2015 has been a tumultuous time for the oil and gas industry. Not only have depressed commodity prices created a state of uncertainty, but pressure on the employment sector of the industry is coming from many directions. On the one hand, companies are forced to rationalize headcount in line with operating levels and bottom line economics. They also have the opposing need to recruit and train new sources of skilled labor as a significant level of the existing workforce is at the threshold of retirement. This situation seems a bit precarious, but there is hope in the emerging field of automation.
How Can Automation Assist in Oilfields?
Automation can be a contentious subject in labor circles. One school of thought advocates there are many human processes which simply cannot be automated, and that automation could trigger future shortages of critical skilled labor. The opposing school of thought believes that automation can provide services which have simply gone undone by humans, increasing productivity, which will lead to a new epoch of labor efficiency.
The truth lies, without a doubt, in the second school of thought.
One of the most important areas that can be improved by automation is that of oilfield security. Industry professionals acknowledge oilfield theft is a pervasive and serious issue, and the industry loses significant amounts of equipment and supplies each year. Automation can improve the security of an oilfield in a variety of ways, whether through automated surveillance systems or cloud-enabled security systems that enables security officers to control gates from anywhere they can access the internet. These types of services could stand to revolutionize the process of monitoring and securing the oilfield, and put a huge dent in oilfield theft.
Automation Maximizes Protection and Profit
What oil and gas automation offers to the oilfield process is much greater than just security from theft. It also offers something arguably more pragmatic; protecting your workforce from the risks and hazards endemic of the oilfield. Oilfield accidents do occur and can be both costly and detrimental. Automation offers risk reduction and protection against that possibility by helping to reduce human oversight.
There are a variety of monitoring processes that can be automated which will greatly increase the safety of oilfield activities. One of the most important processes that are being automated is remote methane leak detection. Gas emissions, especially rogue methane emissions, are a growing regulatory concern and production hazard. In many cases, these leaks occur as an accidental oversight. Automation and control systems greatly reduce this risk by providing several different monitoring methods that detect and address leaks and emissions before they escalated into a more serious problems.
There are also benefits in oil and gas automation which simply reduce cost. Monitoring of equipment such as pump jacks, tanks, PLCs, compressors and the workplace environment have historically been very difficult, thanks in part to the fact that oilfields are located in remote locales. Automated monitoring systems can accomplish all of this without the need for any additional manpower, which saves cost by catching errors before they occur.
Is Oil and Gas Automation the Future?
As the industry continues to navigate through this difficult time, it is more important than ever to manage costs, increase efficiency and productivity, and provide a safe and secure work environment. These tasks can easily be handled by automated systems, which we’ll be seeing adopted more and more frequently as time passes.
There is little doubt that automation is the future of oilfield production, not simply due to increased safety, but also due to the reduced cost. In fact, there is virtually nothing about automation which does not improve the quality of operation in an oilfield situation. The earlier these systems are adopted, the sooner the benefits will start to reveal themselves. We’ll be seeing more and more attention on this, especially as companies such as PetroCloud continue to innovate the business of oilfield automation.