The pipeline industry is evolving. The latest gadgets and technology are not lost on the oil and gas fields. In fact, the tech boom is very much a part of a pipeline crew’s everyday work life. According to a survey by Oil & Gas IQ, well over $8 billion was spent on the oil and gas industry on new tech, including mobile apps in the last few years.
Here are some ways technology improves the oil and gas sector:
Protecting the public and the environment requires early recognition of a pipeline leak. Advances allow an expert system to look at incoming data and system outputs, consider the encoded expertise of the application developer and the best pipeline controller, and then offer the controller immediate guidance. Although the expert system can be programmed to act automatically, the authors believe it will more likely remain a sophisticated tool to assist the pipeline controller.
Technologies for inline inspection, or “smart pigging,” have come to be used by most of the world’s pipeline operators to ensure security and extend the design life of more than 2 million miles of high-pressure pipelines. New techniques have been developed to keep pipelines in prime condition, well beyond their originally planned life cycles.
Mobile technology is already being employed to help meet increased regulatory and monitoring requirements and create data archives, which then builds and stores long-term histories of compliance and environmental protection efforts. Field data capture by digital mobile devices is being used to help workers in the field log progress of a pipeline inspection, which can then be viewed in real time by project managers. New workflows are developing around mobile apps, and with this comes cost savings as distance, time, and effort duplication are reduced or eliminated.
Risk-management programs are designed to help decision-makers identify and prioritize effective risk-reduction measures. There are several new software tools integrate data from many sources to provide the framework for a risk model. Furnished with adequate data and continually updated, the computer software generates an analytical overview to help pinpoint sources of risk that may go unrecognized if management is based solely on regulatory compliance.
Most pipeline companies now make routine use of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems for remote operation and monitoring of their pipelines. This data used to be archived only to meet regulatory requirements for pipeline operational history in case of an incident, but SCADA data contains a wealth of information used for analyzing all aspects of the pipeline operation. By combining historical information with powerful data-analysis software tools, engineers examine the operation of the pipeline in terms of power consumption, equipment performance, maintenance scheduling, pressure cycling, and product quality.
EFM Flow computers have been linked to a number of systems, for years. These include leak detection systems, inventory-tracking systems, batch-tracking systems, and customers who require real-time information. Flow computers now control peripheral equipment, including valves, samplers, etc., and receive non-measurement related signals such as gas detection alarms and man-on-site alarms. These additions allow the flow computer to be used for all operational and SCADA requirements of a metering site.
All of these tech measures are continuously being researched and expanded to make the pipeline industry safer and more cost effective. Every dollar spent in research and development is a dollar spent on our future energy needs.