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Working in both the gas and oil industries can be an extremely dangerous occupation. In order to ensure a healthy and safe work environment, oil and gas companies are responsible for conducting periodic inspections; however, these inspections also come with their own share of risk to those involved. As a result, many oil and gas companies have turned to the use of drones to guarantee constant protection for the workers and inspectors of these two industries.
Traditional Gas and Oil Inspection Methods
All gas and oil companies conduct regular inspections in order to ensure the integrity of their systems, as well as to remain in compliance with the required regulations and codes.
Corrosion monitoring methods, for example, are often conducted in both oil and gas facilities to prevent the potential deterioration of metal surfaces present within these industrial systems. Exists Some of the methods used to assess corrosive environments within oil and gas facilities include electrochemical techniques that measure the electrochemical potential of the internal surface of the equipment. Many companies will also utilize ultrasonic inspection techniques to measure the wall thickness of their systems in order to assess the potentially corrosive environment.
In addition to preventing unnecessary machine downtime and unwanted repair costs, the inspection methods used by oil and gas companies are also critical in preventing health complications to exposed workers. The inhalation of the extremely toxic products formed within the gas and oil industry can cause devastating effects to these individuals. Some of the most common occupational health outcomes experienced by workers in these industries include silica-related lung disorders, benzene-related hematopoietic disease and noise-induced hearing loss.
Current Inspection Challenges
Oil and gas industries are considered to be two of the most dangerous industries for individuals to work in. Similarly, the occupational workers who are responsible for conducting asset inspections within these industries are also at great risk. For example, many asset inspections will require workers to utilize various climbing or suspension equipment to reach the roofs of different facilities. When these types of structures are not maintained well, the devastating effects of a fall or accident are inevitable.
Other types of accidents that can occur during these asset inspections can occur as a result of toxic gas and/or fume inhalation, as well as vehicle accidents when workers are traveling long distance and/or to remote areas. Since many of the fumes released by both the oil and gas industries are often flammable, there remains a significant risk of both workers and inspectors being exposed to and even seriously harmed by potential explosions.
In addition to the aforementioned safety concerns, the process of conducting oil and gas industry inspections can also be extremely costly to achieve. Furthermore, since facilities must shut down for the entirety of the inspection process, which can take anywhere from several days to several weeks, these companies will often end up losing millions of dollars in potential revenue as well.
In an effort to prevent unwanted injury and fatalities to workers and inspectors in both the oil and gas industries, many companies have turned to aerial intelligence as their source of inspection data. Drone-based inspections in these industries is achieved by sending out several unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) that are equipped with various visual and advanced sensors around the site to gather data on the different areas of interest. Data scientists can then analyze and interpret the data acquired buy these drones in order to identify any potential issues present on the oil or gas site.
To date, drone-based inspections in the gas and oil industries have provided information on the following conditions:
- Gas leaks
- Release of gas emissions
- Gas/oil spills
- Monitoring the safety of rigs and pipelines
Leaders in Drone Inspection
Precision Hawk is considered to be one of the leading companies that provides drones for oil and gas inspection purposes. In addition to providing their clients with credentialed pilots that will control the flight of all released drones, Precision Hawk also provides intuitive reporting services that aim to optimize the asset management program of any applied industry.
While Precision Hawk primarily provides the analytical benefits to understanding drone data, several technology companies have also been working towards developing specific drones that are optimal for heavy-duty industries. For example, Intel’s Falcon 8+ is often utilized within the gas and oil industry as a result of its long flight time, durable exterior that can withstand powerful winds and magnetic field interference, triple redundant autopilot features and 180-degree view.
Companies like Cyberhawk have depended upon the Falcon 8+ for various oil and gas inspection procedures. In fact, a recent inspection conducted by Cyberhawk in Fergus, Scotland was completed in just over a day, which was comparable to the typical three-day period required for this type of experiment. The Scottish gas company estimates that the use of this drone-based inspection saved them an estimated $5 million USD each day.
Sources and Further Reading
- Hedges, B., Papavinasam, S., & Knox, T. (2015). Monitoring and Inspection Techniques for Corrosion in Oil and Gas Production. Corrosion. 15-19.
- “7 Facts That Make the Oil and Gas Asset Inspections Risky and Costly” – Industrial Skyworks
- Witter, R. Z., Tenney, L., Clark, S., & Newman, L. S. (2014). Occupational Exposures in the Oil and Gas Extraction Industry: State of the Science and Research Recommendations. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 57(7); 847-856. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22316.
- “For oil and gas companies, drones offer safe, cost-saving inspection” – Quartz
- “Drone-Based Inspections For Oil & Gas” – Precision Hawk