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COVID-19: Charting an effective course for the Oil & Gas Industry
Samrat Bera Associate Vice President, E&U and O&G, IoT WoRKS™ | April 21, 2020
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We stand at crossroads today as we see the havoc that the global coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) is causing around the world. The coronavirus situation is challenging the oil and gas industry to reimagine their business differently at a time when there are other geopolitical headwinds in place.

Oil&Gas industry to relook their working strategies during pandemic and chart out long term plan for the times ahead

Today, we all must challenge ourselves and ask some tough questions such as:

Is it impossible to get the work done remotely and without human intervention?

Could we perhaps not deploy more robots and push more automation in the oil and gas industry?

Many of us have drones fitted with laser cameras doing the work of taking photographs and video, but can we perhaps do more by putting the powers of aerial photography, photogrammetry, and 3D asset visualization to their best?

Could some of these initiatives help restart normal operations and get the industry back on the growth track?

We cannot be entirely sure that IoT would solve all the oil and gas industry challenges being faced by the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, adopting IoT in the oil and gas industry and some other smart technologies would undoubtedly alleviate a lot of pain.

Let us explore a couple of examples that are challenging the O&G industry today.

Remote Workforce 

Remote Workforce

Leveraging AR/ VR at work– remotely

It’s time to leverage AR/VR technologies in the industry, coupled with drones and smart sensors, to see how the engineering assets can be affected, study them for failure, and then come up with a remediation plan by leveraging SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems. We will possibly need to relook our approach more closely to enable remote operations.

Another area that could potentially benefit is that of pipeline operations and maintenance. We know that it’s challenging to monitor thousands of miles of pipelines in hazardous areas and harsh climatic conditions. Still, the only way to do that is to have a small team go out and manually inspect the pipelines for corrosion and faults, which is error-prone, time-consuming, and costly. Alternatives such as AI/ML-based solutions and tools can certainly help here, but of course, the models and the data must be rich for that.

Aerial Surveillance

Remote Workforce

Aerial surveillance on a rig

Another area of immediate impact is to be able to spot a flare or smoke or rust in a refinery or an upstream asset using drones/UAVs with cameras and proactively act on the information remotely.

The industry needs to think about how we can use smart devices and technology to enable remote condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance of assets and position the industry robustly for the future. Crisis times such as these prove the importance of having IoT-based initiatives so that every asset and asset class is accounted for, and one can zoom into any part of it using a simple device as a phone and be able to conduct the business.

Remote Inspection and Maintenance

In normal times, an inspection engineer would go for inspection rounds, find a fault, create a work order, send the ticket to the spares and materials management team. The management team would then provide or order the inventory which would be taken up by the maintenance engineer to take part, go to the site, and finally complete the work order.

Today, when COVID-19 has made it difficult to travel from home to the workplace, a lot of these processes need to be done remotely through automation and IoT tools. These tools can reduce the turnaround time as well as the non-productive time, thus saving operational costs and bringing efficiencies in the entire process and supply chain. While some companies are ahead in this journey, there are still more opportunities for improvement and getting a quicker turnaround.

Remote Workforce

Making it easier for the inspection and maintenance technician onsite

Speaking of turnarounds, this is another example where several IoT programs could help. At the same time, a part of the plant is shut down for commissioning/ decommissioning/ maintenance of an area or asset. There are several IoT solutions available today, which can help the business improve operational efficiency, increase reliability, transparency, safety, and workforce productivity, all while reducing OPEX.

Supply Chain Digitization

Digitization of the entire supply chain to track and trace assets ensures that every part or equipment is accounted for and is traceable and available at the site when needed. The need of the hour is to enable the workforce with remote surveillance, condition-based monitoring, predictive maintenance, and other vital services for transformers, turbines, heat exchangers, catalytic converters, and distillation columns to work optimally. Whether it’s a chemical plant or refinery, an exploration site, or a well pad, a warehouse, or a shipyard, a retail outlet, or a storage terminal, the industry would benefit immensely from IoT-based solutions and services.

Remote Workforce

Condition-based monitoring and predictive maintenance in a refinery

IoTWoRKSTM by HCL technologies is helping enterprises tide through these difficult times by helping them think creatively so that they can continue doing their jobs in the most effective and efficient way possible. One such approach is to have a virtual design thinking session to discuss the specific problem at hand to co-create a unique solution that fits your organization’s needs.

Remote Workforce

IoT Command Center for remote surveillance and operations

Some of the areas where oil and gas customers can benefit from IoT WoRKSTM are from a catalog of services ranging from Smart Manufacturing, Smart Production, Smart Surveillance, Smart Fields, and Smart Operations. to name a few. All of these are enabled with mobile technology. As an example, the use cases these solutions could address would be in the areas of: 

  1. Remote Asset Management and Tracking– For streamlined supply chain operations
  2. Track and Trace– Assets and personnel for safety and transparency
  3. Smart Operations– Equipment efficiency and predictive capabilities
  4. Digital Worker– Connected worker and remote surveillance using wearables and with AR/VR technology
  5. Cybersecurity- Protection against cyber threats as more assets and devices go online

Remote Workforce

Seamless operations enabled by smart devices and smart technology

In times of crisis, the organizations that make the right decisions will not only be able to manage the immediate workforce and business continuity challenges but also be enabled for growth in the future. The opportunities are endless, and the future is beckoning us!

Should you be interested to have a chat with us, please drop us a note with your contact details to iotworks@hcl.com.