Emerging IoT strategies for the Oil & Gas industry

With Industrial 4.0 in full swing in the US, several industries are benefiting from the uplift in technology and automation.  The Oil and Gas industry is positioned to benefit greatly and has plenty of IoT options to choose from when it comes to finding hidden revenue.  This brief will cover 3 areas that are quickly becoming a ‘must have’ when introducing IoT into the oil and gas industry.

The term Internet of things is fairly ubiquitous across several verticals and some industries have found the IoT to be game changing in operations as well as growing revenue through new forms of insights and data driven decisions.  The impact of deploying sensors and using data to make actionable decisions can vary based on the use case.  The impact can be small and more driven towards a user experience,  it can be very large and dramatically change a company’s business model, or even long standing processes in operations, such is the case in Oil and Gas.

  1. Smart Cameras with Artificial Edge Intelligence.  It used to be that CCTV cameras were deployed on work sites to perform the basic function of monitoring through a tv or monitor by simply displaying what is happening in a specific site or location.  There was very little in the way of advancement in automated detection at the time as to ‘what’ the camera was seeing and if what is being recorded is in any way a need for concern.

That task was left up to an individual to visibly infer what the camera is showing and thus take some sort of manual action such as alert security, shut off a valve or pipe, and/or alert others through traditional means of contact.  Today, the oil and gas benefits from the advancements of IoT and new advancements in hardware, network capabilities and, of course, the introduction of artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence, by being the designated ‘decision maker’ in the modern era, replaces a process that was traditionally binary.  With Smart cameras, the ability to perform automated functions and make instantaneous tactical decisions in the field ‘at the edge’, is a huge advantage in terms of speed and safety. We now see how detection of fugitive chemicals, gases, or flames are able to trigger a full automated workflow through IoT and AI that previously was done manually, was often untimely, and traditionally came with low levels of confidence as well as no ability for quantification.

Today’s smart camera and artificial intelligence can immediately identify objects, situations and environments to produce smart decisions or action that replaces the standard, manual processes.  If for example a burning flume, which is used to burn off excess gases, is also turning into black smoke which releases carbon into the atmosphere. The camera coupled with the artificial intelligence can immediately identify the smoke, the size of the smoke, the color of the smoke, which flume is projecting the black smoke, and how long it has been burning in a particular fashion in real time. This will immediately invoke the AI to notify and pass along video or images to field workers who can be remote or onsite to remedy the issue.

AI and machine learning can even perform as workflow, immediately triggering a response to shut off a valve or change the mixture of the fuels to burn back to acceptable levels, all remotely or automatically based on these conditions.   No longer does a site need to wait until a field technician or engineer to show up and provide visible confirmation, this can all be done remotely using sensors, cameras, and artificial intelligence.

It’s that same intelligence that can also work collaboratively with industry SCADA systems and provide machine to machine connections, infuse machine learning into the process, and increase communication capabilities. In case of future incidents, disasters, or emergencies, the process to manage and respond can be done automatically between machines with little or no human intervention required. The creation of this type of solution ensures that immediate attention is provided to the incident, a quantifiable catalog of incidents can be used to ensure that sites are meeting regulatory requirements, and a faster recovery to ‘standard operating procedure’ in the most efficient way possible.

This frees up valuable resources to focus on innovation and less on manual processes.  This technology is a game changer for this industry because it keeps sites proactive in their pursuit of compliance and ensures that energy is being processed in the most optimal means towards a greener environment.  It also mitigates the loss of gases, fuels etc. in the supply chain so that the revenue is kept in the company’s pipelines and not leaked into the atmosphere.

  1. Private LTE, 3G, 4G and 5G networks. Oil and gas companies are beholden to the same network challenges and security concerns as any other company in the world.  However, an additional element of cost to oil and gas companies often creates barriers to the best and most stringent of networks in rural or underserved areas of broadband or cellular services.

This leaves oil and gas companies with higher priced options and minimum order quantities from larger providers to reach sites that are out of reach of traditional broadband infrastructure.   In response to this need, the industry is starting to see a number of low band and high band private networks options that can be deployed where there is no signal or infrastructure.  This is significant because now operators can deploy a private network and use it to house devices, machines, users, and communications without the need for a large provider or deep construction into towers or buried fiber.  In fact, many of these private networks can utilize multiple back haul options like satellite, TVWS (TV white space), CBRS (citizen broadcast radio services) or even microwave, that can expand the private network even further.

These network options are cost effective, secure, rapidly deployable, and scalable to fit the needs of even the smallest of oil and gas sites.  Smaller operators like these options because they are no longer beholden to the cost structures and minimum order quantities that the larger telecom providers demand.  The networks can even be psychically picked up and re-deployed into other sites within the same day. With the addition of IoT software, it can provide remote or touchless provisioning as well as deprovisioning of devices.

Private network technology is a game changer as the threat of cyber-attacks on primary and traditional networks remain a major concern for the oil and gas industry.  These private networks are a perfect solution to segment the communication traffic between systems, cameras, sensors, and remote devices by having the ability to switch to other networks and prevent any threat intrusion.

  1. Digital Twins. This technology is likely the newest in innovation for the oil and gas industry, one that poses the best method of replicating physical sites and actual operating scenarios packaged in a virtual 3D environment. A digital twin is exactly what it sounds like, it is a digital copy of a physical environment.                                                                                                                                                                                                        







Macrovector Image: <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/vectors/digital-twin’>Digital twin vector created by macrovector – www.freepik.com</a>

A digital twin is an actual 3D model of all the equipment and devices at a site location, including the data of all machines replicated down to the last detail in every aspect of the physical environment.  Furthermore, the digital twin has the ability to accept and send out information to be kept in synch with the physical environment.  There are several uses that this provides to the oil and gas industry that both saves time and money, but also puts tools in the hands of the IT/OT staff to create safer conditions and thwart off cyber-attacks.  With a digital twin of an oil and gas facility (indoor or outdoor), an administrator can virtually ‘see’ which sensors are triggered for alerts, what the health and maintenance might be of a particular machine, pumps or actuators statuses, and can remotely manage these devices as well as processes from a 3D model.

Additionally, because a digital twin has the ability to receive every aspect of data that a physical production environment receives, it becomes a perfect testing ground for ‘what if’ situations without the need to build out an new physical environment.  For example, using a digital twin of a machine environment, a security engineer can inject fault tolerance or sample attacks to see how it remedies and recovers, without disrupting the physical environment.  This provides a better scenario than a regular testing environment because real time events and actions can be simulated leading to a more secure and prepared site in the case of a disaster.  This saves time and money as well as can serve as the best defense against a cyber-attack.

In summary, these 3 technologies are prime to disrupt and assist the oil and gas industry by enabling them to stay compliant with new EPA regulations, keep operations automated (so less labor is used to perform tasks that can be done remotely), ensure these fuels are staying in the pipes (thereby saving valuable revenue from escaping) and ensures that the safety of a vital part of the US economy can be mitigated and protected from cyber-attacks.

Clovity helps the oil and gas industry by providing its Artificial Intelligence solutions that include turnkey smart cameras and monitoring solutions, complete with emergency notifications, machine to machine communication and visual imaging.   In addition, Clovity can deploy a proven LTE private network that can interface with all sensors, cameras and machines, providing a secured network anywhere there are gaps in existing infrastructure.  Finally, with Clovity’s digital twin technology, IT/OT teams can use a 3D technology to work remotely in a physical world and create automated scenarios without the need of a physical environment saving time and money.

By Chris Medina, Chief Strategy Officer @ Clovity, June 20th, 2022


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