3 Tech Trends Improving Safety in Oil & Gas

769

As Industry 4.0 technology transforms many industrial sectors, it’s also having a significant impact on safety. The growing implementation of AI, networked devices, and new robotics are changing how businesses in oil and gas keep workers safe on the job.

Certain new tech trends are helping to protect workers from the serious safety threats — like toxic chemicals, fires, and heavy machinery — they face in daily work. These three trends are likely to have the greatest impact on how the oil and gas industry approaches safety over the next few years.

1. Drones, Robots, and Novel Automation Techniques

Some of the most effective safety technology minimizes human exposure to safety threats in the first place. Drones, robots, and automation can help reduce the need for contractors to work in close proximity to safety hazards. In some cases, collaborative robotics — designed to work safely alongside human workers — can provide support when full automation is impractical or impossible.

For example, oil and gas companies have adopted robotic pipe handlers, “snake bots,” and drones to both improve productivity and protect workers from serious safety threats, often by automating dangerous or dirty work.

Cutting-edge robots that will become available over the next few years may provide even greater benefits for companies looking to improve on-site safety.

New subsea robots may help businesses streamline inspection of undersea assets and reduce the need for divers and costly support vessels. These robots may be capable of both piloted and automated missions, possibly reducing the need for operators in some cases.

Automated drones may be able to effectively survey pipelines and large onshore sites without the need for a human operator during the entire flight. Other drones could reduce the need for human inspection, cleaning, and painting of above-ground structures like flare stacks.

Falls remain a common cause of injury and death on oil and gas sites. These drones could reduce the number of workers exposed to dangerous heights.

2. AI and Predictive Models

The pattern-finding abilities of artificial intelligence make the technology a powerful tool for analyzing vast amounts of unstructured data. For oil and gas companies, the technology can enable new predictive models that use that data to forecast future events, like machine failures or possible safety events. AI will likely be most powerful when combined with another Industry 4.0 technology trend: connectivity and networked devices.

Much has already been written about how connectivity can improve performance in oil and gas. While most offshore oil and gas assets are covered by connectivity infrastructure, many onshore assets are poorly covered, or covered by outdated technology that does not enable some key use-cases of the technology, which require real-time connections with high bandwidth.

This lack of connectivity is improving as oil and gas companies seek to exploit the potential benefits of highly connected assets.

How Connectivity May Enable Predictive Maintenance Strategies

The more connected a site or asset, the more opportunity its operators have to extract valuable data or monitor site equipment, work in progress, and conditions. Importantly, information from networked sensors, cameras, and other devices can also be a key source of data for simulations and predictive models.

For example, wet scrubbers used to scrub away harmful gases and particulate matter in industrial exhausts must be replaced infrequently but regularly. As a scrubber ages and begins to fail, emerging warning signs like lower performance or proliferation of bacteria within the scrubber may become apparent. A predictive maintenance algorithm could pick up on these signs and other subtler indicators of scrubber failure much sooner, before the scrubber begins to fail completely.

This advance notice could allow site managers and technicians to schedule more preventive maintenance. In other cases, it may simply provide additional notice on a scrubber that needs replacement, helping simplify scheduling and ensuring the scrubber is replaced in a timely manner. In either case, the model could help the site prevent sudden failure of the scrubber or many other types of on-site machines and equipment.

Sudden failure of oil and gas equipment can be both expensive and dangerous. Preventing it with predictive maintenance can help oil and gas businesses avoid certain types of safety incidents.

3. Digital Twin Technology

Digital twins are virtual representations of an object, asset, building, or site. What makes them different from typical digital models is their level of detail and software that helps them to simulate real-world processes and situations.

In practice, they can provide a direct look into the inner workings of an asset or site: information that may not be available or easy to understand with other approaches to data representation.

Often, once an asset is put into use, information about that asset becomes siloed or disaggregated, making it difficult for technicians, managers, and engineers to truly understand how the asset is functioning. The direct look and more holistic perspective that digital twins provide can help solve this problem — making safety issues much easier to catch.

The digital twins can also help businesses to draft the designs of new assets.

As real-time data becomes more accessible and available due to IoT devices and other networked information sources, digital twins may become even more effective. The right twin could serve as a real-time model of a site, capable of tracking the movement of workers and machine performance.

These twins could be an invaluable management tool, providing off-site staff with a bird’s-eye view of an asset or site operations. From this perspective, layout bottlenecks, dangers, and inefficiencies could become much more obvious, enabling a fast response to make the site safer or more productive.

How New Technology Is Likely to Transform Oil & Gas Safety

As Industry 4.0 technology transforms many industrial sectors, it’s also having a significant impact on safety. The growing implementation of AI, networked devices, and new robotics are changing how businesses in oil and gas keep workers safe on the job.

Certain new tech trends are helping to protect workers from the serious safety threats — like toxic chemicals, dangerous temperatures, and extreme pressures — that they face in daily work. These are the trends likely to have the greatest impact on how oil and gas companies approach safety.


Article by Emily Newton

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She has over four years experience covering the industrial sector.
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.