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Computerized Identification for Oil and Gas Processing Plants



Mariya Yurchenko, NEOLANT senior specialist

Modern industrial facilities are usually complex technologic structures housing a wide range of equipment, technology and engineering systems and communications. Smooth and reliable operation of these structures is important in both economic and safety terms: safety of the company personnel, the locals, and the environment.

What is done to achieve good safety levels today, what can be done to make it more effective?

Current Bottlenecks of Oil and Gas Processing Companies

For oil and gas companies, maintaining an operational integrity of the equipment and systems depends on the quality of monitoring, inspection and maintenance of the equipment (among others). But to date, efficiency of monitoring efforts is questionable as it requires considerable financial and human resources.

Usually, during monitoring and inspection rounds the specialists first write down the monitored and measured parameters on the paper. Then, back at the workdesk, they again rewrite the collected information to the operational logs, or key it into the computer (usually in Excel table, less often into the MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) programs.

Such a “traditional” data collection procedure implies high degree of human error – there is no guarantee that the reporting specialist really completed the inspection and correctly noted the data. This means that reliability and accuracy of the received information, and, consequently, the operation of the facility, could be questioned.

Fig. 1. Example of barcode tagging for a technological unit.
Fig. 1. Example of barcode tagging for a technological unit.

During the scheduled search for the best location for each facility according to given information, the personnel is forced to continually go back and forth, from the archive to the computer to check the database, as no-one can possibly keep the information about all monitored equipment in the head. Time wasted on moving and search for the necessary data takes at least 20 percent of the employees’ time (according to foreign estimates). That is, non-production costs are about six resource days per month or 70 resource days annually – this is a large figure, and the one that should attract attention of the management engaged in efficiency enhancement routines.

This means that practically any facility of oil and gas processing industry is facing the tasks of reducing the impact of human factor on the quality of monitoring and maintenance, and improving the operating efficiency of personnel.

Boosting the Performance Gains

Significant reduction of the resources used to maintain the normal functionality of equipment and engineering systems could be achieved by improving the following processes:

  • Timely information to staff and management on the status of equipment, any critical situations and, consequently, prevention of accidents, malfunctions and their prompt removal as required.
  • Monitoring operators’ activities by reducing the pos-sibility of the following risks:
    • information loss (for example, loss of paper scratch-pad or the lack of a uniform standard for recording the monitored and measured parameters);
    • poor quality of work (i.e., careless writing in the scratch-pad);
    • failure to perform the routine maintenance (due to lack of formal means of maintenance monitoring).
  • Easy access to operational information and documentation.

The Modern Answer: Computerized Identification and Information Mobility

NEOLANT promptly responded to these market needs, unrolling its flagship information system based on the technology of automated identification and standing on the “three pillars”:

  • barcode or radio frequency tagging of the monitored objects;
  • portable data terminals for the automated tag recognition, obtaining and entering real-time the information on the monitored equipment and subsequent information transfer to specialized information systems;
  • software for consolidating and processing the data, including data visualization tools (e.g., 3D models and geographic information systems).

The system provides ultimate control over the actions of operating personnel, the constant accumulation of relevant information about the equipment status, real-time expert access to all operational data independently of location.

Barcodes or RFID?

Let’s consider the functioning of automated identifi-cation technology in detail.

Barcode tags (Fig. 1) are graphically encoded IDs of equipment. Special production and application method leads to the following results:

  • elimination of duplication;
  • virtually unlimited shelf life;
  • can be applied to almost any surface;
  • tags remain intact in the harshest operating environments.
Fig. 2. Data terminal with the software for monitoring the operational information
Fig. 2. Data terminal with the software for monitoring the operational information

In the application of radio frequency identification (RFID) data stored in the so-called RFID-tags are read and written by radio signals. This technology can do more complex tasks than barcoding; RFID-tags are more resistant to mechanical stress and pollution, and can be picked off by a scanner from a larger distance. Tags come in various forms: some contain only information stored by the manufacturer, others allow the customer to rewrite data. However, the RFID system can be affected by electromagnetic fields.

The choice between the barcoding and RFID depends on the operating conditions at the customer’s plant - either technology has plus and minus points, and they complement each other well.

