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Fracking Companies Track Iron via RFID-enabled App

Weir has already been applying RFID to its fracking equipment for servicing, but now it provides an app, along with hardware, to enable its oil and gas company customers to digitally track inventory and manage certificates linked to each asset.
By Claire Swedberg

The system allowed the U.S.-based piloting company to reduce the quantity of iron it purchases by the amount found to be redundant. This has reduced costs by between $500,000 and $700,000.

With the solution, Weir provides not only the app and back-end software, but also tags to retrofit to existing equipment onsite, including parts from other companies. Tags used for retrofitting, as well as those being applied to new Weir irons, are provided byRFID4U.

They are either applied to the flat surface of a piece of equipment via epoxy, or attached to the existing data band containing the etched serial number. A third mounting method involves the use of a zip tie epoxied onto a part. This last option may be the most common, Howell says, since customers have indicated they don't typically want RFID tags attached to the existing data band; if that band were lost or damaged, a company would lose both of its identification means.

Four companies are now retrofitting all of their equipment to use the solution, Howell reports. Those businesses are located in the United States and in other parts of the world. Now, Weir is working on a drive-through gate. In this case, Howell says, users could drive a 50-foot trailer, stacked with irons, to automatically capture the tag ID's of each item. For this deployment, the company expects it will install initially at Weir's own facility, then provide for customers at their own locations to see tagged items coming and going.

That information could help companies not only understand which items are onsite, but also receive an automatic alert in the event that a specific piece required inspection or maintenance. The fixed gate is being trialed at the entry point at one of Weir's sites, and the company expects to develop a gate that could be trialed at a customer site as well. That gate, Howell says, will be designed to be sufficiently mobile that it could be frequently moved to new fracking sites.

In the future, Howell says, the company hopes to provide predicative analysis with its app, which would enable companies to track how long a particular piece of equipment has been used, as well as when it could be forecast to reach the end of its functional lifespan. That information could help it to prevent a costly failure, as well as safety hazards for those working onsite.

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