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The safety role of hardware in digital oilfield solutions

Author : Howard Gould, HMi Elements

17 November 2020

State-of-the-art, bespoke hardware is playing a more important role than ever in helping companies deliver digital oilfield solutions to extract oil and gas more safely, efficiently and cost effectively.

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

(Click here to view article in digital edition)

Hazardous area HMIs as we traditionally know them, remain an essential tool on the rig and will continue to provide the interface between man and machine. Delivering data, ready to deploy artificial intelligence to enhance the essential final human decision making, is becoming a must.

While the adoption of digital oilfields has gained impetus in recent times due to better processing power and technological software advancements, hardware is equally vital. Multinationals have harnessed digital oilfield technologies for some time – and are now increasing these significantly.

We call it ‘The Four Cs’.  In essence, a digital oilfield aims to lower the horizon, Collecting, Collating, Consolidating and Creating an advisory vista of various data sources. All to “get an edge”, to reduce the break even, become efficient and to defend health and safety and assets.

The high cost of any downtime needs to be avoided so there is huge pressure on hardware and software to provide reliable data rapidly to enhance decision making. It is important to remember that software deployed in devices such as robotics, automation, sensors, AI, connectivity, control systems and the Internet of Things – all of which means less people in hazardous areas and therefore more safety – is only as good as the hardware that makes it come to life.

Research and development departments are investing in this push by launching new Zone 1 hardware such as highly customisable data acquisition systems. Flexible enough to provide a mix of digital and analogue channels or modified to meet users’ unique needs for all eventualities. Examples include modular scalable architecture and firmware for requirements such as torque turn, mud logging, EDR and casing running systems.

Howard Gould, Chief Executive, HMi Elements
Howard Gould, Chief Executive, HMi Elements

Maintenance levels are also being improved with virtual equipment diagnostics and tool inspections carried out. In turn, this data provides actionable real-time insights that are driving business decisions while once more requiring less people in the field.

The extreme on and offshore environments naturally create a potentially dangerous place for people to operate in. The greater use of software and the better the hardware, the less people are exposed to risks. When all these factors are considered, the key to creating a truly sustainable digital oilfield strategy is combining the best available software and hardware.

Those who have adopted this approach are already seeing a significant boost in production and financial performance, improved efficiency and enhanced health and safety.

About the author:

Howard Gould is Chief Executive of HMi Elements and President of its US subsidiary iSiS-Ex Inc. Howard joined ISIS Products in 1989 as General Manager when the business was first formed. By 1999, when the firm was sold to the Technor Group, he was Managing Director of the parent company, Beacon Controls Ltd. In 2007 Howard rejoined Technor ISIS as Interim Managing Director and went on to lead the Management Buy Out in July 2009.

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