Digital Oilfields and the Rise of Integrated Asset Management
The oil and gas industry is in the middle of a fundamental transformation. Between volatile market prices, fluctuating demand and complex compliance and regulatory regimes, the need for improved operational efficiency is at an all-time high. With the promise to deliver enhanced operational visibility, safety and performance, the transition to digital oilfields has become a top priority. According to a recent report, global wireless sensor network revenues for oil and gas exploration, production and pipeline operation will reach $2.2 billion with asset management expected to be the fastest growing IoT application. This is no surprise as the industry looks for cost-effective ways to manage an ageing infrastructure, optimize production and performance, all while reducing reduce economic, environment, health, and safety risks.
The Asset Management Challenge
Asset management has played a critical role in the oil and gas industry for years. While traditional asset management systems such as spreadsheets provide, to some degree, a window into asset status, they lack structure, real-time visibility and data interoperability.
Manual systems and processes can significantly hamper operations. For example, the probability of human error with manual data entry is between 18% and 40%. With inaccurate asset data, the condition status, safety and optimization of assets is at risk. Identifying and fixing errors also costs the company time and money that could be spent on more critical areas of the business. Furthermore, these legacy systems do not provide real-time data nor do they communicate with other functions and processes of the business. This creates limited information and siloed systems. This is a major issue for moving asset-based industries such as oil and gas where tracking the real-time location, performance and safety of all assets is critical to optimizing processes, eliminating downtime, reducing costs and minimizing environmental impact.
The Rise of IoT and Integrated Asset Management
With IoT comes a new generation of low-power, wireless sensors that can turn traditional physical objects into digital devices. Attached to individual assets like equipment, tools, vehicles and even people, these sensors capture and report detailed information about current asset conditions as well as where they are and how they are being used. Leveraging robust, long-range IoT connectivity, insights into even the most remote, isolated assets can be gathered at a control center and easily accessible by operators and technicians. By having a holistic, real-time picture of cross-site assets, they can quickly pinpoint under-utilized equipment, diagnose impending issues and bottlenecks and easily mobilize tools and parts.
Here are 4 key benefits of integrated asset management in digital oilfields.
1. Optimize Asset Utilization
Oil and gas equipment is often left at a job site for days or weeks at a time. This puts equipment at risk of being misused, misplaced or even stolen. To manually search for machines, tools, or other equipment wastes time and money. Workers drive from site to site, burning up fuel, clocking more hours, and putting priority jobs on hold. Using IoT sensors enabled by robust, long range connectivity, companies can track and locate all equipment in real time. Data can also be aggregated across multiple remote locations to better coordinate asset utilization across locations, control inventory and increase the level of service efficiency provided to customers.
2. Maximize Uptime with Predictive Maintenance
Breakdowns can immobilize your entire operation. According to a Kimberlite research, just 3.65 days of unplanned downtime a year can cost an oil and gas company $5.037 million. An average offshore oil and gas company experiences about 27 days of unplanned downtime a year, which can amount to $38 million in losses. In some cases, this number can go to as much as $88 million. One of the biggest reasons to employ an asset management solution is to greatly reduce this downtime by catching equipment failures before they happen. Wireless IoT sensors enable companies to capture critical asset data like pressure, temperature, vibration, level and flow data to forecast impending problems and failures. Integrating this data along with other machine data from an enterprise resource planning or asset management system and equipment history data, helps companies identify patterns and issues to employ an effective predictive maintenance strategy and ensure maximum equipment uptime.
3. Ensure Regulatory Compliance
An integrated asset management approach also demonstrates commitment to asset optimization and smooth operations in relation to regulatory compliance. This is extremely critical in the oil and gas industry where asset failure can lead to devastating environmental repercussions. With remote equipment and process monitoring, companies can ensure that all assets are in peak operating condition, significantly reducing the likelihood of catastrophic equipment failure. However, if something does go wrong, historical maintenance data can be used to prove that the company took all necessary precautions to try to prevent asset failure.
4. Fleet Management
Monitoring fleet performance, location and maintenance is critical to the efficiency of all transportation logistics and ensuring regulatory compliance. With an integrated asset management solution, fleet managers have access to critical telematics data to help ensure timely vehicle maintenance, reduce fuel consumption and fuel costs, enhance driver management, and improve asset utilization and route planning.
The Role of LPWAN in the Digital Oilfields
The transition from brownfields to digital oilfields can be cost-intensive and highly challenging due to extreme operating conditions and insufficient communication infrastructure. Offshore distance, explosive atmospheres, rugged terrains, absent power supply and electromagnetic interference represent the most demanding environment for any wireless network.
With its long range, high power efficiency and high interference immunity, low power wide area network (LPWAN) technologies deliver the resilient sensor connectivity needed for remote monitoring and asset management. Covering a vast area of a 5 - 15km radius (depending on structural density), the system enables effective data collection from assets located in remote and hazardous areas where workers’ accessibility is restricted. Supporting long-lasting operation of independent, low-cost batteries on the sensor side, LPWANs also significantly alleviate the upkeep effort of battery recharging and replacement. Furthermore, the outstanding network robustness of third generation LPWAN technologies secures optimal signal reliability in the electromagnetic interference environment, as well as across rough terrains, elevation and through heavy metal obstructions.
Integrated asset management enabled by innovative IoT sensors and next-gen LPWAN plays a pivotal role in digital oilfields. It’s ability to provide data interoperability across systems, processes and people helps oil and gas companies reduce costs, mitigate operational risks and provides a holistic approach towards enhancing visibility, collaboration and performance while generating a higher value from operational expenditures.
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