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Benefits Fuel RFID Deployments

Oil and gas companies are adopting radio frequency identification technology to better manage assets and inventory, improve drilling and maintenance operations, and protect workers in dangerous environments. But industry experts say they're missing out on a powerful application.
By Jennifer Zaino
Apr 15, 2013

Fracking—short for hydraulic fracturing, which uses water pressure to create fractures in rock through which to extract natural gas and oil—has become a hot-button issue, as technology advances make recovering previously unreachable natural gas reserves economically feasible. Proponents argue for its role in boosting energy independence while opponents cite water contamination and other environmental concerns.

That's a debate for other venues. But what can't be disputed is the value RFID can bring to fracking operations. In 2011, for example, GreenHunter Water, a Grapevine, Texas, provider of water-management solutions and services to oil and gas companies, began installing its RFID-based wellhead-management system at six oil-drill sites in West Virginia. The solution lets the company track wastewater pumped out of temporary storage tanks and provide data showing it was deposited in authorized waste wells.

For the past year or so, Cameron, a provider of flow equipment products, systems and services to worldwide oil, gas and process industries, has been RFID-tagging valves and rental equipment for U.S. and Canadian hydraulic fracturing companies, to improve asset tracking and inventory management. Cameron links the unique serial number on each passive ultrahigh-frequency EPC Gen 2 tag to information about the part stored in its database. More than 10,000 pieces of equipment have been tagged, says Daniel Baxter, a senior technology and development research engineer at the firm.

Cameron moved fast to RFID-enable its 22 facilities that rent fracking equipment, because parts are not always returned to the location from which they were shipped. It was important to have all facilities go live as soon as possible, Baxter says, so everyone contributes to and can benefit from more accurate data. The RFID solution provides visibility into what equipment has been shipped to and returned from customers, and identifies items that are being repaired.

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