How IoT is Revolutionizing the Oil & Gas Industry

More than just a buzzword, the Internet of Things is the future of oil testing.

(4 minute read)

Machine learning, artificial intelligence, internet of things – these concepts have been floating around for the past few years, promising to revolutionize every industry. Tech junkies and investors alike have been strategizing about them for some time, and therein lies the problem. Innovative technology is only truly innovative when it’s working. Today, we’re starting to see more than just the shimmering promise of innovation, we’re seeing these technologies in action, in relevant places in the industry. One such example is the use of Internet of Things (or IoT) in industrial oil testing.

Just to make sure we’re entirely on the same page, let’s ensure our understanding of Internet of Things is aligned. IoT, at its core, is a network of devices (and people) connected by the internet. The information-based relationships, which ideally, lead to action, can be between people-people, things-things, and people-things. Now, imagine the potential impact this could have in industrial applications – especially in the Oil & Gas industry.

Example: Let’s say your bedroom lights were connected to your smartphone. If you forgot to turn them off, you’d get a notification letting you know that the lights were left on at a time when they were usually off. Based on this information, you could choose to turn off your lights through your smartphone. Alternatively, you could set up your system to automatically turn off your lights whenever you’ve left them on, without distracting you with a notification. At the end of the month, you could view how much energy you had saved with your new system, and compare it to previous months.

You’re probably thinking: “That’s nice, but why would an IoT platform be beneficial to testing when there already are secure SCADA systems that offer real-time visibility? Or lab services that can conduct testing for me?” Here’s a question to ask yourself: What are you doing with all the data you currently get? Are you keeping track of it? Are you making real-time corrections or decisions based on it? Technology is not meant to complicate and clutter our lives, it’s meant to help us simplify and prioritize what we already have in them.

This visibility you’re getting from your current testing operations is only actionable if the data:

  1. Is given to you in the right place, at the right time,
  2. Can be interpreted by someone with a level of expertise you have available, and,
  3. Is trustworthy – is it comparable to a definitive reference value, or the values before it?

Currently, SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) systems and in-line instruments are suited for delivering large volumes of real-time plant process data. However, the benefits of the visibility that SCADA systems offer are undermined when there are suspicions surrounding the accuracy of the readings. Third-party lab testing services come with interpretations made by expert technicians, but aren’t very timely. Neither of these data systems allow information to be accessed in the same place, or show data with contextual reference values – and that’s where an IoT testing solution really shines.

“Technology is not meant to complicate and clutter our lives, it’s meant to help us simplify and prioritize what we already have in them.”

An IoT testing platform can connect multiple sources of data, including lab devices, in-line hardware, SCADA systems, and third-party lab reports. This data can be consolidated to form a global repository of information, connected live at all times. This repository enables endless solutions, including:

  • Complete visibility across all locations of all testing hardware and data inputs
  • An audit trail built to verify real-time readings
  • Centralizing lab testing expertise while supporting distributed operations
  • Context while analyzing data from different sources
  • Capability to make automatic decisions and actions based on approved data parameters (i.e. instrument calibration)

From a scientific perspective, the audit trail an IoT platform can facilitate is known as a metrological traceability chain: a sequence of measurement standards and calibrations that is used to relate a measurement result to a reference (in other words, proof that your SCADA works, and has been working).

Let’s go back to that “leaving your bedroom light on” example from earlier. A fully-functional IoT system implemented in industrial oil testing would mean that:

  1. You could be notified if your data results stray from the norm,
  2. Connected hardware could take these results and automatically make corrections to the system,
  3. All your historical (and live) testing data could be viewed, in aggregate, on the internet-connected platform of your choice (i.e. computer or smartphone).

Take a moment to envision what your oil testing would look like with this tech in your tool box. The Energy Conference Network has predicted that technological innovations, like IoT, will soon be common practice in the Oil & Gas industry. A quick look at their upcoming events shows a plethora of conferences with a focus on innovative tech implementation in energy companies. What does the future of your oil testing look like?

Interested in learning how Validere tackles oil testing using innovative technologies like IoT? Download our Overview Brochure outlining our solutions and how they are implemented.

This article was co-authored by Sami Zakaria and Elizabeth de Roode. 

Sami Zakaria