Doubling Down on IIoT for Oil & Gas

October 22, 2019

While the demand for oil continues, digging to deeper depths and off-shore drilling are becoming a necessity. But these types of drilling are challenging and costly as finding the exact spot to hit an oil deposit can be difficult. “Dry holes” that are dug and from which oil or gas cannot be extracted are common and expensive, costing millions of dollars. Industrial IoT, however, can perform analytics on the depth that needs to be dug, the rock bed composition, and the dig results of previous or surrounding sites to better predict which specific dig locations may be successful.

IIoT Monitoring for Pipes, Pumps and Valves

Once a successful dig is made, piping needs to transport the oil or gas. Pipe leaks can happen anywhere but deep digs and off-shore drilling are subject to even more extreme temperatures and pressure than traditional drilling. Pipe leaks not only cause the loss of precious resources and are harmful to the environment but can also be dangerous and very costly. IIoT devices can monitor piping and alert operators in any drop in pressure so a leak can be identified right away or a malfunction can be repaired to prevent a leak from occurring.

In addition to pipes, sensors can be placed on other equipment, such as pumps, valves, compressors, turbines, etc. Sensors monitor component vibration, temperature and flow rate and rugged edge devices can send alerts if anything falls outside of parameters. This allows issues to be spotted quickly and saves costs in unplanned downtimes. It also allows for predictive maintenance when equipment needs it rather than through an arbitrary maintenance schedule.

On the other end of the industry, IIoT is coming to gas stations. Normally, gas station tanks must be checked manually for overfill or leaks. With sensors, data can be relayed about the fill level of the tanks and if there are any problems. Alerts can also be sent when a tank is empty and in need of refilling.

Can IoT Solve Oil & Gas Challenges?

Working in the oil and gas industry can be dangerous. Employees risk exposure to chemicals, confined injury-bound spaces, common vehicle accidents and the possibility of explosions and fires. IIoT-aided automation allows employees to work remotely, removing them from dangerous environments. Not only does this improve safety but it also saves money in transporting workers to remote sites. Robots are currently in development for off-shore and other difficult to reach sites.

The oil and gas industries are currently facing a skills shortage. Automation with IoT can help fill some of the gaps as workers retire. Hopefully, the new skills associated with changing technology will also encourage new workers. Whatever the incentives for implementing IIoT, the benefits are numerous. Following the success of IIoT monitoring with its Nigerian pipeline, Shell is planning to implement IIoT across their business. The global investment in IIoT for the oil and gas industry is expected to reach $39.4 billion by 2023.