Drone technologies are an emerging product making an impact across numerous industries. The oil and gas industry is utilizing drone technology for a wide variety of applications including aerial imagery, crop mapping, land surveying, 3D reconstruction, leak detection, pipeline construction and operational maintenance. Pipeline network projects have become an ideal opportunity to employ drones, enhancing the ability to reduce capital costs and increase worker safety.
Benefits of Using a Drone for Oil & Gas Inspections
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have proven to be extremely valuable throughout all sectors of the Oil and Gas Industry. High-resolution images and videos of surface infrastructure and pipeline Right of Ways can be collected quickly, which is especially beneficial for inspection in hard-to-reach locations.
When utilized for inspections, drones provide operators with the following benefits:
- Reduced harm. A new trend emerging in the inspections industry is the use of autonomous drones instead of people, removing the need for inspectors to enter potentially hazardous situations and creating a win-win environment for employees and companies.
- Time and cost savings. Drones help reduce inspection costs by removing the need to use large and expensive machinery while providing real-time data and reducing turnaround time.
- Increased inspection frequency. With cost reductions come the possibility for shorter inspection intervals, increased performance, long-term reliability of key assets, and ultimately significant savings over time.
How Drones Help With LDAR
There are a variety of gas leak detection technologies that are available in the oil and gas industry for LDAR (Leak Detection and Repair) operators. Each one has its own specific ability to identify methane, pinpoint the location of gas leaks, and help reduce the cost of repairs.
While performing routine inspections and maintenance, such as walking or driving a pipeline or checking well pad equipment, field workers frequently encounter hazards related to their proximity to the equipment. However, other methods of inspection that increase the stand-off distance of crews can come with additional costs, and/or hazards. For example, manned aircraft such as helicopters come with their own risks, can cost up to $2,500 per rotor hour, and utilize built-in cameras which often provide poor quality images.
Using drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), oil and gas enterprises can observe how equipment is operating in hard-to-reach areas. Because drones can filter out process heat with laser technology, they are able to collect high-resolution imagery of both the machinery and its surroundings. Additionally, companies can develop a long term, data-first approach for tracking asset conditions.
Why Do Pipeline Operators Care about Drones?
Pipeline operators are quite enthusiastic about the new wealth of data they can collect using modern drones and aerial inspection. With high-quality, exceptionally detailed imagery and sensors for identifying issues, pipeline operators can minimize hazards to pipelines and meet regulatory requirements with an eye toward prolonging the useful lifespan of their assets. Operators are now able to make crucial decisions without on-site visits by utilizing the data and imagery collected from these visual inspections. Some of the key features utilized by operators include:
Remote monitoring and surveillance
Drones are often used for the remote monitoring and surveillance of infrastructure, equipment, and assets. Drones can provide a 360-degree view for monitoring field operations. They can also observe the progress of facilities that are under construction and provide encroachment detection. Remote monitoring using drones are also enabling oil and gas companies to inspect unmanned production platforms.
Inspection and preventative maintenance
Drones can be customized to have a variety of different features and settings. For example, if you want your drone to check for things that are hidden, camouflaged or hard to see, an ultrasonic sensor will enable the drone to “see through” certain objects. Additionally, cameras and thermal imagers such cameras and infrared cameras enable the operator of the drone to “see” thermal energy, which is especially beneficial when inspecting oil and gas assets for small flaws or defects because they allow the device to come closer to its target.
Pipeline Data Management and GIS
Geographic information system (GIS) mapping is a tool that pipeline contractors and owners use to create, analyze, maintain, and store data related directly to pipeline assets. There are many types of information that can be stored in GIS databases which enable companies to make informed decisions more efficiently. During construction, GIS databases can be utilized to create a one-stop, interactive platform for all construction data, streamlining Quality Assurance, Safety, and Progress tracking. Operations such as re-routing or maintenance on pipelines can be scheduled for times when the pipeline is least affected by human interface. Other disciplines such as environmental impact estimators can consider factors like soil type, terrain slope, and population density before getting started on their project work.
GIS has become the industry standard for mapping locations of pipelines across all stages of the energy business. With the use of mobile technology, GIS has become the simplified solution for any setting. It is effectively assisting companies with determining the best location to run a pipeline and aiding in the increased safety, economics, and efficiency of their assets and operations. GIS provides companies with upfront solutions to complicated challenges regarding a pipeline’s operational integrity and risk.
Drones are an ideal product for the oil and gas industry. Pipeline and facility information can be collected by drones, processed by GIS software, and analyzed by computers to identify potential issues and hazards. Drone technology provides simple solutions to complex problems, cuts down on the time required to complete projects, and reduces operational and maintenance costs.