Oil and Gas

Three ways location intelligence and IIoT make pipeline asset management easier

If the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is integrated with location intelligence it can help midstream oil & gas operations to manage pipeline assets, mitigate potential risks, and optimize new pipeline routes.
By Robert Szyngiel November 30, 2018
Image 1. Location information provides spatial context for areas along the pipeline, indicating how environmental factors support or degrade pipeline infrastructure integrity. Courtesy: DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company

The divide between the physical and digital world in the oil & gas sector is getting smaller every day. As a result, companies are looking to improve their ability to respond to constant changes. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) can play a major role. IIoT generates value by delivering real-time, actionable data about the physical world to other systems or software for efficient response. For example, sensors that predict tank erosion “talk” to systems that remotely manage the problem by prompting automated repair or sending alerts when human intervention is required.

Networks of devices and systems connected by IIoT have the potential to deliver productivity and profitability improvement.

However, exploiting Big Data—including data gathered via the IIoT—can be complex. Pairing IIoT with location intelligence helps simplify data processing and analysis by providing location-based context and spatial awareness. 

Where it’s used

Companies in the midstream oil & gas sector are focused on how the IIoT can be applied to optimize and simplify pipeline asset and equipment management. Integrating the IIoT with location intelligence has the potential to produce actionable, data-driven processes in three ways:

  • Manage pipeline assets
  • Mitigate risk
  • Optimize routes for new pipelines.

1. Pipeline asset management

Managing pipeline assets is a complex process because they’re often in remote locations. Leveraging the IIoT together with location intelligence throughout a pipeline system can reduce unnecessary field visits. Predictive modeling can help operators anticipate equipment failure or other potential problems.

Image 1. Location information provides spatial context for areas along the pipeline, indicating how environmental factors support or degrade pipeline infrastructure integrity. Courtesy: DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company

Image 1. Location information provides spatial context for areas along the pipeline, indicating how environmental factors support or degrade pipeline infrastructure integrity. Courtesy: DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company

The IIoT can be an open (internet) or closed (intranet) network with devices and objects gathering data, communicating and taking action. Real-time machine and sensor integration means it is about connecting the components of these objects. This allows objects to “talk” to each other and take action based on operator-defined inputs. A pipeline regulator station, for example, could be outfitted with sensors that sense pressure building. The system can send a real-time alert to relieve pressure without requiring intervention from an operator.

2. Risk mitigation

Mitigating the risk of human and environmental harm and protecting expensive assets is paramount when installing and repairing oil and gas pipelines. IIoT builds a massive base of information that can be analyzed to gain critical insights to support pipeline planning or remediation decisions.

Location information supports IIoT data by providing spatial context for areas along the pipeline, indicating how environmental factors support or degrade the integrity of pipeline infrastructure. It identifies problematic areas such as seismic or flood zones that could impact pipeline infrastructure, while sophisticated analysis of IIoT sensor data allows for effective predictive maintenance.

Pipelines can be audited remotely for abnormalities and monitored for excess emissions. The IIoT constantly gathers data from equipment and assets, which allows operators to identify problems like leaks or equipment failure in real time before they occur.

Image 2. Project planners leverage location intelligence to gather information on land use, land value, hazards, environmental data, existing infrastructure, and regulations that could constrain pipeline construction. Courtesy: DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company

Image 2. Project planners leverage location intelligence to gather information on land use, land value, hazards, environmental data, existing infrastructure, and regulations that could constrain pipeline construction. Courtesy: DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company

The IIoT, paired with location intelligence allows oil and gas companies to act quickly if there’s an accident or repairs are needed. For example, a spontaneous oil or gas leak could prompt IIoT sensors to trigger an automated maintenance workflow, while simultaneously sending a message to the connected location intelligence platform to create alerts and address mailers that will notify all affected residents.

3. Pipeline route optimization

Real-time information gathered from multiple touch points is a main benefit of the IIoT. It also fills a major need for oil & gas companies during the pipeline planning and pre-construction of a project. Planning and design for pipeline corridors is complex. This includes new pipeline construction, converting existing infrastructure, or building support facilities. Project planners leverage location intelligence platforms to gather information on land use, land value, hazards, environmental data, existing infrastructure, and regulations that could prohibit pipeline construction in certain areas.

Location intelligence and the IIoT

The IIoT, paired with location intelligence, provides rich data context. It delivers a robust analytic lifecycle and visualization of land data to identify the most effective and efficient routes for pipeline. This enables fast and efficient decision-making and mitigates risk when seeking optimal pipeline routes. Location intelligence platforms provide information necessary for right of way, easement and land appraisal to identify the best locations for pipeline stations. IIoT delivers data and analysis gathered from older infrastructure to consider locations with minimal risk for accidents and erosion along with insight into pipeline asset performance.

Location intelligence is a mature and trusted technology; IIoT is still in its early stages. A recent McKinsey & Company survey explored the growth of IIoT at the enterprise level and found that while enterprise IIoT is fairly new, 98% of respondents reported that most companies within their industry plan to include enterprise IIoT initiatives in their strategic roadmaps.

IIoT, paired with location intelligence, offers a powerful, data-driven approach to asset management that leads to greater lifecycle value, showing enormous potential to optimize operational efficiency. The oil & gas industry was one of the first to explore how IIoT can improve operations but remains cautious about applications to ensure systems can effectively deliver value. However, the oil & gas industry is grappling with finding effective ways to store, manage, and track the massive amounts of IIoT data while keeping it secure and actionable.

Despite the challenges, IIoT remains one of the most promising new technologies and will continue to evolve at the enterprise level. Growth in the IIoT market is sure to continue. Pairing IIoT data with location intelligence will provide oil & gas companies with a competitive edge in an increasingly tech-enabled world.

Robert Szyngiel is a Director of Product Management at DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company. Szyngiel brings more than 15 years of experience in the architecture, design and development of location intelligence solutions. 


Robert Szyngiel
Author Bio: Director of product management at DMTI Spatial, a Digital Map Products company