A global expert in telecommunication, Dennis Stipati talks about how today’s energy companies are doing more with the same amount of resources and how FreeWave sees the future for smart oil fields.
A true industrial transformation is taking place as we speak. Connected devices delivering data to technicians and managers through the internet – what we all know as the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – are transforming efficiency and productivity for forward-thinking energy companies. Oftentimes, wells are located many miles apart in extreme weather conditions or might even be offshore on an oil rig. Through digitalization, oil and gas leaders are implementing innovative strategies to do more with the same amount of people and resources while increasing overall safety and environmental sustainability.
Here, we explore the impact of IIoT in the oil and gas sector with FreeWave’s Senior Director of Strategic Accounts, Dennis Stipati.
Q: The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is significantly impacting every industry; what are the top problems IIoT is solving for energy companies??
Dennis: From the operations side of things, being more efficient and increasing revenue is huge. Over the last year or two, there’s been a lot going on in our world. There’s not enough gas, not enough oil, and on top of that, we’re trying to get the oil and gas that we do have to the right places. That’s where IIoT steps in, helping us increase revenue and improve efficiency within operations.
For example, if a drilling rig is down for a short period of time, that oil company could lose millions of dollars, potentially. It’s important to be able to remotely control the different sensors on that oil rig so that downtime is decreased and productivity and overall revenue is increased.
That’s one benefit. On the other end, IIoT also impacts the overall safety of workers on the field and the surrounding environment. In the past, oil operators weren’t able to get the type of detailed operational information that we have access to today, and this data makes a big difference in reducing safety hazards on the field. With the right equipment in place, we can see when machine parts need to be replaced before their end of life. We can also virtually measure the amount of oil that’s coming through the pipelines and see if there are any leaks or dangerous chemical exposures before a crisis arises.
IIoT also helps us control the day-to-day management of our operations from anywhere in the world, which leads to greater sustainability. Say there’s a methane leak of some sort. We can now respond to a situation like this immediately instead of after hundreds of thousands of gallons have been released into the environment. A decrease in environmental hazards means a safer and more sustainable world for all of us.
At the end of the day, what IIoT really helps us create is a smarter network. With the right equipment in place, oil operators can manage changes on the field from virtually anywhere in the world, no matter if it’s a change flow, tank pressure, or even the temperature. With a smarter network, these decisions can be made on the edge.
Q: How does the use of IIoT in the oil and gas industry impact the everyday person?
Dennis: IIoT in oil and gas is important for a number of reasons, but the biggest thing most people pay attention to is gas prices. Whether it’s filling up their car or paying for natural or propane gas, this is an industry that affects all of us. It’s important for oil operators to be as efficient as they can so that they can make a profit and then pass along those cost savings to everyday consumers so that we can continue to do the things that make up our daily lives.
Q: What FreeWave products are currently being used in the oil and gas industry?
Dennis: It seems like every day, a new app is invented to help make our lives easier. I think FreeWave products function in the same way. Our IIoT solutions, including Zumlink™, ZumEdge®, Fusion™ Bridge radios along with our FreeWave Edge software platform, help our customers operate with greater efficiency and make better decisions on the edge. We currently have our products right on the drilling rigs. A lot of times, these platforms are fairly large, and they’ll have five or six radios on a drilling rig, maybe even more, that are wirelessly interconnected.
Our products are also used on the pipeline to measure the flow of the natural gas going through that pipeline as well as the temperature. Some of our radios are used in the terminals to connect a tank to the back office or monitor a fracking pond to make sure there are no leaks. Honestly, I feel like every week, I learn a new way a customer uses our products. You think you know it all, and then someone else comes back and shares a different way they are using our solutions within their remote operation.
Q: As you look at the future, and the role of IIoT within it, what excites you the most?
Dennis: The common theme I keep seeing in technology is automation. Our population here in North America and even in Europe is decreasing. Recently, I read a report that said there are two jobs available for every person that’s looking for employment. How do we fix that? Automation. The more we use IIoT, the more we can make better decisions without human intervention. Machine learning, autonomy at the edge, and computerized systems, these things all make a big difference in the day-to-day management of our operations.
I think we forget just how much more efficient and productive our lives are today because of technology. When I look at my life and think about the evolution of basic TV to streaming services or the transformation of the bag phone to the iPhone, I’m really amazed at how far we’ve come in such a short time span. The future is here, and technology is only going to continue to accelerate it.
We’re really living in some fun and exciting times. There’s been so much progress just over the past 10 years, and I think more of us need to take a step back, appreciate that and embrace the future.