Can the Use of Drones in the Oil & Gas Industry Overcome Challenges?

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Can the Use of Drones in the Oil & Gas Industry Overcome Challenges?

Drone technology is increasingly being taken up by a multitude of industries, and is versatile enough to benefit various projects within those sectors. There are a broad range of applications across the utilities industry, green energy sector, and construction industry -- just to name a few.

This article, however, will focus on the usage of drones specifically within the Oil & Gas industry. From site surveying to routine maintenance, drones are useful at almost every step of the way. The various sensors mounted to the drone enable it to gather data faster, with precision, and possess the ability to locate excess heat, leaks and spills at the same time; vastly improving safety and preventing downtime.
drone-in-oil-and-gas
The demand for Oil & Gas is high, yet with fluctuating prices, this presents the challenge of reducing costs to cope with the lower end of these prices; reducing the significant loss of revenue during inspections certainly falls into this category. Other key challenges faced in the Oil and Gas industry are the risks posed to human life, and the optimisation of performance coupled with the pursuit of improving its overall environmental footprint. 

So the key question we will be addressing within this article is -- can the use of drones overcome these issues?

Advantages of Using Drones in the Oil and Gas industry

There is no question that ROI is vital in any company, so it is important to understand the effect of the use of drones in this figure. Does it really pay off? In order to address this, we have to first understand the advantages of drones in the field. 

Logistics

  • Inspection crews no longer need to be afforded bed space on rigs for a prolonged period of time.
  • The plant does not need to shut down in the same way it would traditionally have done so in the past; drones are non-invasive and can work alongside plant processes.
Aerial View of Oil and Gas Inspection
  • Maintenance requirements can be pinpointed, so that the teams can attend to only the areas that need work, rather than inspecting the whole area without knowing whether physical maintenance will be required at the end or not.

Safety

  • People do not need to climb structures to check the integrity of the structure as the drone can capture this.
  • The payloads can detect issues we may not be able to see with our eyes, including gas leakages, overheating, and corrosion beneath the platform.

Efficiency

  • What would typically take weeks of labour force, will take a drone just a matter of days
  • Accurate photographic captures and heat readings are taken instantaneously, alongside 4K video recordings.

Data Collection, Analysis and Sharing

  • The advanced data collected via drone is accurate to 1cm, and can be requested remotely (provided a drone is on-site).
  • Analysis of data is instantaneous and deliverable in a variety of forms for easier understanding.
  • The sharing capability ensures stakeholders and other relevant figures have access to all collected data whenever they wish to view it.

Flexibility

  • Reports can be generated at the click of a button from any remote location, whenever the drone is on-site.
  • The plant does not need to close down, reduce operation, nor turn off the flare.

Cost-Effectiveness

  • ROI gained from the first project, due to the vast reduction in man hours and the ability for plant production to continue during the inspection.
  • With the drones’ ability to quickly pick up corrosion and irregularities when they first show. Maintenance can immediately be set to task without the traditional time-consuming and labour intensive manual inspections -- which need to occur as a preventative measure, regardless of whether the rig or plant needs maintenance or not.
When looking at these advantages, it is easy to understand how ROI is gained from the first Drones-as-a-Service (DaaS) project -- and how this ROI continues to build as more drones are utilised in the field.
 

Drone Applications in the Oil and Gas Industry

Drones are highly versatile, and with a range of interchangeable payloads, their services can be applied across multiple projects with minimal interference.

Monitoring, Surveying and Inspections

  • Leak and spill detection is the newest advancement to drone technology, enabling gas and oil leaks to be detected. This is particularly important in the gas field as leaks are invisible without the use of advanced technology.
  • Indoor and outdoor inspections are equally possible; improving safety across the board.
  • As a preventative measure or an emergency response, drones can be sent in to locate the problem, reducing the risk to humans until strictly necessary. Oil spills and fire incidents can be mapped out to ensure the area is effectively managed after an incident or natural disaster.
Drone Inspection in Oil and Gas
  • Live flare stack inspection can take place risk-free and without impeding the operation of the plant.
  • Chimney and smoke stack inspections can also be performed as above.
  • Pipeline inspections can be assessed from within or from above ground to check for issues such as soil erosion and vegetation encroachment; visual data can be compared to previous drone inspection captures to assess the rate at which soil is subsiding, and correct a problem before a blowout occurs.
  • Storage tank inspections are done easily via drones, who can enter small spaces easily and use advanced lighting techniques in highly dusty conditions.
  • General inspections benefit from the use of drones, gaining precise data and an ROI from each drone inspection.

Mapping

3D Model
  • Drones have the ability to effectively and precisely map out a variety of features:
    • Flow lines
    • Drill sites
    • Pipelines
    • Landfills
    • Spill and fire-related incidents
  • The precision afforded by drone technology is highly accurate to within 1cm, enabling effective data to be captured at a fraction of the time it would traditionally take.

How Drones Overcome the Challenges Faced in Oil & Gas

Elios 2 DroneThe rate at which highly accurate and invisible data is captured makes drone technology an undeniable asset to companies within the Oil & Gas industry. The instant ROI generated from each drone assists with the challenge of cutting costs, while the unparalleled amount of human safety gained from this technology is exponential compared to any other safety measures that can be put in place.
 
Furthermore, the captured data makes it possible to locate actionable improvements to overall production, improving output as a result of pre-emptive maintenance. Lastly, the ability of the drone to detect leakages and spills, and map environmental and safety-related incidents, improves the environmental responsibility aspect; as does using lightweight drone technology as opposed to heavier, less effective and higher power consuming traditional technology.
 
In conclusion, the aforementioned points soundly contribute to significantly reducing all four main challenges faced by the Oil & Gas industry today. The presence of Drones-as-a-Service companies further improve ROI and reduce the need to invest in drone technology and extensive training, as drone service providers are already experts in this field, and therefore able to get onto the ground and provide the deliverables from day one. Contact us today to discuss how drones can work with you to overcome your challenges.
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About the author

Niiveth Mani
Creative Content Writer
A passionate and thorough storyteller immersed in the tech industry for over three years. Niiveth uses his writing to distill complex topics into easily read content.

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