Oil and gas is a highly volatile industry and one can’t be too safe here. The complexities, risks, and scale involved in this industry is immense. For one, pipelines are vast- spanning thousands of miles. Second, they offer potential exposure to hazardous chemicals. And third, production platforms are often remote and inaccessible, for example, in deep water and arctic environments.
However, it is vital to routinely execute maintenance and surveillance activities to avoid leaks, production outages, and unplanned shutdowns. All of which are dangerous and harmful.
Conventional methods of inspecting oil and gas assets are risk-filled and time-intensive. The usual manner of roustabouts, engineers, and EHS professionals manually visiting assets, walking pipelines, and taking notes on a clipboard or mobile device is no longer the best way of doing it.
Now, using drones, you can get better data, faster. Sophisticated drones could soon be surveying hard-to-reach places with their agility to navigate complex assets and dangerous terrain, eliminating risks and saving a lot of time as well as money in the process.
At the end of the day, the impact of commercial drones could be $82 billion and a 100,000 job boost to the U.S. economy by 2025, according to AUVSI.
Why Drone-Based Inspections?
Stating the obvious here, drone inspection enables access to otherwise inaccessible structures and details, offering immediate action as an alternative to the time consuming and expensive inspection methods like rope access, sky-lifts, cherry pickers, and scaffolding. Specifically, these are some of the merits of drone-based inspections, particularly to the oil & gas industry.
1. Decrease costs and time
Automating leads to reduced labor costs. While an aerial inspection of pipelines using helicopters costs approximately $3,000 for an hour of operations, the alternative of drone-based inspections can reduce these costs significantly. Moreover, accuracy through the use of multiple sensors on the same platforms is truly unmatched.
Drone inspection is a proven cost-effective alternative to other inspection techniques. Furthermore, the ability to inspect equipment while it is live means no asset shutdown is required and cost savings can run into seven figures.
2. Eliminate safety risks
Perhaps even a more persuasive defense in the favor of drone-based inspection is the undeniable fact that exposure to risks and safety concerns are at an all-time low with this method.
In addition, drones come handy in areas that have been exposed to contamination or are potential security threats. Drones can explore these areas and even deliver supplies without exposing employees to the associated risks.
3. Avoid shut-downs and increase productivity
It is vital in the energy sector to keep refineries and rigs up and running, thereby ensuring the flow of product to customers. Drones come in handy by avoiding unnecessary shut-downs or reducing the disruption to operations— which keep oil and gas moving.
Until now, methods of surveying, detecting, and locating leaks in the oil and gas fields have been inefficient, risky, and expensive. Workers have risked their lives to climb high-rising stacks and inspections have caused lengthy activity shutdowns. Drones are a cost-effective and safe solution to all of these problems.
Drone inspection removes or at least limits the risks presented to personnel through working at height, in hazardous areas, in confined spaces or overside working.
4. Remote monitoring and surveillance is made possible
Inspecting unmanned platforms is made simpler with the advent of drones. Drones can provide a 360-degree view for monitoring field operations.This covers infrastructure, equipment, tankers and trucks, and other assets. They can also observe the progress of facilities that are under construction, and provide encroachment detection.
Use Cases Of Drone-Based Inspections In Oil And Gas
- Oil Spill And Damage Detection
Oil spills can result in massive damages that are best avoided. The right sensors equip drones to measure and quantify oil spills, with the ability to assess where the oil is spreading, how quickly it is moving in the water and the specific areas it has reached. This real-time information can determine where to send response vessels and recovers time previously spent on the process of damage detection.
- Flare Stack Inspection
Day in and day out, the drone-based inspection method is super effective to address flare stack inspection. Drones can capture accurate data in five days while it could take up to eight weeks with human inspectors.
- Emergency response
Drones can provide a bird’s eye view of developments in the event of an industrial accident or a natural disaster. Real-time drone imagery and video analytics can also assist in mapping oil spills or fire incidents, enabling companies in coordinating emergency response and directing resources to the right places while ensuring personnel safety.
- Oil Pipeline inspection
The most economical type of platform for the inspection, drones can effortlessly handle thousands of miles of pipelines transporting oil and gas around the world.
Constant monitoring helps reduce the potential for undetected leaks, which can have catastrophic impacts like fires and explosions. Oil and gas leaks can be detected with thermal imaging as the temperature differences between fluid and soil can be picked up easily.
- Offshore Oil And Gas Platform Inspection
Lengthy shutdowns can damage efficiency and operations are forced to go offline, an unfavorable condition that can be completely eliminated by using drones.
Drones use HD video and still imagery which can be sent real-time and from all angles – vital information to be used to assess and plan necessary work in advance.
Now that we’ve discussed how drone inspections can improve inspection efficiency and prevent failures before they occur, let’s look at how to proceed.
Aesthetix has been a household name in the Oil & gas industry and we have partnered with some of the best in the game. We have an in-house team of experts and a proven track record of completing time-bound, high-risk projects to the utmost satisfaction of our clients. Aesthetix operates in some of the world’s most demanding industrial environments and we’ve been completing projects successfully with constant precision and experience.
All said and done, Aesthetix has all the expertise required to conduct close visual and thermal inspections and surveys of high, live and difficult to reach structures using drones. As well as conducting complex drone inspections, we also empower our clients with drone-captured data and digitized reports for more informed decision-making, clarity in communication, and higher efficiency in budgeting and planning.
Reach out to the Aesthetix team and let us help you!