DRONES IN OIL AND GAS - PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES OF AERIAL INSPECTION
Some of the largest oil and gas companies around the world deploy unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, to address a wide variety of operational challenges. This rapidly improving technology, along with advances in big data and artificial intelligence, is poised to transform the O&G industry. That is because the aerial intelligence provided by drones offers several key benefits, including making inspections safer and helping companies comply with regulatory requirements — while saving them millions of dollars in labor, remediation, and other costs.
Drones provide practical, economical solutions for upstream, midstream, and downstream operations. These rugged, remote-operated UAV’s can maneuver effortlessly around flare stacks, oil rigs and underdecks, as well as above new construction sites and along miles of pipeline. They enable operators & inspection companies to discard reactive measures and adopt proactive approaches to leak detection and other maintenance and compliance processes. Drones are an indispensable high-tech tool for O&G operators, streamlining many current industry practices. Read on to learn:
• The key workflows where drones provide value
• The benefits drones deliver oil and gas companies
• How today’s oil and gas innovators are putting drones to work
• How to get started with drones and Apex Mapping LLC
Putting Drones to Work in the Field
Drones are the perfect solution for making visual inspections of infrastructure and gathering extensive data. An increasing number of O&G companies use drones to perform three basic industry functions — pipeline inspection and monitoring, oil well and rig inspection, and surveying and construction monitoring — at a significantly lower cost than ground, manned aircraft or helicopter inspection crews.
Pipeline Inspection and Monitoring
By taking photos and videos of above-ground pipelines, drones allow inspectors in
the field or engineers in a remote location to view pipes, either in real time or later.
The operator can zero in on areas of concern to gather additional information and, if necessary, recommend that a ground crew visually check the area.
To detect potential underground leaks, drones take photos along pipeline routes. User-friendly software combines these images, creating high-resolution vegetation maps that identify plant kill-off zones, which may indicate a leak. Equipping a drone with an infrared (IR) camera provides an additional way to inspect pipelines: Thermal imagery of pipeline routes reveal hot spots, which may indicate potential defects in pipeline insulation or leaks invisible to the human eye.
Drone images also detect anomalies along a pipeline network or any encroachments, such as construction or roadwork, on a right-of-way that could threaten the integrity of the pipeline. In case of significant leaks, explosions or other emergency situations, drones provide real-time video to help emergency response teams assess the situation before sending in crews.
Oil Well and Rig Inspection
O&G companies also use drones to photograph oil wells and offshore rigs throughout the initial drilling process. Once the well is operating, drones efficiently monitor operations. For example, they provide a close-up look at a flare stack while it’s in service. That provides a real benefit to the traditional approach: shutting down the flare system and assigning an inspector to climb the stack to examine it. In this case, a drone inspection saves weeks of physical inspection preparation and avoids significant loss of productivity and revenue due to an operational shutdown.
Drone inspections help companies prevent health, safety, and environmental (HSE) events, allowing them to address operational issues without sending employees into dangerous zones. Drones also provide easy surveillance of remote or hard-to-reach assets, such as storage tanks.
Surveying and Construction Monitoring
O&G companies also use drones to photograph oil wells and offshore rigs throughout the initial drilling process. Once the well is operating, drones help monitor operations. For example, they provide a close-up look at a flare stack while it’s in service. That provides a real benefit to the traditional approach: shutting down the flare system and assigning an inspector to climb the stack to examine it. In this case, a drone inspection saves weeks of physical inspection preparation and avoids significant loss of productivity and revenue due to an operational shutdown.
Drone inspections help companies prevent HSE events, allowing them to address operational issues without sending employees into dangerous zones. Drones also provide easy surveillance of remote or hard-to-reach assets, such as storage tanks.
Drones provide extremely precise aerial intelligence that simplifies and improves a wide range of O&G workflows. Whether inspecting hundreds of miles of oil pipelines for leaks, helping employees keep operations in compliance with regulations or enabling companies to construct infrastructure more efficiently, agile and flexible UAVs have quickly become a go-to tool for operators around the world.5
Drones automate inspection workflows, making them faster, safer and less expensive. They enable O&G companies to spend fewer resources on surveying and monitoring, so employees are able to focus their time and efforts on deeper analyses of data from drones and other sources.
Drones are part of the larger trend toward the automation of tasks in the O&G industry. Automation will allow companies to make better decisions, reduce costs and produce energy products more efficiently.
2. IoT World Today, “Higher Standards: How Automated Drones Are Improving Oil and Gas Inspections,” www.iotworldtoday.com/2018/07/25/higher-standards-how-automated-drones-are-improving-oil-and-gas- inspections.
3. DroneDeploy, “Drones Simplify Early Detection of Pipeline Leaks,” https://blog.dronedeploy.com/drones- simplify-early-detection-of-pipeline-leaks-ccf5cc6805bb
4. DroneDeploy, Drone Mapping at the Largest Oil Storage Facility in North America, https://blog.dronedeploy. com/drone-mapping-at-the-largest-oil-storage-facility-in-north-america-7f134866d31a.
5. Frost & Sullivan, “Application of Drones and Robots in Oil and Gas Industry – A Cost Effective and Safe Method of Inspection and Surveillance,” ww2.frost.com/frost-perspectives/application-drones-and-robots-oil- and-gas-industry-cost-effective-and-safe-method-inspection-and-surveillance.
Download presentation from DroneDeploy here: https://www.dronedeploy.com/resources/ebooks/drones-in-oil-and-gas-inspection/
For more information about how Apex Mapping LLC can help your orginization integrate drones into your operations or for a quote for field services contact:
Operations Manager / FAA Part 107 Certified Remote Pilot
API 1169 Certified Pipeline Inspector