5 ways IoT technologies are enabling the oil and gas industry

WW Analytics Solutions Marketing Executive - Predictive Maintenance & Quality, IBM

In 2008, IBM launched Smarter Planet, recognizing the importance of the increasing instrumentation, interconnections and intelligent devices pervading the world; these were the early rumblings of the Internet of Things. The trend continues unabated, and the oil and gas industry stands to significantly benefit. Attend any recent industry conference and, in addition to concerns about petroleum prices, you’ll hear conversations about how operating technology (OT) meets IT—about digital oil fields, cybersecurity, volume, variety and velocity of operational data, and remote communications. These are conversations about challenges and opportunities—challenges as technology continues to outpace most industries, but opportunities for those that plan to exploit these new technologies.

The Internet of Things can greatly facilitate the complementary capabilities of OT and IT to help the industry improve productivity, extend asset life and reduce risk. The following are some top-of-mind ways for that to occur:

1. Connect operations around the world, both onshore and offshore

Embedded sensors, instrumentation, automation and data communications can gather and transmit operational data from almost any location worldwide, allowing producers to obtain a more detailed and accurate understanding of current operations. Analytics solutions and integrated operations systems are essential for insight and visibility.


2. Real-time visibility of assets and equipment

The aforementioned data connections make it possible to centrally monitor asset performance and health. Real-time data streaming can immediately provide the status of critical production assets, allowing assessment of the health of operations from desktops or mobile devices.


3. Robotics, autonomous vehicles and drones

Rapid advances in these three technologies will reduce the need for on-site staffing, enable remote real-time monitoring and observations regardless of location and greatly reduce the risks of investigating hazardous incidents. Innovation in engineering practices is the heart of developing complex, connected systems.


4. Cognitive computing

Uncertainties and geological risks are significant in resource exploration. Pressures are great to maximize the productivity of existing oil and gas fields. Repsol has teamed with IBM to apply cognitive computing to the upstream aspects of its business, where energy companies face much complexity and where decision making is crucial to success. Two initial applications are targeted—one to help size up exploration blocks that are out for bid and the other to help optimize strategy for drilling wells. View the webcast on IBM Cognitive Computing Solutions.


5. Actionable insight

Asset performance data analyzed in real time, augmented by business rules and presented in a context and manner relevant to personnel responsible for operations and maintenance can greatly enhance daily productivity. Analytics can provide detailed insight into the current performance and health of critical assets and can also predict pending degradation or failure of electric submersible pumps and other critical production assets.

The common thread through all of these capabilities is data. The Internet of Things will create significantly more data and require significantly faster communications networks than ever before, increasing demand on producers to apply sophisticated analytical tools and methods to make sense of operational data, separate the signal from the noise and, most important, quickly act on the insights made available through all these evolving technologies. Find out more about how new technologies are enabling the oil and gas industry.

Coauthored by Tammy Kulesa, IBM Marketing Leader for the Chemicals and Petroleum industries.