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RFID Saves Oil Companies Time and Money

Marine transportation and logistics firm Edison Chouest Offshore is using RFID hardware from Mojix and Omni-ID to streamline the delivery of equipment and supplies to oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 26, 2010Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), a marine transportation and logistics company, has begun employing RFID technology provided by Mojix to tracks tools, equipment, food and other consumable supplies as they are transported to, and returned from, offshore oil rigs.

The system is intended to provide a more efficient, reliable delivery of goods to oil drillers in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as reduce costs by making the location and status of rented equipment—such as pipes, valves or generators—available in real time. In that way, for example, if a piece of equipment returns from an offshore rig, Edison Chouest Offshore knows about it right away and can return the items before incurring excess charges. Dane Vizier, the general manager of the firm's C-Logistics division, outlined the system to an audience at RFID Journal LIVE! 2010, which was held in Orlando, Fla., on Apr. 14-16.

C-Logistics' 24-acre yard in Port Fourchon includes nine slips at which trucks drop off equipment and goods, and where supply vessels are loaded up with cargo.

Chouest's C-Logistics branch orders or rents equipment and supplies, including consumables, tools and heavy machinery, on behalf of its oil-drilling customers. The company then transports those items to oil platforms as they are needed, from its facility in Port Fourchon, La.

To track the location and movement of the supplies—which can be anything from a box of soap to an anchor or thousands of feet of piping—ECO's C-Logistics division has used pen and paper to manually record information, as well as scanned bar codes and taken photographs of equipment and supplies as they are received from trucks, staged for shipping, and then loaded onto vessels. It has also used this process to record any equipment returned by customers. Data related to the process, which was largely manual before the RFID system was installed, is stored on the company's proprietary software system, known as Triton.

At Port Fourchon, ECO operates a 24-acre yard, where it receives and stores supplies and equipment for offshore platforms. The firm utilizes a 500-ton overhead derrick to load those goods onto its vessels. The site includes nine slips at which trucks drop off ordered equipment and goods, and where supply vessels are loaded up with cargo. Approximately 130 semi-trailer trucks deliver equipment and supplies daily, supplemented by deliveries by barge. Once vessels back into the company's slips, they load up on water, fuel and mud (composed of water, clay and a mix of chemicals, and used to lubricate and cool drilling bits and flush out rock particles), along with various other supplies and equipment.

Edison Chouest was interested in a solution that would make this process more visible, require less labor, and ensure that the goods were sent quickly and accurately.
"What we wanted to do," Vizier told attendees, "was make our stuff more visible as far as staging areas, checking things as they come off trucks, knowing where that piece of equipment is."

In 2008, the marine company invited Mojix and four other RFID companies to present their technology. ECO then conducted testing in the slips using metal-mounted passive tags attached to equipment, or adhered to cartons of supplies. Locating a passive tag that could be read was a challenge in the highly metallic environment, and across large spaces. The slips are large—as much as 135 feet wide and 30 feet tall—so the tags needed to be read across that distance. In the first quarter of 2010, Edison Chouest chose to deploy EPC Gen 2 RFID tags from Omni-ID, which exhibited the best read range of the tags tested, Vizier said. The company installed Mojix eNodes and antennas at both sides of each slip, as well as a single, central STAR reader per slip.

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