Why Midstream Firms Need Mobile Oil and Gas Technology

Imagine field after field of oil storage tanks, some so large they could hold a 747 jumbo jet. This is what you will see when you drive out to Cushing, Okla., home to around 58 million barrels of oil, or about 12.5 percent of the country’s stockpile.

As new oil and gas technologies, namely fracking and horizontal drilling, have produced crude faster than the market demand, the pressure has risen for midstream energy companies, like those operating out of Cushing, to keep pace with more productivity and efficiency. Cushing’s total capacity is about 70 million barrels, equal to one-fifth of the country’s crude storage capacity.

Midstream companies– the field processing, storage, transportation and wholesale marketing of oil and natural gas– find the answer in mobile solutions. The 24/7, transient, and highly regulated environment of midstream operations is the ideal incubator for mobile oil and gas technology solutions to substantially increase the return on investment of assets.

Here are seven different ways where mobile technology will boost the bottom line of midstream firms:

  1. Manage real-time location of assets. As oil moves by truck, rail, sea and pipeline, the safety of drivers and operators, efficiency of the supply chain and the maintenance of the pipelines and transportation vehicles are crucial to maintain. Mobile applications with GIS/GPS tracking can provide the management team with a full picture of the real-time location of oil and gas assets and their status, empowering more accurate financial reporting and supply estimates.
  2. Make it easier to comply with health and safety observation regulations. For drivers, a separate application can mitigate the risk of delivery delays with GPS tracking to determine the route with the least traffic and lowest chance of inclement weather. Improving the safety of drivers and operators becomes much more cost-efficient when using a mobile application to conduct observations. One of our applications for an oil and gas client mobilized their observation protocol, which was typically done via paper and pencil form by a passenger riding along with the driver. Now, instead of capturing data on the form and then entering it again when back at the desk, the observer captures everything from an iPad. The observer rates the driver on a numerical scale for his or her ability to meet the safety requirements; for example, in the first set of objectives for steering, the driver is rated on their ability to look far up the road with a required amount of eye lead time, avoid sudden stops and drive with both hands. The numerical scores for each category are tallied and submitted to the database without even leaving the vehicle.
  3. Mobilize SCADA data to shorten response times. For natural gas traveling via pipeline, thousands of sensors monitor the flow and integrity-- but how quickly can your management team respond to a potential threat? Mobile applications providing real-time data can exponentially increase the response to potential incidents.
  4. Make ‘safety walks’ more actionable. A field operations supervisor at a terminal conducts “safety walks” every few hours to ensure that the equipment and people are following safety protocols. Part of their performance evaluation is derived from the number of incidents on their plant. Without a mobile application, the field operations supervisor sees an issue with an application and has to go back up to a control room to pull out a laptop to find the relevant service history, production history, available technician and relevant data to get the asset back online. This is where a mobile app comes in. Instead of relying on a safety walk to monitor equipment, a mobile application can translate that data into actionable insights for the supervisor, allowing him or her to anticipate an incident and respond quickly. If the mobile application is not set up to do that, he or she can still benefit from a mobile application with the information easily accessible.
  5. Decrease asset downtime by mobilizing asset data. Imagine this: a dashboard with relevant data on all plant assets-- on your mobile device. Having this data readily available can make the alert process and response time to a failing asset much more efficient. Every minute that an asset is performing suboptimally is revenue lost-- just how much would be saved if every asset had 10 less minutes of downtime per year?
  6. Tighten communication loops for crucial information. Push notifications, BLE beacons, messaging-- communication between teams, as well as with their machines, becomes much more streamlined with mobile technology.
  7. Create more accurate forecasts. Real-time operations monitoring dashboards can equip the CFO’s office with a more accurate and detailed idea of how business is doing and provide more accurate forecasts of projected performance.

Where should midstream companies start with their mobile investments? Discover the answer in our guide to developing a mobile strategy. 

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