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Digitisation comes at the right time for energy and industrials

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Oilfield Technology,

As oil and gas producers face continued uncertainty as they recover from one of the worst market downturns in decades, digitising their oil well pipes can provide a lifeline to cut costs, reduce risk and increase efficiency.

The pandemic has prompted a massive reappraisal of investment and driven Exploration and Production (E&P) companies from the small wildcatters to the oil majors to cut back on spending and look for new ways to cut costs and get more with less.

Chevron Corp. recently said it would cut its 2021 capital spending budget by 26%, to US$14 billion, and limit annual spending through 2025. Exxon Mobil Corp. announced similar plans, saying it would cut its annual capital spending by one-third, to US$10 billion a year through 2025.

The oil and gas industry is in a “value creation crisis” and companies should quickly adopt digital technologies to increase their efficiency, performance and profitability, according to an October report by Boston Consulting Group. The Covid-19 pandemic and the collapse in demand that has resulted from it have only made the industry’s need to upgrade with new technologies more urgent, the report argues.

I co-founded my company, Tri-D Dynamics, to create smart, sustainable infrastructure for the 21st century economy. After a career developing advanced metal manufacturing techniques with NASA and SpaceX, I saw an opportunity to bring some of these technologies – and the efficiencies and cost reductions they create – to the energy industry.

Now, we are working to embed real-time sensors, power electronics, automated valve controls and other tools directly into the metal pipes that are installed into oil and gas wells, so they can be wired for electricity distribution, real-time monitoring, data collection and automation. The same technology can be used for monitoring and automating water, geothermal, hydrogen, mining, chemical, nuclear, automotive, and construction based industrial pipes.

We are teaming up with Marubeni Itochu Steel Inc. (MISI) to provide design and advanced manufacturing IP to integrate sensors and electronic components into MISI tubulars for Oil Country Tubular Goods, a market with over 14 million metric tons of demand in 2019.

Using our Smart Metal Fusion technology we will be embedding radio frequency identification tags (RFIDs) that will enable digital tracking and on-demand certification sheets of MISI tubulars over their lifecycle - from fabrication at the mill to transportation, storage and incorporation into the wellbore. Our secret sauce is fusing electronics into metal structures without damaging either; a key sticking point for high value metal products. The partnership will provide E&P customers with increased accuracy, reliability, transparency and efficiency for one of the most critical pieces of well infrastructure.

My team is also working on a next-generation smart pipe that aims to save energy companies time and money by supplying infrastructure they need to bring monitoring and control, through integrated sensors, power and internet connectivity to their underground oil and gas well operations.

Our team has developed a way to seamlessly integrate electrical, communication and IoT devices inside metal pipes and tubes, providing a hardware platform to enable software and automated functions that will save operators time and millions of dollars per well. Advanced technology like this can increase oil discovery by 25%, reduce well design and field architecture engineering hours up to 70%, and reduce well maintenance costs up to 40%.

By replacing expensive and cumbersome tubing encapsulated fibre-optic cables that are attached outside OCTGs with clamps, and the labour required to install them, we believe digital pipes with embedded sensors and electronics that will enable automated control over pipeline valves, electrical submersible pumps and other devices will simplify logistics, reduce costs and increase safety.

Author: Deepak Atyam, Tri-D Dynamics

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