Oil & Gas producing and refining companies are always trying to minimize production costs and become sustainable. These costs are associated with equipment downtime, long decision-making, maintaining high industrial safety, and employees’ health level. Due to the lack of complete and correct information about the state of production assets and human resources involved in business processes, management decisions are often made incorrectly or with serious delay.

The task of reducing costs in many industries, including Oil & Gas industry, is successfully solved with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT).

With IoT devices, it is possible to control production level, equipment performance, and personnel at enterprises and fields.

Implementation of IoT solutions reduces the cost of equipment operations and the risk of accidents. For example, before the appearance of compact smart sensors, maintenance and repair specialists rarely predicted the failure of equipment. They understood that there was a failure only when they saw the actual problem, which led to the significant time spent on the procurement (waiting for the delivery of spare parts), disruption of numerous business processes, as well as a significant reduction in production efficiency. Today using IoT capabilities oil & gas companies can predict and prevent failures, and this is just one of the benefits of IoT for oil & gas.

Thousands of parameters obtained in real-time allow personnel to fully control technological processes, predict equipment failure, minimize downtime. In this article, we will try to understand how IoT technologies improve the efficiency of Oil & Gas production. We will talk about the most popular IoT use scenarios in Oil & Gas, the benefits of IoT solutions for Oil & Gas, sensor-based tanks and pipes monitoring, IoT-powered Digital Twins, and utilization of sensors, RFID, GPS, QR codes, below.

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    IoT for Hydraulic Fracturing

    Hydraulic fracturing is an expensive and risky operation. Oilmen are constantly looking for methods that will simplify the task and increase the efficiency of this type of intervention. Today it is effective to install a network of sensors around the well that measure the surface inclination.

    By comparing the information from the sensors before, during, and after the fracturing activity, it is possible to understand the direction in which the fracture has formed. The advantage of the method is that there is no need to deliver any physical objects to the well and to stop the work for the time of measurements.

    Implementation of IoT in Hydraulic Fracturing

    To monitor the slope, an array of sensors is placed on the surface around the well, data from them are transferred to a single information system that determines the direction of the formed fracture by analyzing changing indicators of sensors during hydraulic fracturing. The obtained results can also be used for planning future activities.

    IoT for Equipment State Analysis and Predictive Repairs

    In the Oil & Gas industry, incorrect forecasting and planning of repairs are costly. For example, many fields use turbines, each bearing costs more than a million dollars and can be supplied for several months. Stopping a turbine because one part is worn out may result in the entire field being de-energized. 

    Accordingly, there are two ways to reduce the downtime of wells. The first, appropriate spare parts are stored in the warehouse, “freezing” several million dollars for an indefinite period. Second, the turbine should be equipped with IoT sensors that allow real-time monitoring of the turbine vibrations. This helps to track bearing wear at an early stage and order replacement parts on time.

    Thus, the implementation of IoT in equipment state analysis and predictive repairs has obvious benefits.

    Asset Tracking Oil & Gas

    During construction or repair of a drilling rig, in warehouses and production facilities, spare parts and other movable property are often lost. Simple GPS sensors to track the location of expensive equipment and spare parts – an inexpensive way to control their movement, storage, and use.

    Implementation of IoT in the accounting of equipment movement

    IoT-solution based on such sensors allows personnel to quickly collect data about valuable equipment in a single system. Thus, the company minimizes the probability of loss, reduces logistics costs, and minimizes the probability of theft.

    There is a possibility to use RFID, QR codes, or GPS trackers interchangeably to provide the most effective asset tracking for oil & gas. IoT-powered asset tracking is gaining popularity in many business sectors, but in oil & gas industry it will be the most cost-effective.

    Energy- Efficient Production

    The process of Oil & Gas production becomes more and more energy-intensive, so monitoring of inefficient energy consumption provides many opportunities to reduce the cost of Oil & Gas production.

     Today, with the help of IoT sensors, it is possible to monitor what parameters affect energy consumption, how much consumption deviates from the plan, what is the “flow rate” trend compared to previous periods, etc.

    The main principle of the IoT analytical system operation is constant qualitative monitoring and analysis of how the equipment consumes electricity. The system analyzes hundreds of parameters in real-time mode, comparing them with the optimal ones. If some equipment consumes too much electricity, its operation mode is corrected. The IoT system also allows personnel to regulate the consumption per hour and control the specific consumption in the main technological processes.

    IoT for PPE & Employee Health Monitoring

    The work of Oil & Gas employees is associated with serious health risks. The system of medical examinations and inspections before the shift is designed to minimize the negative consequences but does not allow to track the state of employees during work.

    Remote monitoring of human health indicators (temperature, pulse, pressure) using portable IoT devices is the best way to solve this problem. IoT will help to understand that workers are in good conditions, there is no overheat and

    Wearable ECG monitoring devices, tonometers with data transfer options, smart bracelets, and sensors on clothing allow personnel to collect data on basic parameters of human health and its location. Besides, gas sensors on clothing and production floors provide monitoring of environmental parameters which are important for preventing intoxication. 

    For example, if the gas or other parameters deviate from the norm the system alerts the manager with a signal on a smartwatch, PC, tablet, or smartphone. Alarm signals can also be transmitted to equipment that includes a siren or alarm lights.

    Smart PPE solutions have been on the market for several years already and now they are gaining popularity. Using sensors it is possible to track if the employee is wearing PPE or if he/she is close to some dangerous object.

    RFID, GPS, QR codes for Asset Tracking in Oil & Gas

    Sensors, RFID, GPS, QR codes in the Oil & Gas industry are needed for measuring process parameters such as fluid production volume, fluid flow rate, temperature, component composition, pressure in oil and oil products transportation systems, engine speed, power consumption, and many others. The devices control environmental parameters, pollution, and movement of objects.

