Asset Protection

The industrial Internet has arrived for the energy sector with great potential to deliver significant impacts through productivity and asset health. With the advances in technology and infrastructure, the industrial Internet is no longer something that resembles a science fiction plot. The reality is industrial assets are now connected to powerful networks, communications systems and security platforms – uniting machines and people through big data analytics. 

Today, the “digital oilfield” and the “smart electric grid” are proving the power of the “Internet of things” by delivering real savings and productivity. In fact, it is estimated that the industrial Internet could add $10 trillion to $15 trillion to the global GDP in the next 20 years.

Traditionally, big data analytics are associated with rotating assets connected to sensors that continuously deliver large data volumes. The aviation and power generation sectors were the first industrial Internet adopters. Those pioneers used insights from their jet engines or compressor stations to assess the condition of large asset fleets, and applied analytics to increase productivity and efficiency or reduce maintenance costs.

The energy sector found a way to leverage big data analytics by learning from other segments. The healthcare industry, for example, has connected hospitals with large assets, fleets of equipment and a vast database of patient information. That connected environment not only drives productivity, but also better patient care, reduces diagnosis error and empowers doctors to make better and faster healthcare decisions. The rail industry is applying similar big data technologies to optimize the capacity of their networks while improving the safe operation of trains and rails. 

‘Big Data’ for Pipelines

For the pipeline industry, the challenge is not one of sensing technology; those fundamental components are already in place. Today, meters and sensors monitor inputs and outputs, such as pressure, flow and compressor condition. New sensors, such as fiber optics, ultrasonic and acoustics, can monitor movement, corrosion and impact to the pipeline. The challenge is the growing amount of data companies need to manage throughout their pipeline networks. Continuous internal and external data streams, in-line inspection assessments, integrity calculations, weather and soil conditions, and excavation activities are just a few examples of the growing sets of big data information. An average 65-mile pipeline segment can generate more than 35 gigabytes of data. That is more than a thousand terabytes of data for the global transmission network every year.

To address that data challenge, three additional factors beyond sensors need to be available for the development of the industrial Internet for pipelines:

    + Advanced analytics – With new data standards and technical architectures, assets from different OEMs and different data sources can be integrated and analyzed.
    + System platforms – New software infrastructure specifically designed for each industry gets smarter with more data.
    + Business processes – New processes unlock the value of big data decision-making.

Thanks to the increased investment in industrial Internet capabilities for the oil and gas sector – and a higher level of integration inside industry-leading companies – access to those three additional factors is now available to the pipeline industry. The new solutions built around integrated capabilities are well positioned to become primary decision-support tools.

A Change in Pipeline Management 

With access to integrated data in a common architecture, information becomes more accurate and timely, introducing a new pace to existing processes. The industrial Internet enables a significant shift to proactive operations and introduces the concept of “near-real-time,” combining continuous, periodic and static data.

A common platform allows pipeline companies to bring convergence across the different departments by integrating all the available data into a single digital system. That allows operating teams to manage not only the linear asset, but all the associated assets, resources and processes around it, as well as any sources of external information. This capability is called “shared situational awareness.” 

The use of modern software and visualization also provides for a better user experience for desktop or mobile applications. By simplifying the operator’s tasks and making the use of the system more action-oriented, operations can be streamlined and completed more efficiently.

The new pace of information brings a dramatic change in the way integrity and risk management can be done. Traditionally, integrity assessments are adjusted periodically or reactively. With the current analytic capabilities, risk factors can be monitored in near-real-time and risk assessment methodologies can be adjusted as conditions change. That allows integrity teams to anticipate preventive or corrective actions and managers to ensure efficient resource allocation. Big data analytics can augment and speed up proven processes, driving better decisions to reduce the likelihood and consequence of failure.

Ultimately, the bigger benefits of the industrial Internet for pipelines are delivered through advanced analytics that enhance existing engineering capabilities. As an example, with the partnership between solution providers and operators, it is now possible to develop algorithms to monitor typical and atypical risk factors based on existing risk assessment methods. Simple and fast what-if scenarios provide pipeline engineers with potential risk probability and impact calculators, allowing them to formulate maintenance and repair options on demand. Ultimately, that helps them choose the safest and most economical scenario. 

Safer Outcomes

Pipeline operators are constantly challenged to efficiently meet increasing throughput requirements while ensuring the safety of the infrastructure and the environment and people around it. The industrial Internet is set to become a fundamental part in addressing this challenge, as it has the capacity to ensure timely, relevant and accurate information to drive better operational decisions that lead to safer operations and increased productivity. 

The industrial Internet brings to pipelines transformative digital technologies to improve business practices and functional roles and responsibilities, driving enhanced safety and optimized efficiency. Ultimately, by leveraging the data at their fingertips, operators will be able to make better decisions for safer outcomes.

Mauricio Palomino (@MauriPalomino) is the solution architect for intelligent pipelines at GE Oil & Gas, Measurement & Control Business. For more information, visit www.intelligentpipelinesolution.com.

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