Digitalization is being used by many critical industries to bring operations into the modern age with the goal of improving efficiency, productivity, and safety across all aspects of the business.
In order to implement digital transformation, the communication infrastructure must address many unique challenges. It is very important to track the motion of moving parts in refineries, which are vast outdoor environments.
Several technologies, all at varying stages of modernization, support these complex, sprawling installations, further complicating the already fragile digital transformation projects some digital oil and gas solutions companies are embarking upon.
A reliable, powerful, and secure network is crucial to transforming the oil and gas industry.
LTE private networks may meet immediate business needs while building the groundwork for a smooth transition to 5G and beyond, offering IT and OT executives a single network to manage rather than many different technologies.
This will create value by increasing drilling and production throughput, improving maintenance and field operations, and optimizing drilling and production.
Primary Network for Centralizing and Future-Proofing Operations
A mix of technologies may always be present in oil and gas facilities, given how complicated they are.
In contrast, a powerful 3GPP-based mobile network, on 4G/LTE or 5G, can act as the system’s primary network, connecting different things like the Internet or hard-wired devices into a cohesive system that can be monitored and controlled from a central point.
IT and OT managers are forced to manage more unconnected systems over a patchwork of separate and unconnected network technologies. Various technologies need to be updated, subscriptions and maintenance may be required, and workers need to be trained on each.
As the primary network, a private cellular network can simplify network administration and provide seamless connections to other technologies – for example, a cellular network could terminate a Wi-Fi access point or even use Ethernet cables for applications that require wired connections (without having to run cables throughout the facility).
The advantages of wireless networks include cost-effectiveness, scalability, and superior coverage. LTE radios, for instance, can typically cover an area up to four times larger than Wi-Fi access points.
In addition to having the capability of supporting high device density, LTE small cell radios can handle more than 800 devices simultaneously, unlike Wi-Fi access points, which can only manage up to 50 devices.
Three to eight LTE radio nodes can provide connectivity to a refinery covering three to four square miles of territory rather than tens or even hundreds of Wi-Fi access points.
Private networks will play a significant role in the digitalization of oil and gas, ensuring confidentiality onsite and self-contained, limiting its vulnerability to malicious actors, thanks to increased scrutiny on important infrastructure, the safety, and encryption developed into the 3GPP standards, and proven robust commercial network deployments.
Powering Innovation with Reliable, Secure Connectivity
It is possible for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to revolutionize the industrial landscape – but it will only happen if there is a robust, reliable network in place. By leveraging the advantages of LTE and especially 5G, oil and gas companies can develop exciting IIoT use cases.
Workers will have instant access to schematics and maintenance records via mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, and wearables. This will speed up their work and reduce mistakes.
With the use of drones that can perform remote inspections, inspection times could be reduced by 90 percent, and manual inspection costs could be reduced by 65 percent.
Maintenance techs will be able to address issues without being on-site with hands-free voice and video calls or AR/VR goggles, so operations will resume more quickly.
A private cellular network’s superior accessibility will improve worker safety beyond productivity measures. Remotely operated devices like automated guided vehicles (AGVs) and drones can quickly cover enormous areas and can be used in situations where human labor can’t or wouldn’t be safe.
In addition, connectivity through the IIoT might be able to reduce the environmental impact of oil and gas companies. Monitoring fugitive emissions, methane leaks, and corrosion can be avoided with sensor networks that utilize private cellular networks.
These networks’ near-real-time data flows will also help employees to diagnose the condition like leaks sooner, as well as more energy-efficient use of common manufacturing assets like frequency drives, compressors, and electric motors.
Potential Value of Digitalization
Apart from the need to improve productivity, the industry is also facing many other pressures at the same time – from streamlining operations to improving worker safety, as well as hardening systems to protect against cyberattacks, all while more and more aspects of day-to-day operations are digitizing.
Managing and coordinating disparate technologies in oil and gas facilities requires a primary communication network, which allows companies to innovate today and in the future and drive new value.