Market volatility is all too common in the oil and gas industry but what never changes is the drive towards maximising efficiency, productivity and return on investment. The only way to achieve these goals in this demanding sector is to embrace automation and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology wherever possible at every level.
Also with the need to focus on meeting safety requirements as well as a range of other regulations, automation technology can help to optimise resources by improving equipment reliability and uptime while also boosting the effectiveness of the workforce.
Data-based approach vs re-active tactics
Certainly, having the right workforce and the right plan are essential to success in this sector but equally important is having the right equipment – hardware, peripherals and other tools that will support the workforce and help them to implement the plan. In short, major competitive advantage can be achieved by being able to roll out the most advanced technology successfully and with minimum disruption. Indeed, implementing automation technology can lead to improved maintenance systems, increased productivity (by avoiding downtime), real-time production data (enabling data-driven solutions), reduced production costs and optimised/protected assets.
These are not merely claims but can be backed up by research. A Kimberlite study found that operators who used a predictive, data-based approach experienced a drop in unplanned downtime of 36% compared to those who used re-active tactics. The result was an average annual boost to their bottom line of around $34m, meaning that there are sound financial reasons to embrace the very latest automation technology. It was clear that the power of predictive maintenance and remote monitoring can make the implementation of automation technology well worth the investment.
Remote facility management for hazardous location applications
One of the most important features of any technology used in the oil & gas sector is that it must have the correct hazardous location classification – this is Class 1 Division 2 (C1D2). This classification is important because the gases and liquids present in hydrocarbon production and processing can often represent fire or explosion hazards to levels not present in other situations.
Technology used in such applications must involve design, construction and operational elements that keep the chance for combustion or explosion acceptably low, which means that a company supplying technology solutions to this sector must have a broad C1D2 product portfolio (Advantech’s C1D2 product portfolio can be found here.) As far as IIoT (or Industry 4.0) is concerned, Advantech offers a range of embedded automation PCs that are capable of edge computing, bridging the gap between IT and OT.
The correct kind of connectivity technology is also vital in the oil & gas sector. For example, monitoring a pump for predictive maintenance purposes may involve collecting a limited amount of data at a high frequency, such as 10,000 samples a second, so the connecting technology must have bandwidth to handle this requirement, along with the reach to deal with data collection points that may be far removed. The cost of moving and storing data is an important consideration so it may make more sense to used edge computing to carry out initial processing of the data and forward on only the processed information. Other important technology components required are embedded automation computers, panel PCs and HMIs (human machine interfaces).
Advantech’s HMI series includes high-performance touch panel PCs, low-power industrial thin clients, web terminals for smart factory applications and a variety of industrial monitors. Advantech’s industrial panel PC product portfolio includes customisable and all-in-one touchscreen PC series with multiple industrial touch panel sizes and rich I/O expansion to meet industrial standards. The company’s rugged FPM monitors are built to withstand operation in industrial environments, extreme temperatures and exposure to corrosive substances
It is also vital in the oil & gas sector to be able to get data as efficiently as possible out of field instruments and into networks or computers for subsequent processing. Achieving this requires the latest data acquisition modules and industrial communication components, including Ethernet switches, serial device servers, media converters and protocol gateways. For example, Advantech’s remote I/O modules – repeaters and converters as well as RS-485-based and Ethernet-based remote data acquisition modules – deliver the types of industrial automation, control and measurement solutions that are ideal for harsh environments and demanding applications.
Finally, there is unrelenting pressure in the oil & gas industry to increase data acquisition efficiency, reduce waste, reduce energy consumption and maximise equipment uptimes. To this end, Advantech has developed Wzzard which makes it easy to capture sensor data from existing equipment and operations, enabling improvements to be made that lower costs and increase productivity.
One thing guaranteed in the oil & gas sector is that nothing stays the same for long and to smooth out such a bumpy ride it is essential to adopt the correct approach to automation.