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Digitalizing the oil and gas value chain for a sustainable future

Digitalizing oil and gas for a sustainable future

Oil and gas (O&G) are more than just fossil fuels. They are critical components of many industries — from agriculture and chemical to medical and pharmaceutical — and the essential raw materials for makeup, toiletries, household items, consumer electronics, clothing, packaging and much more. Where would we be without aspirin, baby bottles, contact lenses or zippers?

But faced with constantly changing business conditions and increasingly stringent environmental regulations, O&G companies are under pressure to work in more efficient, responsible and sustainable ways. If they’re going to do that — and even expand into the renewable energy market — they’ll need to start by transforming their operations.

Nokia provides the communications foundation for this transformation. A robust, flexible and predictable field area network (FAN) can support a variety of O&G exploration and production applications, including control systems for transport and communication solutions for plants and refineries.

The infographic below shows just some of the possibilities for digitalizing the O&G value chain that are enabled by Nokia’s critical communications solutions. Let’s dig a bit deeper into a few of these use cases.

Fig. 1.

Connecting remote search and prospection sites

Search and prospection are by nature nomadic, isolated exercises that place teams and equipment in remote areas underserved by communications networks. On-site communications currently rely on expensive and bandwidth-limited satellite phones. Prospectors and field engineers are forced to carry laptops, hard drives and USB dongles to collect, transport and deliver data manually.

A portable 4.9G/LTE or 5G configuration can be deployed rapidly to serve hundreds of users. Paired with a satellite or microwave backhaul link, this solution provides high-bandwidth mobile connectivity at even the most remote locations with no existing coverage. It connects the sensors, cameras and drones that collect data and provides field workers with access to remote data centers and processing capacity.

Automating drilling and extraction

Many companies are pursuing aggressive strategies to fully automate drilling and extraction, eventually replacing all manually operated equipment with autonomous technologies. Remote operations and virtual telepresence will supplement these automation strategies, allowing personnel to monitor automated processes and operate machinery at a distance.

Robots and drones can complement and enhance manual facility inspections at offshore sites, inside tanks and pipes, and in areas subject to corrosion and complex or hazardous access. Thousands of manual operations and processes can be transformed into just a few automated processes, controlled with an industrial joystick and managed with the touch of a button.

Improving worker safety and mission-critical communications

Safety incidents can delay or shut down operations — sometimes for days — while investigations are conducted, leading to considerable losses of productivity and efficiency. Right now, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as hard hats, earmuffs, face masks and steel-toed boots serve as the last line of defense against such safety incidents. But what if PPE could do more, providing proactive information and monitoring that could prevent those incidents from even happening?

A robust wireless network can enable smart, connected PPE to deliver real-time safety information to both the wearer and the operations center. This new class of equipment includes integrated communications in earmuffs and helmets, heads-up displays, and embedded environmental sensors to monitor heat, sound, chemicals and impact. Combined with location tracking and geo-fencing applications, it can even keep workers out of no-go zones.

On top of this, TETRA, P25 or any other two-way radio communication networks, which are widely used for mission-critical person-to-person and group communications, may be fully replaced by LTE- or 5G-powered push-to-talk and push-to-video services. A single button-push and faster call setup could make the difference between life and death.

Enhancing situational awareness

Situational awareness is about knowing what is going on around a company’s workforce. Video monitoring, including from cameras mounted on mobile vehicles and drones, is key to the safety, sustainability and security of O&G operations. Companies can achieve 360-degree situational awareness thanks to the network’s ability to meet the extreme bandwidth demands of video streaming across the entire coverage area, spanning onshore and offshore assets.

The network also allows companies to manage and link thousands of IoT sensors, digital PPE, smart tools and communication devices, which provide machine health and diagnostics, position reporting, process surveillance and control, and environmental monitoring.

Using IoT and analytics to predict true maintenance needs

Breakdowns and unscheduled maintenance of aging assets can wreak havoc with even the best preventive and calendar-based maintenance and repair planning. Assets can fail prematurely when relying on vendor-recommended maintenance schedules, while too-frequent maintenance leads to waste when assets in serviceable condition are refurbished or replaced unnecessarily.

Predictive, condition-based maintenance solutions can improve on traditional maintenance strategies, leveraging pervasive wireless coverage to collect data from IoT sensors to feed asset management and advanced data analytics systems.

Conducting simulations with digital twins and augmented reality

O&G companies can create digital models (also called digital twins) of their physical environments using a broad range of geological, engineering and asset information, including data collected by drones, IoT sensors, cameras and the like. For example, drones can remotely and automatically survey, map and take volumetric measurements of a site and its equipment, such as wellheads, pipelines and storage tanks, making it possible to construct a 3D digital image of the infrastructure.

Once they’ve built these models, companies can run virtual simulations, providing the information they need to create better short- and long-term schedules, make accurate estimates for personnel and machine efforts, and predict what the end-product results will be.

The digital twins can even be used in augmented reality (AR) systems, providing off-site and on-site staff with real-time information and scenario simulations, while AR glasses can provide step-by-step instructions to service engineers.

Accelerating the energy transition

With renewable energy technologies experiencing spectacular growth in recent years, the O&G industry is feeling pressure from investors, consumers and governments to accelerate the energy transition and contribute to the climate targets set out in the Paris Agreement. As a result, companies have started decarbonizing and defossilizing their business to reposition themselves in the energy industry. They are investing in sustainable energy sources like biofuels, solar panels and wind turbines, as well as in energy efficiency technologies.

The good news: the same critical communications use cases apply just as well to renewables as they do to drilling operations, putting many fossil fuel energy players in a great position to make the transition and become sustainable energy innovators. The challenges associated with wind farm management, operations and maintenance, for example, are similar to challenges related to offshore platforms. To succeed with remote wind farms, operators will need a reliable communications infrastructure to keep vessels, workers, equipment, sensors and operations centers connected reliably and cost-effectively.

Digitalizing the value chain with Nokia critical communications

With a broad portfolio spanning private wireless, IP/MPLS routing, microwave backhaul, optical transport and a range of industrial communication devices, Nokia has the capability and flexibility to help O&G companies transform and automate their operations — and prepare for a safer, more sustainable digital future.

Download our infographic to learn more about the use cases enabled by our critical communications solutions.

Jaime Laguna

About Jaime Laguna

Jaime Laguna is the Global Practice Segment Leader for Oil & Gas and Mining. He has been working for Nokia for almost 20 years, most of them as a subject matter expert in the Energy Segment.
When he’s not at work, Jaime loves to be in the outdoors with his family, because nature is a wonderful place to have fun and to learn about simple but very important things.


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