Overview of Drones in the Oil & Gas Industry
The application of drones in the oil and gas industry enables companies to oversee infrastructure while using progressively safer, economical, and efficient methods. Drones can collect all sorts of data, including still visuals and video footage. A major advantage of this is how those operating the drones can observe activity and operations in real-time. This can be highly advantageous for oil and gas companies due to how they are able to examine conditions on-site, assess any of the problems and increase safety measures where necessary, as well as induce higher efficiency and call for maintenance at any given time.
Previously, conventional inspection methods mostly require manual operation and can be upgraded to more efficient methods of inspection with devices that offer more detailed data, with far fewer safety risks and undisturbed production time.
Oil Pipeline Inspections
Underground pipelines across thousands of kilometers carry oil and gas around the world. Such an infrastructure must be constantly monitored to decrease the probability of undetected leaks, which can be highly dangerous and cause explosions and fatal fires. Drones can operate technologies such as thermal imaging that can determine the temperature differences between the soil and fluid to prevent a potential catastrophe. The operator can send immediate updates to the assessor of the pipeline’s condition while operating at low altitudes using special cameras and sensors.
Drones provide an unparalleled level of visibility and accessibility, which has allowed them to replace formerly used methods that involved manual, cost-intensive, and time-consuming operations. For example, lease operators would have to physically drive out to inspect the sites or send out a helicopter to offshore platforms. With drones, inspections have become more feasible without extensive safety risks and substantial resource requirements.
Flare Stack Inspections
The application of drones can allow oil and gas groups to observe and oversee flare stack heads, using imagery and detailed visuals. Because of drones, the staff is no longer required to physically climb fire stacks and manually inspect operations. This disposes of the risk to staff without compromising or disturbing production time. Flare stacks can also be inspected whilst using drones, this application can save time and cost. Abstaining from shutting down production and activity increases profitability as shutdowns interrupt productivity and therefore reduce cost. Repairs and maintenance also become less time-consuming and costly.
Manual inspections come with significant risk. Inspectors are required to wear harnesses attached to ropes to get to hard-to-reach areas. This can expose them to toxic chemicals or extreme temperatures. Consequently, companies are under constant pressure to implement safer ways for conducting inspections without putting the lives or health of employees in danger. These situations demonstrate how drones can satisfy the problem in the oil and gas industry.
Offshore Oil Rigs and Tailing Ponds Inspections
Oil rig surveillances become more difficult when operating offshore, putting personnel at more risk. In addition to these long shutdowns, a company’s efficiency is negatively affected. Applying drones to industry operations can reduce such concerns as drone technology delivers up-to-date and real-time information to its operator. A great advantage is that drones provide still images and video footage from all directions, which can contribute to determining and planning out required work ahead of time.
It is common for safety checks on tailings ponds to be done manually in person or using costly fly-over inspections that call for countless safety precautions. This is not always possible in extreme weather conditions. The application of drones allows for an easier way of gathering information in dangerous environments and allows oil and gas companies to carry out inspections despite poor weather conditions.
Damage Detection and Oil Spills
Drones can provide operators with an aerial visual of an oil spill, which clearly displays the boundaries of a spill. Along with the use of other technologies like laser scanning and GPS, it allows them to provide topographical information about the recent discovery even before sending workers to the location. This can allow oil and gas companies to measure and gauge oil spills, detect where the oil is spreading, determine how fast it is traveling, and view the exact areas it has spilled.
This is particularly beneficial when needing to access hard-to-reach areas as drones are highly portable, lightweight, and when operated frequently, they can provide instant information to prevent oil spills entirely. With this information, oil and gas companies can find out where response vessels are exactly needed and save time that previously would be spent on the course of damage detection.
Aid during Natural Disasters
Drones present immense preventive potential. However, even big oil and gas facilities cannot avoid natural disasters. The aftermath of extreme storms and hurricanes frequently leave roads blocked and many areas inaccessible for rescue teams. Drones can help carry out rescue missions and can be used as industrial inspectors, with the capability of examining and traveling around infrastructures, such as refineries and oil rigs, from a safe distance. Drones provide an essential bird’s-eye view to an industry that highly prioritizes safety and efficiency.
Drones allow companies to complete check-ups without putting at risk the safety of workers. This proves to be exceptionally useful during the aftermath of an unavoidable natural disaster or extreme weather, when sending out a rescue team to a site may be difficult, unsafe, and costly.
Communication on Site
The oil and gas industry generally requires operators to correspond with workers who are on large sites. If done manually, this can provide many communication challenges for managers and engineers who operate from headquarters to ground workers. Drones make communication easier by enabling workers on the ground to fly drones on to the site. The information collected by the drone can then be uploaded onto the cloud, where managers back at the office can collaborate, review, and coordinate further examination or follow-ups.
The support of specially designed software for drones can make it possible for managers to analyze and inspect the conditions on-site, add annotations and drop pins in real-time so sites can be inspected for possible spills, leaks, and other issues.