Small-to-medium-sized oil and gas companies understand what it takes to be agile. They must survive and thrive in an industry led by giant producers. While no recipe to success is the same, the smaller players need to maximize production while simultaneously keeping costs down if they want to compete in the market. By adopting technology solutions that will make them agile and effective, these organizations can secure fast and significant ROI, while meeting production and operations demands. However, technology selection in a constantly changing landscape is murky at best.
Take an operations manager at a small oil and gas company, for example. They are likely tasked with ensuring that operations are running smoothly at the wellhead while delivering critical data back to the business office in real time. It seems simple enough, but the operator is probably facing constant pressure to provide insights into their production sites and new solutions for operational efficiencies. At the same time, the IT team wants monitoring at the well pad 24/7/365, and they want to access that data whenever they please from anywhere.
Perhaps, they have attempted to tack on several different technology solutions to help provide said data – but the new demands require a more sophisticated approach. The pressure is on to find a way to optimize data collection, monitoring and control of the assets in the field (including the communications network) or the company won’t be able to compete with the “always on” oil and gas producers.
The good news is that there is hope. There are programmable wireless communication solutions for the well pad that are available today. With a little research, it is possible to find a rugged, easy to use solution that will deliver massive ROI.
What Does Well Pad Automation Look Like?
In modern oil and gas operations, well pad automation builds analytics and intelligence into the wellhead environment. This takes a step beyond traditional communications because it enables intelligent applications and programmability that establish an advanced operating environment. Automation can also present the opportunity for predictive analytics, remote command and control, new protocol translations, and modern cloud-based services at the wellhead.
Automation helps an operator streamline their job and provides the IT decision makers with data that helps them understand daily operations. Automation technology makes this possible by powering data transmission, improving data quality and enabling intelligent data analysis. The oil and gas company then has the power to make informed decisions that drive higher production outputs, with ROI often achieved in a matter of months, along with substantially lower CAPEX.
Bringing an Automated Monitoring System All Under One Roof
The financial and business benefits of industrial automation are clear, however selecting technology solutions can be challenging. Operations managers need a wireless communication solution that can support next generation of well pad automation needs. The solution must include a combination of data monitoring, logic execution and data visualization. This is especially beneficial at the well pad sites that are remote and isolated. The big advantage today is that these decision makers are no longer limited to disparate technology solutions:
Automated Monitoring Systems establish Wi-Fi at the wellhead to enable voice, video, sensor data access and perimeter security. They can also leverage Wi-Fi for rapid maintenance across the wellhead, saving maintenance staff hours of time. Instead of driving to the remote wellhead, they are now troubleshooting issues from a truck or office. Wi-Fi also supports the collection of information from RFID devices and wearable devices designed to protect workers in the field.
When the Wi-Fi is bridged with a Radio Frequency (RF) solution, particularly Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) technology, the data can then be collected from tank farms, PLCs, and sensors on the well and within the well. The wireless intelligence that is located on the devices in the sensor network, enables local execution on the RF devices, which supports data storage or data collection and analysis. Through cloud-based services, the data can be published globally, allowing mobile access from virtually anywhere. Additionally, an automated monitoring system may enable wireless telemetry in hazardous environments through modular wireless I/O solutions that leverage sensors to monitor specific points along the wellhead.
With built in programmability on top of Wi-Fi and RF technology, the automated monitoring system is not only optimizes today’s operations, but it prepares the organization for the future as industries shift towards digital technology and total connectivity. For example, an engineer can write a simple application using open source technologies like Node-RED and Python that will display a dashboard of real-time data from the well pad as it collects information from sensors. The organization could also automate tank-level monitoring by developing or leveraging a third-party application to monitor water levels in the remote tanks from the cloud – which would then be accessible anywhere with a wireless internet connection.
Benefits that Stretch Beyond ROI
Automation at the well pad not only leads to ROI through wireless automated monitoring and control, but it has the power to transform operations and streamline production. When a small-to-medium-sized oil and gas producer leverages automation, they can make highly intelligent decisions through the technology features that enable enhanced monitoring, logic execution and visualization. They can also leverage these solutions to create a more secure operating environment and communications network. These solutions note only benefit the operators today, but they prepare them for future technology needs.