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How Edge Computing and I/O Enhance Oil and Gas Operations

Aaron Smith
How Edge Computing and I/O Enhance Oil and Gas Operations

Oil and gas is a highly capital-intensive and price-sensitive industry. Typically, operators work in extreme environments that combine physical hazards and geographical isolation, making it a challenging space to run a business. Added to this, they face the twin problems of high competition and steadily decreasing demand owing to the focus on renewables. 

It’s not hard to understand why oil and gas companies could use some help to improve productivity at their facilities and stay competitive. Edge computing and I/O solutions are ideally placed to provide this support.

Insight Is Critical

Key to improving efficiency and boosting output is more insight into a facility’s operations. For instance, an understanding of the condition of drilling and refining equipment can help schedule appropriate maintenance pauses and prevent breakdowns. 

The good news is oil and gas facilities generate a tremendous amount of this data on a daily basis. A single rig can generate over one terabyte of data per day. However, less than one percent is correctly leveraged to produce insights. This is partly due to negligence and partly because operators don’t have the right technology solutions in place to generate this intelligence.

Traditionally, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms perform the role of analyzing data to provide actionable insights. They enable refinery managers to process data from across their facilities to help reduce costs, boost output, and make calculated business decisions. 

However, pulling the data from remote sites to control centers can take time—often days and weeks. Such a long interval can make the insights redundant by the time they’re available. This is where edge computing and I/O solutions come in. They can help speed up the acquisition and analysis of data to provide rig managers and business owners the information they need in real-time.

What Is Edge Computing?

Edge computing is a distributed IT architecture that allows for storage and computing of data much closer to the sources of data. This means on-site managers can analyze facility information as soon as it’s generated and access insights without delay. Advanced input/output (I/O) systems help support this process by pulling in data from numerous sources, which can then be analyzed holistically to provide a comprehensive picture to decision makers. Together, this helps executives improve response times and make informed decisions to level up productivity. 

This data is transmitted over secure networks which function with the help of industrial wireless radios. These are special devices which can facilitate data networks in remote and isolated spots where conventional cell service is hard to find and traditional satellite communication is too slow. 

These radios and I/O systems work in a wide range of environments, including in underground wellbores and across temperature ranges of -40° to +75°C. This helps rapidly transmit equipment data to edge computing systems situated in nearby control centers for analysis.

Benefits of Using Edge Computing and I/O for Oil and Gas

  • Real-Time Monitoring

The biggest advantage of edge computing is that it allows real-time data processing. As discussed earlier, running oil and gas facilities involves making a number of time-critical decisions. Without adequate and timely visibility, operators face a range of scenarios, from reduced output to downtime and even accidents. 

For instance, with real-time monitoring, you can accurately gauge pipeline pressure levels in underground wellbores. If it exceeds permissible parameters, managers can effect a shutdown and take measures to alleviate the pressure. 

  • Worker Safety and Efficiency

It goes without saying that oil rigs or drilling rigs are dangerous places to work. Employees have to contend with challenging physical environments, including rough seas and extreme temperatures, as well as the danger from the heavy machinery and combustible materials they have to handle. 

Edge computing can help alleviate these concerns by consistently monitoring equipment and personnel. For starters, remote monitoring of facilities reduces the necessity for manual supervision. What’s more, if systems become overburdened, managers are alerted in time to schedule maintenance. 

Continuous monitoring also helps cut down on operational missteps and improves employee efficiency, helping you get the most out of your facilities.

  • Reliability

Edge computing is a resilient technology that allows data processing even with patchy internet or cloud access. It also greatly reduces the latency inherent in data transmissions of this kind. 

Latency is the amount of time it takes for data to traverse the network. Excessive latency can create what you might call virtual traffic jams where the network isn’t working at capacity and the data takes time to reach its destination. Edge computing solves this problem by analyzing the data locally and reducing extended transmission time. 

  • Cybersecurity and Data Privacy

Edge computing systems are, by definition, more secure than conventional data processors since they’re distributed. This makes it easier to segment and protect the network from a cybersecurity perspective. 

Robust I/O solutions work in tandem with edge systems to provide advanced encryption and authentication mechanisms that protect the network layer from being breached and preserve the confidentiality of the information being transmitted.

It’s not far-fetched to say that the combination of edge computing and I/O has revolutionized the way information is processed and decisions are made at oil and gas facilities. They’re quickly becoming the norm for tricky drilling operations, particularly those in remote and challenging destinations where mainland support is not rapidly available. Oil and gas companies would do well to adopt these technologies to support new and existing operations in order to boost their productivity and add to their bottom lines.

Aaron Smith
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