Jan 26, 2020Oil and gas is not a small industry to scale. From crude exploration to transportation to refining and distribution, it encompasses a myriad of complex operations and processes that facilitate the transformation of raw crude into useful petroleum products.
The oil and gas sector lies beyond international boundaries and provides a massive contribution to the global economy. Its field of applications can even cross ground-based terrestrials and require the workforce to indulge in offshore oil production practices. Volatile market conditions and continuously fluctuating oil prices also impart a tremendous amount of pressure on oil and gas segments to boost the production rate. Furthermore, it is prone to other challenges associated with oil theft, meeting regulatory compliance and unexpected accidents like gas leaks.
To address and counter these challenges, oil companies are in constant search of new methods and tools. The Internet of Things (IoT) is one such technology that the oil and gas segment can use to optimize processes and elevate operational methodologies. This article will discuss IoT powered level-monitoring solutions and explain the benefits that this application of the IoT can present to the oil and gas industry.
Why Choose an IoT Level-Monitoring Solution?
Indeed, there are already several level-monitoring systems that either run on SCADA or programmable logic controllers (PLCs). However, such wired systems are complex and are only accessible within the vicinity of an enclosed facility. Moreover, they present numerous challenges in terms of difficult integration, topographical limitations and high maintenance costs.
The IoT, on the other hand, offers advanced telemetry functionalities that allow users to monitor different variables from far-off locations. On the following pages, we'll consider some of the benefits that an IoT-based wireless level-monitoring solution can provide to the oil and gas industries.
Improved Operational Efficiency:
Plant efficiency and operational excellence are among the essential factors that affect the production rate and quality of products in any industry. At oil refineries, even a small change in efficiency can make a massive difference in optimum resource utilization, cost reduction or meeting regulatory compliance.
A level-monitoring solution, along with other IoT-based systems, can drastically boost the operational excellence of an oil and gas facility. The integration of specially built sensors and devices can remotely measure several parameters, like the temperature and humidity of equipment, along with fluid levels within tanks.
These parameters can be compiled via analytics systems to develop trends and patterns, based on which companies can plan their scheduled inspection and maintenance tasks. This data can also be analyzed via data-processing systems, as well as artificial-intelligence and machine-learning algorithms, to automate processes and conduct predictive maintenance.
Tank Farm Management:
This is the most common application of IoT-based level monitoring in the oil and gas industry. Oil refineries require numerous tanks of varying sizes to store their refined petroleum products. The volume of liquid that these cylindrical tanks store can range from 5,000 to 16 million gallons. They are the backbone of oil and gas companies, as they help to maintain a buffer stock and prepare for a sudden change in supply-and-demand conditions in the market.
Managing a large farm is not an easy feat to achieve. Various parameters need to be read and continuously watched to make sure that the quality of stored products do not change. Along with the amount of fuel in these tanks, a tank level monitoring system can measure parameters like temperature and humidity.
Real-time alerting enabled by the IoT allows oil companies to gain alerts whenever a particular variable crosses pre-determined threshold limits. This can help them focus on other essential tasks, while leaving tank-inspection tasks to the IoT system.
Fuel theft is not a new challenge for the oil and gas sector. Either through illegal bunkering, pipeline tapping or some other method, oil thieves have always found ways to get away with stealing petroleum. The theft of crude and products from trucks is another illicit method that puts the economic conditions of refineries in turmoil.
In most cases, truck drivers and handlers are directly indulged in these criminal acts, which makes theft detection even more difficult. By embedding level-monitoring sensors in tanker trucks, oil companies can monitor the quantity of fuel being conveyed from distant locations at all times.
Moreover, companies can monitor other aspects associated with secure fuel transportation, such as the route taken by trucks and their real-time locations. This helps oil companies to make sure fuel is securely transported to petroleum dealers.
The oil and gas sector is the engine of the global economy. It facilitates the flow of valuable crude and its products for various industrial and commercial applications. However, the industry is reluctant to face several challenges associated with improper resource utilization, oil theft, and inefficient operation and management.
The IoT is a technology that can be infused in the architecture of the oil and gas industry to counter these challenges. The above-discussed application of IoT-based level monitoring shows the potential of the IoT in this sector if it is implemented extensively at a large scale. Moreover, its flexible nature makes it a perfect fit instead of a wired system, as it can be extended to other scalable applications if required.
The Internet of Things can be blended with other industries associated with different vertical markets as well. It is a major driving force that will add automation, analytics and cognition capabilities in a connected industrial infrastructure, and will help companies to enhance their revenue streams.
Sanjeev Verma is the founder of Biz4Intellia, one of the leading IoT development companies in the United States. He is extremely passionate about the Internet of Things and explores the possibilities unleashed by the IoT on a constant basis. At Biz4Intellia, Sanjeev's concrete focus is on building a rapid growing, market-driven organization that delivers influential IoT business solutions.