• Team Volar Alta

Application of Drones in the Oil & Gas Industry: Methane Gas Leakage Control And More

Updated: Oct 11


India's oil and gas industry facilitates the production and supply of petroleum-driven products. It is a capital-intensive industry that can be fragmented into three key areas. These are upstream for exploration and extraction, midstream for transportation, and downstream for refining the end-to-end petroleum products for the end users.


The oil demand in the country is estimated to report a 2x growth, reaching 11 million barrels each day by 2045. Likewise, the need for diesel in India is anticipated to double up to 163 MT by 2029-30. The gasoline and diesel will cover up 58% of oil demand by 2045. Natural gas consumption is also projected to rise by 25 BCM, recording an average growth of 9% annually till 2024.


By looking at the figures mentioned above, you can observe that supplies by the oil and gas industry in India are currently on a growth trajectory. Hence, you must look for innovative and futuristic ways to ensure the continual Assets operation in plants through frequent inspections. As Volar Alta has previously reported, all other major industries are slowly adopting Drone-based inspections for higher efficiency, safety, and sustainability. Are drones future-proof for oil and gas too? Let’s find out.


Significance of Inspections for the Oil and Gas Industry


Undeniably, the oil and gas industry has to function per uncompromisable standards. Hence, frequent inspections are necessary to initiate timely maintenance for any damages, non-compliance, and environmental hazards. Data-driven inspections, especially internal inspections also enable you to prevent failures, reduce downtime, and ensure optimal safety at the site.


However, do you find the traditional inspection methods time-consuming, risk-inducing, and costly affair? Complicated machinery such as storage tanks, chimneys, refineries, jetties, drilling ships, and more need sophisticated inspection methods. Manual methods often fail to predict dangers such as spillage, fire accidents, and theft or to provide fast and accurate surveys.


That is why you need to deploy drones for oil and gas industry inspections. Drones can simplify remote monitoring and provide comprehensive surveillance of assets without putting lives in danger and losing crucial data.


Applications of Drones in the Oil and Gas Industry


Drones are equipped with high-tech imagery sensors and excellent navigation systems. Are you wondering how such features help in automating the entire inspection process? Well, they aid in executing inspections without any manual intervention and predict the maintenance requirements of complex infrastructure. You will also get an insightful report with real-time data for commencing the recovery process. Here are the unavoidable applications of drone inspection for the oil and gas sector.


1. Remote Surveillance and Asset Monitoring

You need to look after the infrastructure, storage tankers, equipment, pipelines, and off-shore platforms at the site for their tenacious operations. However, it is not practically possible for the workers to inspect them manually due to elaborative structures and the scope for inconsistencies. To ease the issue, drones offer a 360-degree aerial view of the field operations so you can assess the evolution of under-construction facilities and identify the encroachments.


2. Inspection of Hard-to-Reach Spots

The hassle of inspecting multifaceted assets is one of the significant issues workers are susceptible to. You can engage the drones around the pipelines, oil rigs, flare stacks, marine vessels, sub-surfaces, and exteriors of tanks. Drones like Flyability's Elios 2 is decked with unswerving sensors, thermal camera, and many other state-of-the-art technical abilities to detect gas emissions, spills, leakages, heat spots, and corrosion.


Drones can identify the irregularities in the assets that are untraceable by the human eye. As a result, you will be able to save a sizable amount of money by reinforcing the on-site well-being and plummeting the maintenance outlays.


Top issues drones can detect:

  • Cracks and corrosion on walls and the roof in tanks

  • Cracks and anomalies inside of a chimney

  • The structural integrity of jetties

  • Visual inspection of critical production units

  • Integrity-assessment

  • Early signs of corrosion and heat spots

  • The start of leakage

  • Storage and stock maintenance

3. Reducing the Methane Emissions


Methane is the second-largest accelerator for climate crisis globally. Besides, India also stands as the third-biggest emitter of methane. This data made scientists warn and address the need to lessen methane emissions. Now the question is how drones can help attain this objective.


Generally, the pipelines utilized for the energy sector are nearly 8,943 km long. The prolonged length makes the manual inspections more complex, leaving the leaks many times undetected. Results from many drone experiments show that the highly advanced drone for pipeline inspections with their optical imagers like thermal imaging systems helps detect methane leaks. Interestingly, across the world, laser technology is also being tested in drones for more accurate quantification of leaks.


4. Averting the Potential Accidents


One cannot predict the inevitable accidents taking place on-site. Is there any way to avert them? Flyability's Elios 2 provides crystal-clear imagery and visual analytics to detect oil spills or probable fire accidents. You can organise an emergency response, leading the resources to the target spots without compromising the safety of workers.


5. Substantial Reduction in Downtime


Drones for the oil and gas industry help you leverage your human and financial resources more productively. During the manual inspections, costly scaffolding is needed to set up over the assets so workers can enter through. In addition, it takes around 10 to 12 hours to rappel inside the confined structures.


On the contrary, drones require an expert drone pilot and an engineer to accomplish the automated inspection, savings sizable man-hours for you. Conducting these inspections means lesser downtime, enabling you to expedite other crucial tasks without delays.


6. Strengthening Workers’ and On-Site Safety


While managing an oil and gas plant, you must ensure the safety of the site and workers to avoid catastrophes. On 1st May 2020, a styrene gas leak at Vishakhapatnam's LG Polymers left seven people dead, leaving a thousand others sick. Similarly, on 21st December 2021, three workers succumbed to death, whereas 44 were injured in Haldia Refinery's flash fire in West Bengal. The list of such incidents is quite extensive. Such incidents depict that if on-site safety is jeopardized, it can lead to severe tragedies, claiming many human lives.

As per OSHA, around 489 workers associated with the oil and gas industry lost their lives from 2013 to 2017 due to fatal injuries arising from caught-between the assets, fires, explosions, falls, chemical exposure, and confined spaces. The use of drones can massively help keep the assets functional without exposing the workers to an unsafe environment and create a safe workplace for them.


The Final Words


Automated inspections for the oil and gas industry are cost-efficient, time-saving, and environment-friendly and offer in-depth defect analysis for amplifying the recovery process. You can conduct inspections more frequently and efficiently by integrating drones into the oil and gas industry. You can increase the longevity of assets and reduce the turnaround time by harnessing the power of drone technology.


If you have any questions about drone inspections, please feel free to contact us at niharika@volaralta.com

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