest in technologies that reduce these risks.
IoT connectivity platform has two benefits in this context. First, sensors handle monitoring the state of equipment, and on-premises staff doesn’t have to do manual work in hard-to-reach places. Second, connected devices check if temperature, pressure, or air quality meet the standards acceptable for a human body. If employees are provided with personal wearable devices, they also check if a person is in a good working state and prevent exhaustion. As a result, a company benefits from lower insurance and corporate liability.
IoT management for environmental responsibility
Considering the latest decarbonization plans, reducing carbon emissions should become the focus of the energy sector. With IoT connectivity and a responsive energy network, platforms can consume exactly the volumes of power they need to operate. If there’s an excess, it is stored for future use. This reduces the carbon footprint during oil drilling and production.
Intelligent sensors can also be used to activate cooling and heating systems due to weather conditions instead of relying on a certain schedule. This means more efficient resource management, which is both cost-efficient and eco-conscious.
To meet the ever-evolving industry landscape challenges, companies need to understand the potential benefits of these changes. IoT connectivity and big data analytics help oil and gas providers improve their productivity in the first place. This includes more efficient drilling management, maintenance, and field optimization.
On the other side of the scale, there’s an oilfield workforce and environmental safety. Connectivity helps strike a balance between productivity and a conscious attitude to the planet. This drives an optimistic scenario for the industry, as it keeps pace with the world’s digital leaders providing value for businesses and the economy.