Key Ways Upstream Oil and Gas Operations Benefit from Drones
No matter where you are in the world, you’ve probably felt the economic pain of the growing cost of oil and gas. As demand continues to rise and supplies become more difficult to find and refine, the price naturally rises.
With this shrinking supply & increasing demand comes enormous pressure to continue to find & deliver petroleum products, leading to further pressure in the upstream oil and gas process.
There are three segments of the oil and gas industry.
The upstream oil and gas process focuses on finding wells and drilling. Midstream transports the oil from wells to refineries. Downstream refines the oil or gas and sells the processed product to end users.
While the rewards for operating in the sector can be significant, the industry is not without perils.
One risk, in particular, is the cost of finding new oil and gas reserves, or inventing new methods for extracting known reserves.
When site explorations cost between $5 to $20 million on average, a site that yields nothing is an expensive disappointment.
While drones can help the industry in all three sectors, they’re especially beneficial to the upstream oil and gas segment.
Drone can minimize the cost of oil and gas site explorations in ways you might not have known before.
Numerous technological advancements and innovations have made drones an ideal platform for the oil and gas industry to utilize in their search for untapped resources.
Let’s explore how drones can help the upstream oil and gas industry through surveys, environmental studies, and much more.
Drones Aid with Surveying & Mapping
It’s estimated that the Arctic holds approx. 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30% of its undiscovered natural gas. While it presents tremendous opportunity, it poses major challenges, too.
Imagine the enormous task that could one day fall on people to manually survey and map potential oil and gas extraction sites in these frigid, inhospitable regions.
Far from home, limited on supplies, and unenviable weather, it would push people to their limits at best, putting them in genuine danger at worst.
That’s all before you consider the narrow time frames you’re provided with reasonable weather conditions. The Arctic summer isn’t exactly a long one, essentially offering only around 3 months of usable time.
With drones, you can overcome several obstacles.
First, the rugged, icy terrain become less of an issue for survey teams, because drones take safely to the air.
This both improves safety and speeds up the data-collection process.
Second, because they can cover larger areas significantly faster than survey teams on foot, fewer people can cover more ground than traditional, ground-based survey teams. This means both more savings and faster results – a rare combination.
Although we are still in the early stages of the commercial UAV industry, drones have already proven themselves.
The bottom line is that compared to manual survey teams, UAVs are less expensive, more efficient, and remove people from dangerous situations.
Drones Simplify Environmental Studies
Once oil and gas companies find a site with significant resources to extract, the next phase begins.
As anyone in the industry can tell you, getting permission to drill can be complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. One of the many tasks is to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which identifies and predicts the impact of drilling operations on the environment.
While it’s no doubt a critical aspect of keeping people & the environment safe, it can be a stressful time for those in the upstream oil and gas industry.
Governments, NGOs, local people, and other stakeholders all want to understand the impact of drilling operations near them.
Fortunately, drones help speed up the process of conducting EIAs.
Using multispectral cameras, they can map vegetation, creating a baseline for regional plant health. At the same time, standard cameras on drones can count the number of animals in the area, as well as map the flow of natural water in the region.
In the past, helicopters or small planes were often used for jobs like this. However, they’re also incredibly expensive when compared to the use of a drone program.
Using UAVs to complete EIAs drastically reduces both the time and cost of these studies.
Additionally, the data they collect is more detailed, engaging, and easier to share with stakeholders.
Any opportunities to streamline the process, reduce cost, and speed up the process is an opportunity you don’t want to overlook.
Drones provide huge potential to make this part of the process much more efficient.
Drones Assist Upstream Oil and Gas Drilling Operations
So, once approval is granted to drill a site, it’s on to the next steps of upstream oil and gas: construction & operation.
Here too, drones help improve the process in several ways.
During the drill setup or construction phase, drones can monitor the build progress, providing engineers and planners feedback on any issues that may cause delays.
The monitoring of any construction operation can help avoid costly mistakes.
Once a drilling operation is active, UAVs can monitor the process for compliance and security. Drones can be launched at any time to collect data on the efficiency of an operation and ensure the drilling operation is safe.
And, when equipped with thermal cameras, UAVs can provide important information that can be used to detect component failures in drilling equipment before an accident occurs.
In some locations, drone-in-a-box solutions, such as DJI’s Dock, can provide near-continuous, rain-or-shine coverage of the site.
With many oil & gas operations taking place in remote locations, it’s exactly the type of solution that reduces the need for large security and inspection forces in harsh terrain.
It all adds up to better upstream operations for the industry.
The Key Takeaways
Site exploration and other upstream oil & gas operations can be a costly endeavor for you and your company.
While the potential for great rewards exists, every effort should be made to mitigate the cost of upstream operations.
The bottom line is this: drones can help make your life easier and safe your business money.
Integrating drone technology further into your oil and gas operation only serves to improve the overall outcome for everyone.
Through faster, more cost-effective surveys, you cover huge areas in a hurry, regardless of terrain, meaning your monetary and time investments are reduced to a minimum.
With the use of drones, the safety of workers is assured, even in remote locations. That means fewer accidents & safety infractions, as well as more reliable operations.
And, through routine aerial inspections & surveillance, you can spot problems before they impact your operations – in real-time, at your convenience – no matter the location.
So, should you start an in-house drone program, or outsource your needs? That, of course, will depend on your unique situation.
At Consortiq, we take pride in helping with all ends of the spectrum. We can help you build a program of your own from the ground up, or if you prefer, fly your site for you with a team of world-class pilots and cutting-edge technology.
Simply contact us today with the form below to get started on an easier, more effective path!
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