IoT-Based Monitoring Networks’ Role in Oil and Gas Industries
Sensors on rail cars and tank trucks can be tracked via LTE broadband networks, with the data folded into the data collected from similar sensors mounted on pipelines. Being able to scrutinize via real-time information the location and status of oil and gas whether it’s traveling through a pipeline or barreling down a highway or rails is a powerful combination of that provides an effective level of oversight.
John Hetherington, principal of John Hetherington Consulting, and oil and gas industry advisory service, notes that predictive maintenance also plays a big part in oil and gas transportation, to ensure that all forms of conveyance are in appropriate working order. “The industry is moving to exception-based monitoring, getting alerts with information about the alert that helps personnel respond,” he said.
In a published presentation, Sanjeev Verma, chief executive officer of BizIntellia, an IoT platform and sensor provider, notes: “Tracking the live location of a vehicle was always a key challenge in the oil and gas industry.” But it’s a challenge that has been met. “Sensors read the pertinent data, like flow rate, temperature, pressure, and then gateways at the site connect these sensors to wireless networks.”
The results of these technical developments have been profound, providing unprecedented supervision and management of oil and gas transport. “Actual monitoring of pipeline oil movement has been around for a while, but the data analysis is getting much more sophisticated,” Hetherington notes.
“With the present technology of IoT in oil and gas, tracking the real-time location and health of the vehicle has become an easy game,” wrote Verma.
For some companies the level of instrumentation of their truck fleets go beyond location and status detection. “Some even have driverless trucks on their own sites,” noted Hetherington, adding that companies can track off-site deliveries in detail too. “Time to market is everything.”
While keeping tabs on the commodities in transit is the biggest and most dynamic part of the monitoring effort, an alert eye must be focused on storage facilities, too, as they play a key part in the overall transportation picture. These storage facilities may be way stations for the products to be transferred to different distribution networks or delivery vehicles, but they are typically integral parts of the transportation grid.
Early Detection of Leaks and Spills
Beyond the obvious benefits of the ability to constantly monitor their commodities’ transportation facilities, oil and gas producers and distributors also benefit from early detection of leaks and spills, which not only saves money but also helps avoid ecological disasters.
Allison and Mandler’s paper points out that there are hundreds of leak and spill incidents every year, resulting in the loss of tens of thousands of gallons of crude and refined oil products. These losses occur across all forms of conveyance — trucks, trains and pipes. Clearly, more work needs to be done to ensure that more pipelines are protected, although some spill and leaks may be unavoidable.