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The Internet of things (IOT) and digitization are transforming how companies gather, analyze, and share data and information across the entire enterprise. Often considered a revolution, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is part of a megatrend reshaping industry. The pace of this change is extraordinary. The IIOT is driving a convergence between the physical process and informational technologies. In short, digitization is combining people, equipment, content, and services.¹ The rise of new computing devices, next-generation smart field devices, lower-cost sensors, advanced software, and wireless technologies combined with innovative architectures enable companies to implement better solutions for their operations.
Long considered a “dirty” business, the oil and gas (O&G) industry is closely associated with environmental issues and climate change. However, O&G companies are actively working on their public image and improving their sustainability strategy. This industry is equally focused on health, safety, and environmental issues, such as accident prevention and the reduction of pollution. Better operator training, asset management, and process and safety optimization/monitoring systems are available and have an impact on all of the above while improving daily operating performance.
Sustainable and profitable are not mutually exclusive.
The 2030 U.N. Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has 17 action items aimed to end poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change (Figure 1). Many industries, including O&G, are using IIOT and digitalization to improve their sustainability performance and still remain profitable. Effective deployment of innovative digitalization technologies combined with the enhanced security of the Cloud foster the flow and connectivity of vital process and operational information to decision makers.
Silos vs. Lakes.
For decades, the O&G industry has gathered process data through instrumentation and sensors, which were locked in the “silos” of centralized control systems; thus, real-time business decisions were held hostage due to gaps in information sharing and potential opportunities for efficiency were missed. This means that fiscal opportunities were also missed throughout the entire value chain of the enterprise. For example, the average offshore rig has approximately 30,000 sensors to gather data. Yet, only a small fraction of this collected data is analyzed.1 With the breaking down of silos and cross sharing of data in a consistent manor across the entire supply chain in data lakes, there is greater opportunity to increase efficiency of people and production, resulting in greater profitability while decreasing the impact on the environment.
New developments in digitalization and IIOT plus edge-of-control devices support sharing data/information across business units. Advanced architectures connect field (devices) products, edge-of-control devices, apps, and analytical services so that operating companies can view information as a lake (Figure 2). All of the process, supply chain, and enterprise data can be effectively mined to drive business decisions. This new connectivity via the Cloud is blurring old lines on communication. The combining of people, devices, information (data), and services is creating an intelligent digital mesh.2
Balancing economic, environmental, and social goals.
O&G companies must efficiently and quickly adapt to the constantly changing economic and political environments. Several of the SDGs include improved and safer operations, better energy management, reduced accident and incidents, fewer pollutant releases to the environment, greater equipment availability, and more. The IIOT and digitalization are the latest tools to achieve SDGs.
You cannot improve or change what is not measured and monitored. Process modeling is not new. The O&G industry has used simulation models and tools to design and optimize facilities (Figure 3). However, with the evolution now unfolding, IIOT and digitalization enhances connectivity and capability to collect and apply actual process data to evaluate and simulate abnormal conditions. The Cloud securely stores and manages huge data volumes. Analytic services can convert this data into real-time information for quick solutions. Cloud-based technologies enable thin-client applications without having hardware onsite. Operating companies can reap the benefits from optimization models and are not burdened in maintaining onsite hardware and software.
This new connectivity enables remote expert teams and service providers with access to actual process data and the capability to support multiple locations and assets cost-effectively. Advanced control or optimization experts can remotely monitor platforms, process units, and critical equipment performance to detect failures and avoid unscheduled downtime. Likewise, long-distance analytics can improve energy consumption. Better operations produce major benefits such reduced process upsets and flaring that negatively affect sustainability and environmental performances.
Digitalization, IIOT, smart devices, enterprise asset management software, and wireless technologies can be merged to improve end of control for process equipment. Diagnostic and condition monitoring sensors for critical equipment such as pumps, compressors, motors, valves, and emergency relief systems allow detection and corrections before failures and accidental releases. Preserving normal operations supports worker safety, minimizes unscheduled downtime, reduces the number accidents, and lessens the likelihood of accidental release.
Driving out errors
Sustainable companies demonstrate safe operation with a keen focus on worker and community safety. Protecting the environment while supporting economic development are two points from the UN 2030 Sustainability Agenda. Sustainable companies are challenged to protect air, water, and land resources plus the surrounding communities.
Being sustainable and profitable are not mutually exclusive. Achieving sustainability is possible. It is an opportunity to innovate, integrate, simplify, and standardize systems at many levels. Equally important, sustainability must be supported by profitability. The IIOT and digitalization are creative solutions now reinventing the O&G industry.
Learn more in our white paper, Greener Oil Strategies for Sustainability and Profitability, or see our service brochure.
1 Condon, S., “Digitalization holds key to unlocking oil and gas industry’s potential,” Offshore, October 2017, pp.36-38.
2Cearley, D., “Explore the Gartner Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2018,” October 4, 2017.