Omni-ID Debuts Tags for Oil and Gas Companies

By Claire Swedberg

The tag maker has partnered with C-Logistics to market disposable RFID tags for offshore oil customers, as well as with Holland 1916 to manufacture and distribute metal-mount tags for tracking lifting gear and cranes.


Omni-ID, a company that specializes in passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags for harsh environments, has formed two new partnerships in the oil and gas sector, as part of a strategy to focus on four key industries (the other three being IT, logistics and work-in-progress). The firm is partnering with C-Logistics, a division of Edison Chouest Offshore (the largest private ship builder in the United States), to provide for the tracking of assets sent to and from offshore oilrigs by the offshore service vessel company. So far, C-Logistics is providing two new Omni-ID passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags—known as the Solo and the Pipe—for three of its customers, in order to track pipes and other items that are transported offshore.

In addition, Omni-ID has partnered with Holland 1916, a Kansas City manufacturer of durable RFID tags, to provide UHF RFID-enabled versions of Holland 1916’s metal labels for lifting equipment, used in the oil and gas industry.

Omni-ID’s 360° tag, developed in partnership with Holland 1916

Omni-ID’s tags are designed specifically to operate in the presence of metal and liquids, according to George Reynolds, the firm’s VP of global sales and marketing. The oil and gas sector, he says—like the three other industries that Omni-ID is targeting—requires RFID technology that functions well in highly metallic or liquid environments.

C-Logistics has “a very complex mix of assets,” Reynolds says, which can include pipes, tools and equipment. The Solo and Pipe tags were designed with a long read range, so that a C-Logistics employee could drive a vehicle equipped with an RFID interrogator through its laydown yards, reading tags attached to equipment stored there—to locate pipes ordered by a customer for shipment offshore, for example—prior to those items being shipped, or for inventory checks.

C-Logistics has already been using Omni-ID’s tags, as well as readers from Mojix, for Edison Chouest’s offshore customers since early 2010 (see RFID Saves Oil Companies Time and Money). Like its previous tags, Omni-ID’s new models are impact-resistant and offer a long read range; however, they are less expensive and thus more suitable for their intended purpose. The tags are meant to be used only once, or for a limited time, such as for equipment that is not moved often, or a rental piece that will not remain in the asset provider’s custody indefinitely.

Logistics companies in the oil industry need the ability to read tags on sections of piping that may be stacked in groups of 50 or more. Workers can drive past these stacks with a vehicle equipped with an RFID interrogator. In such an environment, the Solo and Pipe tags have a read range of approximately 15 meters (49 feet).

The Solo tag, designed for just a single use, is built for non-permanent or disposable assets that are part of the open-loop supply chain for offshore rigs and land-drilling fields. Omni-ID and C-Logistic co-designed the tag for use on equipment that is infrequently used or rented, and that would be tracked on a single trip through the supply chain. The Pipe tag can fit onto a wide range of pipe diameters, and is designed for multiple reuses.

C-Logistics is the exclusive distributor for both tags. In high volumes, the tags will cost well under $2 apiece, says James Arnold, Omni-ID’s CEO, and will come with six-month service warrantees.

Omni-ID’s Solo tag

C-Logistics’ customers include the U.S. operations of Petróleo Brasileiro (Petrobras), global energy firm Royal Dutch Shell, and Tuboscope, the oil-field tubular goods division of National Oilwell Varco (NOV), of Houston. All three companies are currently piloting the tags.

In partnership with Holland 1916, Omni-ID has developed two new metal-mount passive tags—the 360° and the Forte—as an alternative to Holland 1916’s high-frequency (HF) tags already on the market. The 360° tag is encased in an industrial steel frame with a tether attachment that can be affixed to lifting equipment, including slings, shackles and cranes. This tag is designed to meet the needs of oil and gas users, as well as other heavy industrial applications in which there is a high presence of metal. The tag offers a 360-degree read orientation, enabling it to be interrogated from any angle relative to the tag. The new Forte tag has a weldable steel frame, and is designed specifically for the tracking of heavy industrial assets subject to movement, impact and harsh environmental conditions. Both tags provide a read range of up to 9 meters (29.5 feet).

Although Holland 1916 also offers HF tags, such tags can not always be read reliably in some environments, Arnold says, “so we found a way to make UHF work inside metal casing, using resin on the inside, metal on the outside.” Both the 360° and Forte tags are also available with two RFID chips embedded within a single tag—an Alien Technology Higgs 3 chip (complying the EPC Gen 2 UHF standard) and an NXP Semiconductors I-Code HF 13.56 MHz chip (complying with the ISO 15693 standard)—thereby enabling dual-band operation. Both Omni-ID and Holland 1916 will sell the impact-resistant tags, accommodating a wide range of pipe diameters.

The two tags, sold in low volumes, cost approximately $10 apiece. Holland 1916 is piloting the use of the 360° tag with natural gas venture company Dolphin Energy Equipment, of the United Arab Emirates.

Omni-ID announced the two partnerships at last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 conference, held in Orlando, Fla.