Drones in Oil & Gas Industry: Improving Efficiency, Reducing Downtime, and Saving Costs
The oil and gas industry, a major global sector with a $5 trillion revenue in 2022, significantly influences worldwide economic activities, including transportation, heating, electricity, and industrial production. Expected to grow at a robust Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of over 6% from 2023 to 2030, the industry's expansion is driven by continued use of oil and natural gas facilities, advancements in storage technologies, and a rising demand for natural gas. The need for refined petroleum products and the industry's quest for innovative technological solutions for safer operations in remote areas contribute to its growth. However, cost pressures are increasing, prompting companies to adopt innovative solutions for inspections and maintenance planning to enhance safety, preserve assets, and optimize costs.
Drones in the Oil & Gas Industry
Image Source: Flyability
Drones have emerged as indispensable tools in the oil and gas sector, revolutionizing operations across the upstream, midstream, and downstream segments. Their versatile applications encompass a range of essential benefits:
1. Enhancing Safety
Drones can access hard-to-reach equipment and infrastructure, effectively minimizing risks to human inspectors. Equipped with high-resolution cameras and advanced sensors, drones can navigate vast areas as well as confined spaces, conducting precise inspections of infrastructure, pipelines, and facilities. This not only eliminates the necessity for manual inspections, mitigating human risk, but also facilitates swift detection and response to potential issues.
2. Mitigating Risks
As unmanned vehicles, drones can approach assets and infrastructure closely, providing detailed visual and sensor data without endangering human lives. More than 150 workers associated with the oil and gas industry in the USA lost their lives in 2022 due to fatal injuries arising from caught-between the assets, fires, explosions, falls, chemical exposure, and confined spaces, which could have been avoided by the use of drones.
3. Streamlining Processes
Drones have the potential to eliminate the need for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements for human adjusters in the field, thereby enhancing operational safety and efficiency.
4. Time Efficiency
Drones excel at capturing substantial quantities of data within a matter of minutes, significantly expediting the inspection process. This brings down the inspection time by more than 95% compared to traditional inspection methods.
5. Reducing Costs
By replacing human labor with automated drone solutions, oil and gas companies can substantially reduce operational costs and gain better accessibility for inspection tasks. The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) reports that the use of drones in the industry has led to a 90% reduction in inspection costs.
6. Enhancing Efficiency
Drones are unmatched in their ability to capture large-scale datasets quickly and effectively, surpassing what can be achieved through manual inspection methods.
Global Case Study: Shell, a global energy giant, has embraced drone technology for monitoring its vast oil and gas operations in Nigeria. Drones equipped with infrared cameras and gas sensors are deployed to inspect pipelines, detect leaks, and monitor equipment integrity. This proactive approach has significantly reduced downtime and maintenance costs.
Areas of Application
Drones are revolutionizing the oil and gas industry in several key areas:
1. Asset Inspections:
Equipped with powerful cameras, thermal imaging technology, and modeling software, drones can rapidly create precise 3D models and digital twins, allowing for swifter and more manageable large-scale inspections of pipelines, storage tanks, marine vessels, and exterior and sub-surface surfaces. Whether it's offshore platforms, flare stacks, or refineries, drones equipped with specialized tools can access hard-to-reach areas, providing a comprehensive view of the infrastructure's condition.
2. Aerial Surveillance:
Drones are invaluable for remote monitoring, providing a 360-degree view of manned assets such as tankers, trucks, and equipment. Engineers can receive quick visual updates on facilities under construction or unmanned production platforms, enabling prompt decision-making.
3. Detecting Leaks:
Laser-based sensors mounted on drones offer a swift and cost-effective solution for detecting and identifying compromised materials, particularly in preventing methane leaks. This method proves to be more efficient than traditional inspection techniques. Recent incidents, such as the styrene gas leak in Vishakhapatnam on May 1, 2020, and the flash fire at Haldia Refinery on December 21, 2021, highlight the extensive consequences of compromising on-site safety, resulting in fatalities and injuries. Drone experiments with advanced optical imagers, including thermal imaging systems, demonstrate their effectiveness in detecting leaks during pipeline inspections.
4. Emergency Response:
Drones are playing a crucial role in emergency response and natural disaster monitoring. In the event of a natural disaster or industrial accident, they provide a bird's eye view, facilitating faster decision-making and response times. A study by the World Economic Forum suggests that the use of drones for environmental monitoring in the oil and gas industry can result in a 90% reduction in response time to environmental incidents.
5. Handling & Moving Materials:
Drones are being employed for material transportation, particularly between land-based facilities and marine vessels. This method is faster and more cost-efficient than conventional manned alternatives.
6. Integration with Artificial Intelligence:
Drones combined with artificial intelligence are transforming equipment inspections by rapidly evaluating photos. This integration is revolutionizing the inspection process, saving valuable time and resources.
The insights from our latest blog at Volar Alta underscore the transformative impact of drone technology in the oil and gas sector. By integrating our advanced drone solutions, companies are witnessing significant enhancements in efficiency, marked reductions in downtime, and substantial cost savings. Volar Alta's drones are not just tools for safety enhancement; they redefine the scope of remote monitoring, detailed inspections, and therefore enable the customer to take quick actions. As the oil and gas industry evolves, our commitment to innovation positions Volar Alta at the forefront of this change, offering a pathway to a safer, more economical, and efficient future.