Oil and natural gas is a billion-dollar industry and one of Canada’s largest and most significant. Around the world, producers are bouncing back from a challenging few years but further uncertainty is on the horizon. Looking ahead, governments globally and the public are increasingly scrutinizing the sector’s impact, specifically on its record regarding the environment and worker safety. Additionally, companies themselves are seeking to reduce costs while increasing production levels. Though it may seem an impossible task for even the most profitable businesses, industry leaders are considering an important tool to address some of these concerns: connectivity.
How does connectivity connect to oil and gas?
Like most other industries, oil and gas is under pressure to digitize. The move can help businesses reduce operating expenses while increasing their output. However, the sector has a unique challenge: location. Many operations can be quite isolated geographically, largely outdoors and massive in size, making connectivity difficult. However, there are custom solutions to address this concern and provide operations with fast and secure connectivity
Tackling the biggest industry challenges with connectivity
Challenge #1: Lowering cost
Most industries faced unique challenges during the pandemic of 2020 and the oil and gas industry was no exception. In fact, at one point, crude oil prices dipped below zero dollars per barrel.1 While demand has since returned to pre-pandemic levels, seasoned leaders know the industry is prone to regular dips and rises, making controlling costs a consistent concern.
Solution: Operational efficiency through proactivity
Following the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, the industry saw a resurgence in revenue, but operating expenses in Canada surged by almost 46% between 2020 and 20212, Many of these costs are inevitable, but, as with any industry, streamlining operations and taking proactive steps can significantly impact the bottom line. Key cost drivers typically include labor and equipment maintenance.
Automation is the key here. Within the exploration and production phases, connected devices and equipment can optimize tasks and produce consistent and accurate results around-the-clock. This transformation also frees employees to concentrate on value-added tasks while simultaneously reducing the risks associated with errors and workplace accidents. For instance, imagine automated diagnostics proactively monitoring equipment, preventing unexpected shutdowns and adding agility to processes, even in smaller-scale sites. As technology continues to evolve in the industry, the possibilities for practical applications are virtually boundless.
Challenge #2: Health and safety
Work in the industry can be dangerous and over the past two decades there’s been a handful of fatalities in Canada every year.3 Though the numbers have steadily declined since the early 2000s, the push towards a safer environment is a strong one. Safety concerns are one of the reasons both US and Canadian producers are struggling to fill job vacancies.4
Solution: The connected worker
Adding widespread and reliable connectivity to an operation can boost safety immediately. Facilitating instant voice and text communication through solutions on-site means easy access to updates and changes, including critical safety notices. Push To Talk and Lone worker solutions encompass a variety of features, all accessible with a single push of a button. These include individual and group calls with priority options, messaging capabilities that allow data transfer, voice recording functionality, GPS and in-house tracking systems, alarm and emergency response solutions, among others. This is particularly useful for lone workers, who are at a greater potential of danger.
Several operations have integrated wearable devices and video surveillance systems as part of their safety enhancements. Considering the close proximity of workers to potentially dangerous materials, these monitoring devices serve as critical safeguards by issuing early notifications to prevent chemical leaks and limit employee exposure. Additionally, the deployment of drones and other robotic technologies provides an aerial vantage point, allowing access to areas that are typically inaccessible to human personnel.
Challenge #2: Sustainability
Concerns about the environmental impact of the oil and gas industry have persisted for some time, but in recent years, there has been a significant drive to enhance sustainability, aligning with the global objective of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. While strides have been made in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity and methane emissions in locations like Alberta's oil sands, there remains a considerable journey ahead.
Solution: Monitoring and prevention
There are both simple and complex ways that connectivity can contribute to a more sustainable industry. A by-product of increased efficiency is a decrease in resources used, including water and energy. A well-organized site operating at optimal capability will use its resources accordingly. Data capture can be used to identify areas for improvement as well as potential environmental concerns.
Industry-specific monitoring tools can capture data along pipelines and other large, remote locations. Because sensors and devices can provide 24/7 reporting, producers can easily report and address, emissions, leaks and corrosion.
IoT devices can also detect localized weather and conditions, including humidity and vibrations, among other factors. These can be crucial to the safe operations of machinery and impact the quality of work.
Finding solutions through connectivity
Legacy connectivity options like Wi-Fi or wired connections are unable to provide the range and coverage required for remote, industrial operations. Kirkland Lake Gold’s Detour Mine, a little over three hours away from Timmins, utilizes a 5G Wireless Private Network, allowing for enhanced coverage, full redundancy and a low latency network across its 80-square-kilometre operation.
Wireless Private Networks are a tailor-made connectivity solutions designed to fit seamlessly into a business's unique environment. They are particularly useful for industrial environments that require automation, enhanced security, and a scalable number of devices and connected machinery.
McKinsey & Company estimates that advanced connectivity solutions could add up to $250 billion to the sector’s value by 20305 through both cost-savings and operational efficiency.
How advanced connectivity can fuel the future of the industry
It’s easy to imagine how increased communication can enable both safety and speed on a job site. Information and alerts can be sent to everyone in the area regarding safety concerns or schedule changes. Yet the benefits of a private cellular network extend well beyond the basics. Drones can conduct inspections and area sweeps faster and safer than any person. AI and ML s can detect problems early and avoid any costly or damaging mistakes that could threaten both staff and the environment.
Regardless of the degree of automation implemented, increased connectivity on a job site is a positive development and can help businesses withstand the next industry upheaval.
To learn more about WPN applications to speak to an expert, visit our website.