By the nature of their assets and operations, CIOs in midstream companies need new IT architecture to foster digital transformation. That’s why they need Edge Computing to move computing resources to where they’re needed—at the industrial edge, says Jason Andersen, vice president of business line management, Stratus Technologies
For midstream CIOs, the executive responsible for overseeing the storage, processing, and transportation of petroleum products, operational excellence begins right at the edge—which must be managed in real-time even if there are limited resources or personnel. According to McKinsey, the use of digital technologies such as edge and IoT devices can result in over $1 trillion in value for oil and gas companies, their customers, and society by 2025.
By the nature of their industry, CIOs of midstream companies need new IT architecture to nurture digital transformation due to the process of the production line of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids. To reach the full potential of these new digital technologies, CIOs must overcome unique challenges such as applying solutions across geographically dispersed and often remote assets; insufficient computing infrastructure in remote areas; data latency preventing effective performance and transaction monitoring; equipment availability; minimizing unplanned downtime or disruption; managing critical infrastructure, and security risks and cyberattacks. This is where Edge Computing provides value.
Enabling Operational Excellence with Edge Deployments
Edge Computing platforms can run multiple applications on one single, high-availability node through virtualization—offering tremendous cost savings and speedier deployment of applications. Tracking and accounting for gas and liquids movement for customers and regulatory reporting is essential for midstream operations as it provides visibility on product movement and clear logistics.
Oil & gas companies are implementing Edge Computing platforms to ensure transactions are secure and provide data flow for data management services. By moving Edge Computing to terminal stations, organizations have the freedom to deliver visibility and real-time insight into operations that provide decision-making support and increase overall customer satisfaction.
As with any process in the midstream industry, unplanned operations downtime is expensive and unacceptable since it can take a few hours to restart operations and just one hour of unplanned downtime can cost organizations up to $5 million per year, according to a study by ITIC.
This is where Edge Computing can help. By providing real-time visibility into conditions directly in the field such as power interruptions, pipeline integrity failures, and other critical issues by acquiring asset performance data at the location, midstream companies can proactively spot any issues before downtime occurs. Additionally, data historians are run on Edge platforms to collect time-based data sets for comparison against predictable parameters – offering midstream companies the means to enhance utility consumption for better energy management. As the deployment of Edge Computing enables midstream companies to operate more efficiently, it adjusts the responsibilities of the employees that operate within.
How Edge Computing Will Change Oil and Gas Employees’ Responsibilities
Midstream companies’ move to incorporate Edge Computing into their tech stacks involves a change in the roles and responsibilities of existing staff and new job requirements for future hires. Edge Computing empowers employees to work remotely, so personnel doesn’t always need to be on-site. The technology also eliminates exposure to hazardous conditions and the need to perform tedious and repetitive tasks like quality control, process, and asset monitoring, thus providing the possibility to maximize performance while increasing employee efficiency.
As with any new product or machine, companies want to know how they will service the machine throughout its lifecycle and the required skills. Due to the nature of where midstream wells are located, these sites are remote and not well populated with staff members, let alone skilled IT professionals. As such, serviceability is key when investing in new technologies to ensure ease, efficiency, and service effectiveness when issues occur. With Edge Computing platforms, businesses can reduce the risk of downtime while maximizing the production of their staff. While maximizing uptime is a major benefit, the cost and effort of keeping systems running is also crucial.
The midstream oil & gas industry uses a technology called digital twins. This technology combines the virtual and physical worlds to improve data analysis and system monitoring to enhance design and operations, prevent downtime, reduce costs and provide new and value-added data throughout the development of the midstream assets. Beyond physical tasks, midstream CIOs can leverage these digital twins and AI to run potential scenarios to make better informed decisions autonomously.
Another area where Edge Computing can save time and money is through predictive maintenance—using data such as temperature, vibration, and throughput, collected by sensors, predictive analysis monitors for any red flags, which are then used to forecast when maintenance should be completed to avoid decreased efficiency or potential equipment failure. Edge Computing not only has the power to change the responsibilities of oil and gas employees but helps companies reap the benefits of Industry 4.0.
Unlocking Industry 4.0 With the Implementation of Edge Computing
An effective Edge Computing strategy offers midstream operators easier access to advanced analytics, providing a foundation to pursue advanced Industry 4.0 capabilities. Edge Computing equips sensors and machinery with the necessary calculations. It provides enough processing capacity to select the input data while enabling a system to identify the critical data by applying real-time algorithms and eliminating most errors. These technology improvements diminish the overall cost of IIoT devices, making it possible to install sensors in all types of machinery and equipment. This helps midstream producers collect, process, and analyze meaningful data in real time – providing more value-producing and cost-saving opportunities and better using growing data. Midstream CIOs traditionally turn to data analytics when making important decisions around big data. Here, the operational Edge providers operators with the same level of analytics required to succeed through the seamless flow of real-time data.
Today, autonomous operations are transforming the midstream industry. Advancements in industry technologies can eliminate all types of manual efforts and perform other tasks in an autonomous, reliable, and highly accurate manner. With Edge Computing, midstream companies have the foundation to succeed, increase profitability and achieve the results that matter most, including the safety of their employees, advanced decision-making, decreased carbon cost, and enhanced satisfaction for employees and customers.
Creating Success by Implementing Edge Computing Platforms
The midstream industry is responsible for continuous, safe, reliable, and compliant operations. Edge Computing platforms extend powerful, mission-critical applications to the operational Edge while simplifying IT management, reducing IT’s footprint, and offering zero-touch operations simply and autonomously. Implementing and executing Edge Computing into the processes in the midstream industry can advance reliability, operational efficiency, quality of product, and the overall safety of the workplace. With hopes to accelerate their digital transformation journeys, increase equipment reliability and capture data at the point of origin with operational insight, CIOs in the midstream industry should consider adopting Edge Computing platforms into their processes.