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May 29, 2020

IIoT Ready to Drive Sustainability in the Energy Industry

Sustainability is hard, no matter the industry.

Sustainability in the energy industry? Until recently, those words didn’t seem to go together.

A common misconception is that industrial companies, particularly in oil and gas, don’t care about sustainability. It’s not that these companies don’t care. They want to be as sustainable as is possible.

However, managing remote, hard-to-reach, and often antiquated assets creates massive and costly hurdles to overcome for sustainable operations.

Challenges include:

  • Visibility – It’s hard to determine what is happening on an unmanned site at any given time, particularly in remote areas where connectivity may be a challenge. This means an accident such as a fire may go unnoticed until major damage is done.
  • Cost – Adopting technologies to manage sites often requires expensive infrastructure that essentially signifies a full retrofit of old systems.
  • Complexity – Large companies are often working with multiple, bespoke systems that are hard to integrate and maintain, particularly when spread across thousands of remote sites.
  • Safety – Because of the challenges presented by visibility, cost, and complexity, companies often simply continue with business as usual, which entails personnel physically checking on sites. This creates a variety of safety risks to personnel, from driving between sites to potential exposures to noxious gases when arriving to a site.
  • Environmental – Even with personnel checking on sites periodically, environmental issues can occur in-between visits, from a tank overflowing to black smoke permeating the air during routine flaring.

How IIoT Can Deliver Sustainability

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has matured to the point that it provides the potential for cost-effective continuous site monitoring that allows these companies to operate in more sustainable ways.

Commoditized hardware, when integrated with low-touch infrastructure, connectivity and a common software platform can provide industrial companies with the visibility and tools they need to remotely manage sites more sustainably.

Smart thermal sensing can allow customers to manage oil and water levels across their sites without ever touching a tank.

Smart optical sensing can continuously monitor sites for accidents, fires, or unintended emissions.

Other types of low-cost sensors can identify everything from equipment at risk of failing, to site anomalies, without ever needlessly sending a person onsite and exposing them to unanticipated risks.

This data can be brought into predictive analytics, allowing a control system to learn to optimize its own processes. 

Sustainably was hard.

IIoT implementation can now provide the cost-effective, managed infrastructure that makes sustainability easier.

About the Author

Ari Nielsen is the COO at Andium, an Industrial Internet of Things ecosystem helping some of the world’s largest energy companies manage their operations in more sustainable and cost-effective ways. During his time at Andium, Ari also co-founded MeshMe, a distributed communications app, which at its peak was used in over 105 countries and profiled in MIT Technology Review and Bloomberg (News - Alert) Businessweek. Prior to Andium, Ari served as an Implementation Executive at Epic, an industry leader in in enterprise medical software.

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