    IoT solutions allow personnel to significantly improve industrial safety at hazardous facilities. Built-in sensors in the helmet or work clothes collect data about the location of the employee, availability of personal protective equipment, and admissions to the facility. IoT sensors can signal an employee’s entry into a hazardous area, high blood pressure or heartbeat, or immobility over an extended period of time. Smart devices automatically report all non-typical states of equipment and personnel to the control console.

    A network of IoT-sensors collects and analyzes all technological indicators of production processes, which allows personnel to manage a load of equipment in real-time. Knowing the current state of the equipment, it is possible to conduct its predictive maintenance, which reduces the costs associated with an unexpected shutdown of the processes. 

    Information in maintenance and repair systems of Oil & gas companies is often entered manually with significant delays and errors. Connecting maintenance and repair systems to the IoT network will provide complete and up-to-date information on the status of equipment. In turn, this increases the ability to plan and manage repairs, as well as increases the economic effect by reducing downtime and the number of unscheduled repairs.

    Oil & Gas production and refining are very energy-intensive processes, so precise control of electricity, heat, steam, and water consumption can reduce the total cost of processes. IoT monitors in real-time the technological parameters that influence consumption, compares them with the optimal ones, compares the data for the current period with the previous ones, and thus allows personnel to optimize consumption and reduce non-productive losses.

    Integration of IoT with electricity metering systems and systems for calculating energy balances significantly improve the accuracy of consumption forecasting, as well as identify energy-inefficient production processes.

    IoT Tanks & Pipes Monitoring

    The oil storage tanks monitoring system allows monitoring the process of tank filling with oil. All necessary information and diagnostic data are collected and sent to the central control point. The accurate monitoring system allows not only to determine the level of oil in the tanks but also to monitor the temperature and make various preliminary calculations.

    The oil storage tanks monitoring system performs two main functions: local tank management and remote state monitoring.

    Most oil, fuel, or chemical storage tanks are located in hazardous areas and require continuous monitoring of pressure, fluid level, control valve position, and temperature. To maintain the safety of the personnel, a special system is used, which collects and transmits data in real-time. 

    Oil & Gas pipelines are made of steel or plastic pipes with an internal diameter of about 4-48″. Most oil pipelines are located in the ground at a depth of 1-2 m. Crude oil contains some wax, which gradually settles on the inner side of the pipes. Therefore, it is necessary to periodically check the state of the pipelines with the help of special sensors to detect chips, cracks, dents, consequences of corrosion, and other mechanical damages.

    The pipeline monitoring system allows monitoring such parameters as temperature, pressure, flow rate, and vibration in an oil pipeline that extends over hundreds of miles. All information is transmitted to a central control point in real-time mode.

    Digital Twins IoT

    The technology of virtualization of objects, creation of digital replicas of assets, buildings, and processes has significantly improved in recent years. The Oil & Gas industry has been using digital twins for more than 25 years for the exploration, development, and operation of fields – geological and hydrodynamic models of deposits, wells, pipelines, and other objects. The main task is to constantly update the data in these models. That is why IoT digital twins are gaining popularity.

    Smart devices and IoT networks in integration with modeling systems help to bring virtual models as close as possible to real physical states, filling them with actual data directly measured at the object without human involvement. This allows personnel to constantly monitor changes in the state of the objects.

    Digital twins make it possible to understand how emergency systems should work in case of fire, pipe bursting, and other emergencies at fields and refineries. Real data on the storage capacity, operation of emergency equipment, and location of personnel, obtained with the help of IoT technology, will make it easy to calculate the territory of possible spills of oil and commercial products, depending on the terrain, weather conditions, etc. Such information helps to quickly develop plans for the evacuation of employees and liquidation of consequences.

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      Benefits of IoT solutions for Oil & Gas

      The main purpose of IoT is to solve the difficult task of rapid mass technological data collection from a large number of production facilities of the Oil & Gas company. Smart devices organize the prompt and safe transfer, long-term storage, and correct visualization of technical data for all services and departments.

      Smart sensors collect, exchange, analyze data, and in case of emergency transmit warning signals to the control center. Configurable algorithms analyze technical data and determine the relationships between them. This allows to control the operation of the equipment and machinery, to forecast its technological state and to organize safe operation, as well as remotely monitor the personnel’s well-being and promptly respond to its critical changes.

      An important advantage of IoT is the elimination of human factors in quick decision-making at the typical functioning of technological processes. If technological processes significantly deviate from the specified values, IoT transmits information to the specialists responsible for process management and offers solutions.

      Benefits of IoT solutions for Oil & Gas:

      • Data exchange management: personnel gets full visual access to Oil & Gas production, transportation, and processing data.
      • Detailed reporting: personnel uses real-time data to meet safety, environmental and regulatory requirements.
      • Forecast analytics: personnel receives notifications before maintenance and operational changes.
      • Virtual reality: IoT expand emergency awareness, speed up training, and provide detailed work instructions and remote recommendations.
      • Source of reliable data: personnel get a clear picture of equipment in operation, no matter how it is used, centrally or locally.
      • Employee communication: it is possible to use location-sensitive monitoring to ensure employee effectiveness and safety.

      Conclusion

      Almost every Oil & Gas company has the potential to use the Internet of things for its benefit. It is relatively easy to gather data on how the equipment works, how much energy it spends, where this or that asset is located. It is also possible to get the fullest information about oil& gas employees who are subject to various risks. Using smart PPE and physiological parameters monitoring with wearables oil& gas companies can make sure that everything is fine with all the workers.

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