A step towards smart oil platforms

24 January 2023

The offshore oil and gas industry, with its remote drilling rigs do not make for the easiest digitalisation projects with harsh conditions, confined spaces, and limited WLAN connectivity.

Stringent requirements for hazardous areas further restrict the choice of smart devices that can be employed here and for this reason operators on oil platforms often still manually transfer data to digital files at a computer desk. For mobile workers, this practice requires them to traverse long distances along multilevel oil platforms. So, there is great efficiency potential waiting to be tapped here.

Because crews on an oil platform are kept to a minimum for safety, cost and time reasons, remote support solutions for maintenance and repair are becoming increasingly attractive. The oil and gas industry needs suitable digitisation solutions to ensure real-time knowledge transfer for employees and to accelerate the first-time fix. With up to 10,000 maintenance activities per month, streamlined processes are a significant efficiency factor. 

The next generation 
Intrinsically safe smart glasses and smartphones from ECOM Instruments are believed to be the first set to be certified according to ATEX and IECEx (gas) which makes them suitable for various applications in hazardous areas. The lightweight wearable includes a camera and communication features. Coupled with the intrinsically safe smartphone as a computing unit with LTE connectivity and a pocket device with replaceable battery for power supply, the smart glasses become part of an intelligent ecosystem. A total of three integrated and suitably positioned cameras transform the smart glasses into a bionic eye, so remote support workers can observe the situation through the eyes of the mobile worker – from a natural perspective and with an unrestricted field of vision. 

The stable LTE connectivity of the devices facilitates communication with external experts wi-fi cannot be relied upon in every area of a drilling rig. 

In a field test on an oil rig the smart glasses give mobile workers flexibility on their assignments. They can seamlessly switch between tasks on the smartphone display and hands-free work. For example, the mobile worker can view documents for the mission – such as checklists – on the larger display of the smart phone and then switch to hands-free mode, so they can move safely and freely around the multilevel rig while concentrating on the task. On the smart glasses display, only the information required for the task at hand is shown. The display can be folded away to clear the field of vision. Via the integrated microphone array, the mobile worker can give voice commands or communicate with remote support experts. 

This setup allows mobile workers to focus on his surroundings and the current inspection or maintenance task without distraction. Coupled with the availability of remote expert advice, this reduces the risk of errors or interruptions in the workflow. After the task has been completed, the mobile worker can complete the necessary documentation via smartphone and supplement it with photo or video material for comprehensive knowledge management. The data and information gathered in this way can help accelerate task completion and to improve quality and safety.

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