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Statoil to Use RFID to Manage Drill Pipes at Offshore Rigs

Low-frequency tags and readers provided by Trac ID will help the oil and gas company to determine the lifespan of each pipe lowered into an oil well.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 26, 2012Global oil and gas firm Statoil has begun the deployment of a low-frequency (LF) radio frequency identification solution that will track the use of drill equipment as it is lowered into and removed from offshore drill holes, thereby retaining a record of how much and how frequently the equipment is used, and thus the amount of useful life it retains. That information will allow the company to better manage its inventory, and ensure that equipment is not used longer than it should be, or discarded before reaching the end of its lifespan.

The solution, known as the Drilling Operations Tracking System (DOTS), is provided by Norwegian RFID firm Trac ID Systems, and consists of 125 kHz RFID tags and readers compliant with the ISO 18000-2 standard, as well as software to manage the RFID read data.

Statoil's Marianne Høie
Statoil maintains offshore oil-drilling operations worldwide, including in the North Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, as well as off the coast of Africa.

With the RFID system, the company also intends to improve its usage of drill pipes based on better, more accurate data regarding the length of time that each pipe has already been used, says Marianne Høie, Statoil's senior advisor of drilling technology, and to reduce exposure time for the rig crew on the main deck. Currently, data about the pipes and their usage is recorded manually using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet—a process that is prone to errors. In addition, she says, "the rig crew spends a long time on the main deck taking different measurements of each drill pipe." While carrying out these tasks, workers are exposed to various hazards on the main deck, where heavy equipment is operated near the well opening. "RFID will reduce the amount of time spent on the main deck by the rig crew," Høie states. "They will only need to scan each pipe by the handheld scanners, and they will be able to get all the drill-pipe information they need."

Oil-rig equipment consists of a series of drill-pipe sections joined together in a string and lowered into a drilled well. A pipe's location within the string, along with how long it remains in operation, can dictate its lifespan. Tracking that information by paper, however, is complicated, and can lead to a piece of equipment being retired before it needs to be, or the risk of a weakened drill pipe being used that should have been removed from inventory. For example, in the event that records regarding a particular piece of equipment are incomplete, the owners will discard that item rather than risk using it after it has reached its maximum usage life.

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