As the world saw the rise of the internet, people across the planet started searching for ways to make the most of it. With the surfacing of new ideas, technological inventions began, and today, we are part of a system that is super advanced and growing. IoT is one of those technologies that has revolutionized the system and everything in it.
The application of IoT is in various industries, including manufacturing, telecom, logistics, etc. All thanks to the global market size of IoT, it is rapidly being adopted by other industries too, such as oil and gas.
As of today, IoT is used by various oil and gas companies for fluid level monitoring, fluid quality monitoring, geofencing, and whatnot. As crude oil is a crucial resource, it must be extracted and used efficiently. Moreover, its incorrect handling can also lead to disasters.
In this article, we will highlight some key challenges of the oil and gas industry. Further, we will also uncover some remarkable ways via which IoT can enhance the same.
Key Challenges Faced by The Oil & Gas Industry
You see, handling oil and gas is a risky task. Any small error can lead to catastrophic results. Therefore, before we move into the use of IoT in the oil & gas industry, let’s see what the various challenges to the O&G industry are.
Complex fluid composition
Both crude oil and natural gas have complex compositions. The various different elements of oil and gas, such as methane, pentane, hydrogen, carbon, sulfur, and whatnot, have different handling, transmission, and storage requirements. The complex structures of the fluid and gas pose a challenge while maintaining, measuring, and shipping.
High Temperatures and Pressures
The extraction and production of different types of fuels like petrol, diesel, propane, and liquified petroleum gas happen at varying temperatures and pressure conditions. The technology and infrastructure required to do this are specific and expensive, which poses a challenge.
Sulphur Content Monitoring
Crude oil and gas have sulfur content, and if it is exposed to humans over a long period, it can lead to serious health issues. In the oil and gas industry, this is plausible to happen, and it becomes a key challenge for the industry to contain it.
As per the numbers, crude oil with a sulfur content of less than one wt% (weight by percentage) is considered better for producing gasoline and other fuels.
The density of the oil decides its worth. For example, oil grade with API Gravity over ten yields better fuel. Moreover, it is easier to process, transfer, and extract. Therefore, a density monitoring device is indispensable for an oil and gas treatment plant. As crude oil is of various classes, getting different density monitoring devices becomes challenging.
Boiling Point Measurements
Measuring the boiling point of crude oil is necessary as it provides insight into its yield and overall profitability. The lack of proper technology, like sensors to measure boiling points of fuel oils, naphtha, middle distillates, jet fuels, etc., is a huge challenge for the O&G industry.
Leakage of Toxic Substances
There are various toxic chemicals released in the treatment of crude oil, such as sulfur dioxide, benzene, carbon monoxide, and more. To keep your staff and the environment safe from them, relevant detection devices are required to sense the presence of these chemicals.
Safety and Health Regulations Compliance
Crude oil and gas reserves are not everywhere, so oil and gas companies need to keep the regulations and compliance requirements in check. These regulations vary from location to location, and if the location is overseas, the political risk increases. Governments of different states, regions, and countries have different norms that must be followed.
IoT Solutions To Counter The Challenges!
As we are well-versed in the challenges to the oil and gas industry, let’s see what the solutions are for the same.
Industrial IoT plays a critical role in resolving all the challenges faced by the oil and gas industry. How? Read ahead to know!
Fluid Level Monitoring Sensors
There are various types of fluids used in the oil and gas industry, such as crude oil, petroleum, gasoline, water, etc. And they all are stored in containers. To ensure proper and efficient storage, usage, and distribution, fluid level monitoring sensors are necessary.
IoT sensors like point-level sensors, continuous-level sensors, and even ultrasonic sensors can be used for Fluid Level & Condition Monitoring.
IoT sensors like pressure sensors, chemical sensors, smoke sensors, gas sensors, and many more can be installed across the oil and gas treatment plant to measure various parameters.
Data from these sensors and many others can be fetched and analyzed on an interactive dashboard. You can also use sensors for specific chemicals like Electrochemical gas, Carbon monoxide, Hydrogen sulfide, etc.
Time and Cost Savings by Predictive Maintenance
Smart monitoring of sensors provides a continuous data feed that can be analyzed over time for irregularities. If irregularities are found in the sensor data, oil and gas companies can prepare for a maintenance drive to ensure smooth operations without any downtime.
For example, if any sensor in your oil and gas refinery is delivering data intermittently, you can look into it before it completely stops working. Thus, ensuring seamless operations.
Remote Monitoring for Off-shore Refineries
The core of IoT is the transfer of data by wireless devices over the web to the central gateway or edge computing devices. By installing smart IoT sensors across the facility, you can monitor every happening with the data feed.
IoT sensors can serve as an excellent way for owners that have oil and gas refineries overseas. They can easily monitor the machines over an interactive dashboard. Technologies like LPWAN can be used for low-power IoT sensors to transfer information from remote locations.
Temperature Control Using Wireless Sensors
With temperature sensors installed in the refineries, owners can monitor the temperature of the machines from anywhere. Further, if there is an upward or downward shift in the temperature, it can be managed by informing the on-site team of technicians or engineers. Refinery owners or the concerned personnel can even send wireless commands to turn on the alarm.
Automated Data Reporting
Just like various types of sensors, there are several IoT management systems too. These systems feature an interactive dashboard that displays all the critical aspects of the respective sensors. The best part is that you don’t have to request data. Once connected, all the IoT sensors transfer data automatically and continuously.
Ideally, oil and gas refineries are located away from residential areas. Hence, if you have to operate devices manually by going to the location, it is time and cost-intensive. This is where IoT comes in. IoT devices can be remotely controlled and configured. Therefore, if you witness any irregularity in the working of devices, you can configure them as per requirements.
It is a location-based technology that uses a virtual boundary to trigger actions. For example, if a person or vehicle enters or exits a geofenced area, it will raise an alert. The IoT technology is ideal for tracking tankers and trucks carrying crude oil. Further, it can be used to check the restricted areas of the refinery.
Some Use Cases of IoT in the Oil and Gas Industry
On top of all the awesome solutions, including smart monitoring, remote monitoring, and whatnot, here are some use cases of IoT in oil & gas industry.
- LPWAN devices are a cost-effective IoT solution in areas where cellular and other communication networks are not available.
- M2M (machine to machine) communication can be used to capture data like leakage from more sources in less investment.
- IoT acoustic sensors can be used to measure the oil composition within pipelines. The oil composition can be oil, water, gas, etc.
IoT in oil & gas industry is one of the best integration for the future. The availability and capability of IoT are what backs the industry 4.0 revolution. As of now, IoT is limited to a few functions. However, in the future, it will be capable of controlling the entire oil and gas chain if coupled with technologies like AI, Big Data, and Machine Learning.