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Business and Technology Insights

Reimagining Pipeline Integrity Management with the IoT

 
September 15, 2016

The IoT in the Energy and Resources Domain
The energy and resources industry is a capital-intensive domain. Assets are often located at isolated locations, and operational conditions are harsh. Remote monitoring helps optimize operational expenses while upholding safety. This makes the energy and resources industry an ideal candidate for the implementation of Internet of Things (IoT) based technology.

For example, there can be over 30,000 sensors on an offshore oil rig in a 5,000 mile long transportation pipeline. By connecting factories, pipelines, and transportation network farms, the IoT can optimize operations, and improve product performance, utilization, and uptime. The IoT enables products to take corrective action on their own. The convergence of visual, audio, and sensing technology allows machine-specific expertise to be brought into the fold at the right time remotely.

Rationalizing Pipeline Integrity Management with the IoT
Pipeline integrity is not only about maintaining the supply of essential resources. It covers all aspects of pipelines, from design to operation. It is the process of pipeline monitoring and pre-empting faults, disasters, and threats. This includes both time-dependent and independent threats. It could be natural disasters like tectonic movements, inundations, storms, erosion, landslides, corrosion, excavation, or outside forces, adverse reactions from construction material, welding or joint failures, equipment failure, incorrect operations, and sub-optimal asset performance.

Pipeline integrity assessment is as functionally complex as the pipeline network itself. Risk and integrity assessment is the analytical process of collecting all threat information gathered by the assessment tools the enterprise uses, combined with the knowledge of experienced pipeline engineering and maintenance teams. It involves locating any fault which can even remotely affect pipeline integrity, and scoring it in terms of the severity of consequences on the pipeline and environment.

This must be performed across the length and breadth of the pipelines. Risk assessment is continuous, and can only be performed reliably with current threat and risk information. A systematic approach with help from IoT-based approaches can reduce overall risk exposure by focusing on areas of higher risk. IoT-based approaches structure the scope of activities of integrity management in a planned and justifiable way, reducing both time and costs. The pipeline integrity application leads to efficient data mining and data management.

Additional IoT Applications
The IoT can also help automate some of the simple operational activities, with the help of artificial intelligence and robotics. For example, if CP (Cathode Protection) systems run out of power, the IoT can automate the activity of connecting backup or an alternate power source. The IoT also plays a significant role in automating the entire integrity management program, by integrating information and automating data flow and alarm management, enabling automated corrective action.

The implementation of such an intelligent, analytical, complex approach will require rigorous planning, accurate capturing of requirements, data cleansing, and the design of a practical system landscape. It should take into account the large number of databases and diverse applications involved, the geographic reach, communication, and usage. The developmental of such a system would also require knowledge of other applications and databases that are to be integrated.

Santanu Sur is a Lead Consultant with the Oil and Gas group at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). He has over 28 years of experience across procurement and commissioning of hardware and software, ERP implementation, LPG operations, operations and marketing of natural gas, polymers, industrial solvents, propane, LPG, and chemicals. Santanu holds a Bachelor's degree in Chemical Engineering from NIT, Srinagar, and a Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the Faculty of Management Studies (FMS), Delhi.