Digital Impact: Technology interventions in the oil and gas sector

Technology interventions in the oil and gas sector

Digitalisation in the oil and gas sector has become inevitable to meet the rising energy demands. The pandemic magnified the existing demand-supply imbalance in the sector. It also brought to light the need for digital and technological advancements. The oil and gas industry in India needs to leverage various statistical/machine learning models, which can consume real-time data and provide insights even at isolated locations with scarce network connectivity. Newer technologies will bring in new skill sets and cost efficiencies to the sector. It is essential that more and more work is brought under the digital ambit.

Digital interventions such as big data and analytics, drones, industrial networking, additive manufacturing, autonomous robotics and smart sensors are impacting various sectors. New technologies and data analytics enable companies to achieve specific business goals while maximising efficiency. These goals range from demand management to operational resilience, and from remote condition monitoring to real-time consumer communication.

Innovation in the oil and gas sector

Used primarily in bulk transportation of hazardous hydrocarbons, pipelines are one of the important assets of the oil and gas value chain. The overall pipeline network in the country runs across thousands of km and is expected to increase in the coming years. Given the increa­sing awareness about safety and the implications of accidents for environment and society, pipeline integrity is the topmost priority in overall pipeline operations and maintenance.

Pipeline leak detection is undertaken with smart techniques, automatic ultrasonic testing, robotic inspection, thermal mass flow sen­s­ors, geographic information systems, cascade systems, and smart dispensers, etc. These are some of the most recent advancements in the sector. Extraction leaks and damages can cause considerable financial and environmental harm. To avoid these leaks, internet of thin­gs (IoT) can be deployed to provide effective monitoring of pipes, pumps and filters in the system using real-time data. This eliminates unnecessary manual system checks, and workers are only required when anomalies are de­tec­ted. Heavy machines installed in offshore drilling that are located in remote areas with harsh conditions can benefit from IoT-enabled sensors that allow remote access to usage and maintenance data.

Low-power wide-area networks deliver real-time data for maintenance to workers on the ship. Meanwhile, procurement transactions can be automated using robotics process auto­ma­­tion to reduce cycle times and increase over­all efficiency in oil and gas supply chains.

In a notable development, IBM has released a SAP-based shared ledger solution that helps the oil and gas industry increase its visibility and efficiency in daily transactions. Going forward, it is expected that digital adoption can increase efficiency by 30 per cent, flexibility by 20-40 per cent, reduce quality issues by 5-10 per cent, and lead time and cost for changes by 90 per cent, while also addressing the lack of transparency by 90-95 per cent and missing database for val­ue-added services by 50 per cent.

Initiatives in India

The Indian oil sector is now looking to leverage new-age technologies and solutions to assess asset performance and extend asset life, as well as gain a deeper understanding of the diff­e­rent assets. Digital interventions will also help the companies make “retain or retire” de­cisi­o­ns for their significant infrastructure.

Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) has established a remote monitoring centre in Hyde­rabad and has also selected AVEVA, a global leader in industrial software, to drive its digital transformation and sustainability. The AVEVA unified supply chain will enable IOCL to digitalise its refinery and naphtha cracker sc­he­duling work­flows, optimise blend scheduling to meet daily product dispatch plans and provide end-to-end visibility across its operations. In another development, IOCL has signed an ag­reement with the Centre for Railway Informa­tion System for digital integration with end-to-end visibility of petroleum products and liquified petroleum gas rake movement on a real-time basis. Besides, a web-portal and mobile app is being developed by IOCL through this digital integration, which is named “IndianOil Rail SAMPARK”.

In exploration and production (E&P), seismic mapping, application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) in controlling ground operations, use of artificial lifts and remote drill­ing have made a gradual en­try. According to a study by the Ministry of Pe­tro­leum and Natural Gas (MoPNG), AI and ML have reduced seismic survey data interpretation time and cost by 50-60 per cent while operators have reduced up to 70 per cent engineering hours through field architecture optimisation. The real-time analytics-driven integrated well design and planning has made well drilling 20-30 per cent faster while industrial IoT-enabled real-time data has augmented production by 3-5 per cent. MoPNG has set up a committee to suggest and recommend driving digital adoption to maximise value from core E&P activities.

Technological advancements are being increasingly deployed in the CGD sector in In­dia. IRM Energy is one of the first CGD companies to introduce pressure monitoring of mobi­le cascades along with a vehicle tracking system for enhanced scheduling. Apart from this, wireless technologies are currently being widely used for monitoring purposes. Mahan­agar Gas Limited (MGL) has installed and commissioned a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to ensure the safe and effective functioning of the CGD network and pipeline facilities, which are spread across Mu­mbai and its suburbs – Navi Mumbai, Taloja and Ambernath. At the MGL city gas station’s Mahape port in Navi Mumbai, a SCADA master control centre was also established. Many other CGD companies have installed SCADA technology and are making considerable use of it in their gas operations. Some of the promine­nt players that have used SCADA are Reliance Gas Transport Infrastructure Limited, GAIL Li­mited, Adani Gas Limited, Gujarat State Pet­ronet Limited, Haryana City Gas Distribution Li­mi­ted, Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) and Assam Gas Company Limited.

A number of CGD players in India have also adopted smart metering solutions to increase their competence and serve customers better. One such player is IGL, which has been operational in the national capital region (NCR) and neighbouring areas for a long time now. As per latest updates, IGL has installed 200,000 domestic automatic meter reading (AMR) me­ters across its network, 2,500 such units in the industrial and commercial segment, and 11,500 prepaid meters outside the NCR. AMR systems have also been implemented by MGL’S field agents to cater to the scattered customer base that was not covered in the ma­instream meter reading mechanism. Furth­er, around 152 industrial and commercial customers have been provided with a remote reading system. Adani Gas Limited has also dep­loyed advanced AMR systems for recording and billing gas consumption.

In a bid to train the staff better and build capacity, ExxonMobil launched a 3D-immersive training platform, which creates a virtual plant environment to provide knowledge about eq­uipment and processes to plant operators and engineers. The simulated facility mimics a variety of real-life scenarios (like unplanned shutdowns, abnormal operations and emergency responses). The technology enables this to ha­ppen in a safe controlled environment. The Immersive 3D Training Environment tech­no­logy facilitates the trainees to understand and act based on real-time situations.

In sum

According to a projection of OPEC’s World Oil Outlook 2021, India’s oil demand is expected to reach 11 million barrels per day by 2045, as compared to 4.9 million barrels per day in 2021. Digitisation in the oil and gas sector has become inevitable to meet the rising demand. During the Covid-19 pandemic, digital platforms and digital technology played a critical role in petroleum marketing to maximise the transport utilisation, reduce the demand-supply gap and connect to isolated end-consumers.

While we are moving towards a gas-based economy, emerging technologies and digitalisation have played an important role in making the natural gas sector a sustainable and green mode of transition. Emerging technologies such as AI, analytics and IoT are helping monitor leakage damage corrosion and flow of gas in the huge gas pipeline network in the Natio­nal Gas Grid.