Remote Monitoring Within the Oil and Gas Industry

Remote Monitoring Within the Oil and Gas Industry

Oil and gas companies, much like many other businesses in the energy and utilities sector, face ongoing challenges, including pressure to meet new sustainability goals, transition to cleaner energy sources, overcome persistent supply chain disruptions, and improve safety standards. In addition, these companies must constantly find ways to increase competitiveness – namely, produce more energy at lower costs with fewer emissions.

To overcome these challenges, many oil and gas companies use next-generation technologies and approaches to automate processes and modernize operations, boosting efficiency and production, while adhering to sustainability requirements.

Remote monitoring, in particular, is gaining much attention and excitement in the energy industry, helping various enterprises become more efficient, robust and safe. And, in the case of oil and gas businesses, this process empowers them to improve safety, reduce costs, enhance operational efficiency, and promote predictive maintenance.

How Are Remote Monitoring and Management Used in This Industry?

Remote monitoring is a use case of the Internet of Things (IoT), where data from connected machines and systems provides decision makers with real-time insights into various oil and gas processes and equipment, including performance, environmental conditions and anomalies. The insights extracted by remote monitoring systems give oil and gas companies mission-critical visibility and timely alerts, allowing them to respond quickly to issues. Such alerts can also kick off autonomous processes to remediate problems without human intervention, all of which prevent downtime and other disasters.

An invaluable process for modern oil and gas businesses, remote monitoring leverages different Industry 4.0 technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), IoT sensors, and containerized services. Remote monitoring also uses wireless connectivity and edge computing. Likewise, many oil and gas companies will integrate remote monitoring systems with a cloud-based software platform.

As the name implies, remote monitoring delivers these real-time insights and analytics directly to the mobile device or laptop of the decision-maker or operator, eliminating the need for them to roll a truck to conduct physical assessments in the field or factory.

The Cost Benefits of Remote Monitoring

Perhaps the most significant benefit of an industrial remote monitoring system is that it helps oil and gas companies reduce costs from unscheduled downtime, environmental fines and safety violations.

For example, the data analytics collected by a remote monitoring system can help workers monitor fracking operations in real-time, allowing them to immediately notify personnel of any sudden changes in the conditions that might be hazardous, thereby avoiding costly incidents such as blow-outs, which can cause injuries and result in upwards of $3 million to $5 million in damaged equipment. Drilling doesn’t require much remote monitoring; however, when an operation is complete, IoT resources are essential for monitoring remote equipment, PLCs, pump jacks and flow meters, improving uptime and revenue capture.

While it is impossible to know how much future oil spills will cost, they historically result in millions to upwards of billions of dollars in damage. With remote monitoring, oil and gas companies are notified of errant environmental emissions or leakage, permitting rapid response to halt ecological disasters. In the same way, because these systems let operators conduct inspections remotely, it decreases the need for on-site visits, which means fewer truck rolls for better environmental stewardship.

Remote monitoring can also reduce costs associated with safety violations or injured employees. Ensuring the well-being of workers is paramount, and remote monitoring systems can enable oil and gas companies to conduct remote inspections, eliminating the need to send people into potentially hazardous areas.

Predictive Maintenance

Industrial remote monitoring systems also support predictive maintenance, which improves operational safety, avoids costly repairs and decreases lost productivity from downtime. Essentially, predictive maintenance is an IoT-enabled method that uses statistical analysis and historical data to help managers determine if machines require maintenance or improvement. It also uses ML and AI to automate the diagnosis of any equipment issues, allowing managers to schedule maintenance proactively rather than reactively.

Should a predictive maintenance solution detect an irregularity in temperature or vibration, the system will automatically notify qualified personnel via their digital dashboard. Having this information will allow the operator to identify root causes quickly. Furthermore, they can analyze the data over time to predict future breakdowns more accurately. And because workers don’t have to make emergency repairs, the likelihood of injuries decreases.

In the oil and gas sector, specifically, predictive maintenance provides companies with real-time data on the health and performance of critical pieces of machinery throughout upstream, midstream and downstream processes, including offshore pumping stations, compressors, drilling rigs, transportation equipment, etc.

Additional Benefits: Performance, Quality and Asset Tracking

Beyond cost-saving advantages, the critical insights gleaned from remote monitoring allow for the recognition of new assets (i.e., oil or natural gases acquired through extraction activities) with which oil and gas companies can trade or report in real time. Additionally, data from remote monitoring can improve the quality and performance of various oil and gas systems and operations. Connected machines will deliver real-time insights directly to an operator’s device, helping them maximize equipment uptime and productivity. For instance, oil and gas businesses can use data generated from remote monitoring to increase the effectiveness of drilling operations.

From a quality perspective, there are many factors, such as air temperature, machine health and cybersecurity, which, if left unmonitored, could negatively impact the product’s quality. Remote monitoring systems keep tabs on these factors, notifying operators of anomalies. Plus, remote monitoring helps companies maximize the quality of their end product; in particular, oil and gas operators can use this technology to understand complex well sites more thoroughly.

In addition to improving performance and quality, oil and gas companies can leverage remote monitoring to enhance asset and inventory tracking. In fact, a best-in-class industrial remote monitoring solution will use IoT technology to enable oil and gas companies to monitor the location and condition of their critical assets and high-value equipment in real-time, even while in transit.

Managers will gain a more comprehensive view of the health of their equipment, where assets are going missing and if operators incorrectly handle inventory. Likewise, managers will have the data and capabilities to optimize supply chains, improving quality control and reducing loss.

Choosing the Right Solution for the Future

From workers to consumers, industrial remote monitoring benefits all involved parties in the oil and gas sector. Nevertheless, not all remote monitoring solutions are made equal. Every organization has unique needs that will likely change due to the industry’s ongoing evolution, necessitating a flexible and scalable solution. However, most businesses want to strike a balance between having a capable remote monitoring solution that can improve operational efficiency and quality while not having to spend an arm and a leg.

To that end, ROI is perhaps the most pertinent factor when investing in an industrial remote monitoring system. Oil and gas companies should prioritize offerings that enable them to decrease operating costs, scale seamlessly (especially for short-staffed or budget-constrained operators) and prove regulatory compliance to prevent fines.

Author Profile
Mark Wilhelm
Regional Sales Manager - Cellular Solutions – Digi International

Mark Wilhelm is the Regional Sales Manager, Cellular Solutionsat Digi.

3 Ways Technology is Going to Shape the Oil and Gas Industry Free to Download Today

Oil and gas operations are commonly found in remote locations far from company headquarters. Now, it's possible to monitor pump operations, collate and analyze seismic data, and track employees around the world from almost anywhere. Whether employees are in the office or in the field, the internet and related applications enable a greater multidirectional flow of information – and control – than ever before.

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