Oil & Gas Companies Are Refueling Innovation and Lowering Costs with Video Surveillance
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people stopped driving to work and travelling to visit friends and family. If you’re a commuter or frequent flyer, you could see the upsides: time and money saved on gas or waiting in security lines. If you work in the oil and gas industries, you probably have a different view.
These behavioral changes dramatically reduced consumption, presenting oil and gas companies with serious challenges. Getting oil out of the ground is a significant investment in time and money, especially once extraction is underway. As consumption dropped, the industry had to choose between continuing production and risking lost wells.
Many companies decided to continue production, leading to more challenges. The process of refining and selling oil usually moves quickly. As a result, oil is typically never stored for long, so companies haven’t invested in long-term storage capabilities. Now, with no one purchasing oil and ongoing production, they weren’t equipped to store their ever-increasing quantities. Basic economics: supply was outreaching demand and prices dropped – at one point down to -$40 a barrel.
While oil prices are now starting to rebound, they are still far below normal levels. Oil and gas companies are adjusting to address financial losses without impacting production.
Many have done this by reducing personnel at their sites. This lowers costs, but also has the potential to leave smaller or remote sites vulnerable. The challenge is how to reduce this site vulnerability and still oversee production – and not increase costs.
One solution is installing IP-based video surveillance cameras, which allows companies to keep a close eye on their wells and pipelines from anywhere. But setting up these cameras in remote locations presents its own set of challenges.
Running power to sites along a pipeline and then getting a connection back to the network is no small task. Many companies use solar panels and batteries and then simply connect cameras to a computer.
Alternatively, installing an efficient video management system (VMS), like Wisenet WAVE, adds full analytics and the ability to get alerts pushed to mobile devices and command centers. Now, you have comprehensive remote monitoring and access plus analytics collection – a winning combination for companies as they don’t have to run a single power cable to get the system up and running.
The next step is enabling the cameras to transmit information to the network. Smaller companies are using basic cellular communications. This is a good option as it connects constantly and lets security personnel pan and tilt cameras over the network without significant delays.
Large companies with thousands of wells are setting up their own fiber networks. This type of investment makes business sense for them as it ensures they can pull vast quantities of data from the field.
Installing cameras at a remote location to simply transmit video 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week can waste energy and eat away at already strained budgets. Even though the cameras are collecting data, many companies can’t determine what is happening and then verify when or if a situation has been addressed.
These systems are great at capturing images and detecting motion, but they cannot alert personnel to the type of event that is occurring. Did a truck pull up? Has an unauthorized person approached a shut-off valve?
Artificial Intelligence Cameras
For added protection, oil and gas companies are now implementing advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) cameras with sophisticated onboard analytics that detect objects, such as people or vehicles. It’s now possible to specify “what” crossed a virtual line and “who” is loitering. Adding sound classification provides even more data. This makes it possible for companies to collect actionable data in real time and resolve events and incidents quickly and effectively.
AI cameras do more than simply monitor a location. The system can be set to send alerts to an operator only when a camera detects credible motion, reducing the occurrence of false positives triggered by shadows or harmless objects.
For example, if a suspicious white truck is detected, when conducting forensic investigations, security personnel only have to request events including a white truck instead of combing through hours of video after the fact.
This saves companies time and money and lets security teams use their time more efficiently. With the right VMS, they can have easy access to all that data, alongside the live footage from remote locations, on their phones or in their offices. For many oil and gas companies, the right VMS is one that is light and efficient, and doesn’t require heavy software, servers or complex functionality. These companies need a simple solution that can manage a variety of cameras at different locations, including the farthest reaches of a territory.
The shift to monitoring locations with smart cameras delivers a comprehensive site view and offers greater peace of mind. With oil and gas companies accessing more data than ever, they must now find a way to leverage it effectively.
The solution lies in intelligent cameras, reliable network connections and a VMS that can provide consistent and actionable data. By laying the foundation today, oil and gas companies can recoup costs, better protect remote assets and be well prepared for the future.