IoT for Oil and Gas Pipeline Management
Pipelines are an essential component in the upstream, midstream or downstream transportation of hazardous materials.
If not managed correctly, critical errors that lead to leakages can cause threats to public safety as well as irreversibly impact the surrounding environment. Research conducted in 2018 showed that liquid pipeline accidents cost $326 million per year just in the U.S., with $140 million going towards environmental and remediation costs. However, IoT-based technologies are being used to change the way errors involving pipelines are detected and to prevent them from occurring in the first place.
Most pipeline systems began at remote exploration sites where terrestrial networks are not reliable or just don’t exist. This means that monitoring could only be done through labor-intensive manual checks or expensive satellite subscriptions. Now, IoT sensors and communication technologies are improving this process.
An effective IoT pipeline management system functions by using smart sensors to collect conditional data such as flow rate, temperature, moisture levels, pH levels and pressure. Gateways located at the site connect the sensors to wireless networks so the data can be collected and analyzed. LPWAN networks are often used as a low power and low cost option for collecting granular telemetry data. LPWAN’s star topology and extensive range makes the technology ideal for connecting large, geographically dispersed metering points as well as requires less infrastructure. Oil and gas companies also utilize private LPWAN because it can be flexibly adapted to meet the specific needs of offshore and inaccessible sites.
The next step in the process involves using a system integrated center. This system can integrate all of the data collected from other devices as well as send alerts if immediate action needs to be taken. Using IoT-based technologies, the system is connected to the network and programmed to send data back to mobile devices that are connected to the same network.
Having all of the information regarding the condition of the pipeline makes it possible to detect any irregularities and report them instantly. For example, a decrease in pressure can indicate the presence of a leak, while structural issues can be found based on wall thickness. Cutting down the time between detection and remediation reduces costs as well as minimizes environmental contamination if the materials are released from the pipeline. Another key benefit associated with this technology is that once manual tasks such as inspections and data logging can be automated to save time as well as resources.
The information gathered from IoT-enabled technologies has made the management and maintenance of pipeline systems more efficient than ever before. Regardless of the initial costs, the improved performance, safety and sustainability of pipeline systems is worth the investment.