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Identification system replaces paper-based maintenance and compliance record-keeping with real-time visibility and automated processes.
For E&P operations during high activity, chaos is generally assumed to be status quo. Oilfield equipment is widely distributed geographically and does not always return to a central location. Planning asset utilization is problematic since equipment can move or disappear overnight or between shifts. Many man hours can be spent looking for equipment, resulting in decreased productivity and lost revenue. The gap between communication out in the field versus the office for equipment status, location, and purpose can seem insurmountable.
Paws Energy Services, a leader in pipe sling management for offshore drilling and production operations, found its top cost was paying for inspectors to check on equipment and verify use and status. The inspectors spent significant billable time driving and tracking down the pipe slings, more than the time spent actually inspecting the pipe slings.
“We have rigorous corporate processes for process safety, occupational safety, and people management,” said Kyle Somerville, manager at Paws Energy Services. “But, these are often paper-based processes. When thousands of people and as many thousands or more pieces of equipment interact, there is a critical gap in the assurance loop, and we can only judge our performance after the event.”
To streamline the pipe sling identification, Holland 1916 designed the DataDrop, a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag customized for cable ties that allowed field operatives to identify pipe slings wirelessly. In addition, it allowed for a data storage capacity that can hold field inspection and procedural conformance data in memory.
After utilizing RFID tags, inspectors use mobile scanners to locate the slings within large and unorganized baskets of slings. In addition to the asset ID, all required maintenance and inspection documents are digitally attached to each asset. The RFID solution replaces the slow and often error-prone paper systems for check-in/check-out, inspection, maintenance, and customer invoicing.
“By simplifying the inspection and rental processes, we calculated that the return on our investment was recouped rapidly by lowering labor costs and reducing our liability for out-of-compliance parts,” Somerville said.
In a typical RFID maintenance and inspection monitoring system, the asset’s entire repair and maintenance history is recorded automatically to a software system and referenced using the RFID tag’s unique identification number. The RFID tag can be affixed on a repair tag, attached to the asset, or embedded within the product. An RFID reader can scan equipment with a mobile handheld in the field or a larger reader at checkout stations. Service providers also can record all relevant information, including service date and time, who performed the service, what happened, and when the equipment should be serviced again.
Anadarko Petroleum employed RFID technology to improve field management operations at its Brighton, Colo., and Salt Creek, Wyo., locations. The top goal for using RFID-enabled valves was to understand failure rates and monitor process improvements over a 10-year period. Anadarko chose Protech Sales’ Ontrase solution, which includes software from idsTAG and Xerafy’s passive Micro XII RFID tags. The Ontrase solution is an end-to-end valve management system including a full line of valves and their installation, servicing, and greasing, as well as the recording and maintaining of all data.
“RFID allows Anadarko to scan the valve and not only see the valve ID but the entire valve history from the date of manufacture, shipping, and installation to any findings or anything that needed to be pointed out to a manager, like a sign of leakage,” said Bob Pacheco, president of Protech Sales. “Anadarko has successfully proven the Ontrase RFID System streamlines inspection processes and optimizes performance by automating valve tracking.”
The challenge for Anadarko was maintaining maintenance and inspection compliance records on millions of valves in a petroleum production facility. Trying to use spreadsheets to track the maintenance, with no ability to see the history or last service date, delayed operations and created an environment that fostered uninformed decision-making. Another problem was the sheer volume of effort around recording valve identification for tens of thousands of valves. Sometimes valves were covered with insulation or sand-blasted and painted, which made visual identification methods hard to verify. In addition, valves under US Department of Transportation jurisdiction are audited, and the company needed to show proof of maintenance history.
Pacheco added, “Since one valve can be worth [US] $50,000, the RFID chip is insignificant to the price of the valve itself, especially when it can help extend the valve life from three years to 20 years. Additionally, if one single valve fails in a system, Anadarko may have to do a shutdown, and that could be thousands of dollars a day. RFID technology has provided actionable data in an automated way that helps Anadarko increase the life of its valves.” Meeting tough requirements
According to Dennis Khoo, CEO of Xerafy, “RFID is an intrinsically safe technology, and no other identification method can enable such seamless automated tracking for inspection and compliance verification.”
Finally, there are real tools to verify both processes and invoices and answer the question, “How do I really know this piece of equipment was at this well on this date?” One large supplier of offshore cargo carrying units (CCUs) uses GPS and RFID technology to track and trace technology assets in Europe, Africa, Australia, and North and South America to allow its customers to monitor the location and compliance status of both rented and customer-owned assets.
CCUs can contain expensive equipment going to offshore drill sites that needs to be delivered on time. If just one piece of equipment is missing, it could delay a major drilling operation at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars per day. The challenge of keeping the right equipment in the right place at the right time could mean upward of $25,000/ hour for the oil producer and big money to the CCU company’s customers.
Using automated tracking has improved the efficiency of the CCU company’s workforce by reducing the amount of nonproductive time wasted on tracking down assets. Improved operational insights, including more accurate billing and improved customer service, have resulted in higher sales growth. The system also has reduced capital requirements through more efficient use of current assets, eliminating the need to replace lost containers, with the cost of a CCU averaging $7,000.
Working smarter, not harder
Not only does RFID speed up maintenance and certification processes, but the technology has the ability to provide actionable data in an automated way to help companies streamline operations, facilitate accurate and timely decision-making, and extend equipment life – all contributing to a healthy bottom line.