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Kyle DeWitt

How IoT is Modernizing the Oil and Gas Industry

The North Sea and Gulf of Mexico (United States) are home to the largest number of offshore oil rigs, totaling 184 and 175 rigs, respectively. Here, fossil fuels – dating back hundreds of millions of years – are extracted from the earth to contribute to the estimated 3.9 billion gallons of crude oil the world uses each day. Historically, these sites have been among the most remote and dangerous locations on the planet. The industry as a whole has also been slower to embrace emerging technologies. However, the growing demand for efficiency and safer production, as well as a shrinking workforce, have forced the inception of a digital transformation. Advancements in technology and communication have made oil sites safer and, in a sense, less isolated. State-of-the-art sensors and IoT solutions have helped to drastically reduce the deaths and injuries, while also lessening the likelihood of environmental disasters.

Some of the newest IoT sensor solutions available today offer automatic situational awareness for dangerous operating environments, such as oil and gas rigs, and even some of the world’s longest pipelines. Equipped with smart sensors, endpoints and radios, these devices can monitor for changes in temperature, light, air pressure and humidity, as well as detect unsafe levels of gases such as carbon monoxide or oxygen. These alerts can notify workers in real-time of unsafe conditions, allowing them the opportunity to make adjustments or evacuate to safety. These same IoT solutions can help prevent pipeline leakage by constantly monitoring the system and alerting personnel of irregularities or interruptions, saving both environmental and reputational damage.

Just as a hospital would have a backup generator to support its critical operations and services, oil rigs, pipelines, and major industrial worksites and warehouses require reliable internet connectivity to maintain safety standards. Without a reliable network, connected solutions are unable to work seamlessly together. LTE failovers can provide ongoing backups through the 4G/LTE mobile broadband network, ensuring that the rig’s IoT-connected solutions continue to operate even if the rig loses access to its primary source of internet. LTE failovers can also ensure that workers situated on the rigs maintain lines of communication with employees and/or safety personnel off-site.

The rising prominence of IoT on oil and gas rigs has also allowed for greater analytical capabilities, leading to increased operational efficiency and production. For example, these solutions may immediately flag that a piece of equipment is operating at a reduced capacity due to a mechanical malfunction. Historically, this would cost a company a significant amount of time and money until the issue was detected by a worker or engineer. However, by leveraging IoT solutions that can pinpoint the problematic equipment in real-time, workers are able to address any concerns faster than ever before.

In an industry with so much at stake, companies owe it to their workers, the public and the environment to ensure they’ve implemented the necessary technology to combat the many risks they face on a regular basis. Keeping in mind that oil spills have proven devastating for those affected, a relatively small investment today may save countless lives and billions of dollars tomorrow. Be sure to speak to your ScanSource representative about how your business can start providing solutions within this vertical.