To read barcodes and RFID tags, portable data terminals (Fig. 2) are used. The device, a combination of hand-held computer and scanner, guarantees the identification of the units, allows entering the current values of monitored parameters and storage of large amounts of information. The data terminals are equipped with touch screen, run NEOLANT-provided OS and have significant battery life (8-10 hours).

How Does the System Operate?

Routine rounds, inspections, planned maintenance of equipment with automated identification (Fig. 3) can be divided into several stages:

  • Before starting the inspection the specialist identifies himself in the data terminal by user name and password. Without this procedure, the terminal will be unable to scan the bar codes, and hence data entry would be impossible.
  • The terminal remembers the date and time of inspection.
  • The expert reads and decrypts the bar code tags with the terminal, which defines the class of a unit or component and identifies the specific tag.
  • After that the terminal offers to enter the current values of monitored equipment parameters, stores the values and provides access to expert information on past changes.
  • After the round the employee puts the terminal back in docking station attached to a PC. With the help of NEOLANT specialized software the data gets automatically transferred into the information system for analysis and processing.
  • Further information can be printed or presented in any format: graphically, on technologic charts, in tables,reports, on the electronic map (GIS system) or on 3D model of the company, created by NEOLANT team.
Fig. 3. Work with the automated identification technology.
Fig. 3. Work with the automated identification technology.

Modern tag manufacturing technologies labels guarantee certain properties – i.e., the tags are impossible to remove or change without breaking. To scan the barcode, the employee must be near the monitored unit, and data entry option is available only after scanning is complete. This excludes the possibility of fake reports records and guarantees completion of routine maintenance rounds. Also, employee identification in the system and stored date and time of the inspection round ensure personal responsibility of operating personnel.

Information at Your Fingertips

Another key advantage of automated identification technology is that mobile terminals significantly reduce time while adding up to the comfort of a planned maintenance. They allow storage and retrieval of information about the current state of company’s units, also giving the history of changes for monitored parameters and other data required by operators, up to route maps, guides and unit images.

All operating data and documentation collected in one device and available for reading at any location within the company on both HQ locations and in the field using secure Internet communication links. This means that personnel of operating units and services belongs to a single information space, to receives real-time information, updates it during the inspections, planned maintenance work, and does not waste time on unneeded movements within the company.

Monitoring Implies Visual Control

A single information space created in NEOLANT system is supplemented by data visualization software - geographic information systems (GIS) and informational 3D models. The latter represent a 3D models of company facilities linked to relevant operational information and documentation; such models provide visual expert access to the data (by selecting objects on a 3D model). Visualization also helps business leaders to perceive information conveniently and clearly, for real-time troubleshooting and for reducing the risks associated with the human factor.

3D model can reflect in a variety of data required by the manager or a technologist for the analysis of energy facilities and systems, such as:

  • the system uses color coding to indicate non-performance of a routine maintenance by the operating personnel, etc.;
  • the system visualizes the state of the facility, using color coding for highlighting segments of the model (Fig. 4), etc.

Usage of GIS systems to display information is advisable if the manager needs a comprehensive understanding of the status of equipment on large territories, or in geographical context.

The Problem Solved

Automated identification technology helps to:

  • prevent accidents and failures while ensuring timely repairs due to visualization of objects’ state in the information system and emergency alarm;
  • avoid loss of information due to data collection in electronic form directly at the location;
  • monitor the implementation of routine maintenance – tags are impossible to remove or change without breaking; also, there is visual alarm encoded into the 3D models;
  • ensure the quality of work through personal responsibility of each employee for their work of action and instant data transfer to the mangers via the 3D model;
  • provide convenient access to operational information through organization of operational data acquisition anywhere within the enterprise via mobile gadgets, organization and storage of operational data electronically in a single information system, and rendering with the use of 3D models or GIS systems.

NEOLANT proposes a complete cycle of works on creation of an automated identification system, from development of technical specifications, and to determine the optimal tag technology, customization, implementation, personnel training, tagging, equipment supply, creating 3D models, GIS networks, etc. Because each enterprise is unique, the company’s specialists develop, implement and adapt their solutions based on the specific situation.

Using the technology of automated identification, NEOLANT customers get a solution to the complex challenges they face–reducing the impact of human factor on the quality of monitoring and maintenance within the enterprises while improving the operating efficiency of personnel.

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