Oil and gas: Linking leased equipment with skilled operators drives cost reductions

ByAnu Sood, SkyWave Mobile Communications

The features of DataTrail’s remote monitoring solution offer multiple benefits. Leased equipment used in remote oil and gas sites is often technically advanced and requires special skills to operate and maintain at peak efficiency. At the same time, employees of companies that lease this highly specialized and complex equipment do not always know the subtle intricacies required to analyse problems they may encounter.

A manufacturer of oil and gas equipment was frequently forced to send its technicians to remote sites to diagnose, configure and maintain its leased equipment. Every service call would cost time, money and ultimately decreased customer satisfaction.

For the end customer leasing the equipment, waiting for the manufacturer’s technicians to come onsite meant delays and caused frustrations over lost time, increased operation costs and decreased productivity.

“We understood the frustration of the manufacturer and the end user,” said Marcia Hofmann, president of DataTrail, a provider of end-to-end location-based and telematics products and services. “For that reason we devised a cost-effective, automated method to remotely monitor their equipment and diagnose any problems, without incurring the costs of sending technicians onsite.”

The manufacturer set out some key requirements for the solution in order to meet the objectives of decreased visits to remote sites and increased end customer satisfaction. The solution had to log data in real-time from the equipment as well as monitor and send any fault codes.

If a fault code was detected or the technician needed data to diagnose any problems, the solution had to be able to send the necessary data even if the equipment was in remote areas with no cellular coverage. Finally, the solution had to comply with regulations set forth for equipment operating in hazardous locations.

Remote Monitoring Solution

The two-part solution consisted of a compact satellite messaging terminal from SkyWave, a global provider of wireless data communications for the Machine-to-Machine (M2M) market. The terminal was combined with DataTrail’s web-based interface (DataBroker) for viewing location of equipment as well as deciphering data coming from the equipment.

The satellite terminal is certified for operation in Class 1 Division 2 (C1D2) environments and is resistant to chemicals found in hazardous environments. It connects directly to the equipment using an RS-485 interface and reads the value of various parameters using the Modbus protocol.

The state of the equipment is read every 15 minutes and stored in the data logger of the satellite messaging terminal. When a Modbus fault is raised, the manufacturer is notified in real-time via email and can query the log files stored on the device using the DataTrail’s web interface.

Log data can be retrieved in small sections as defined by the user – for example data from the last hour, last four hours, etc. “The flexibility to retrieve data as required eliminates the frustration, time and costs to sort through large volumes of data,” says Hofmann.

The solution also provides real-time device notifications based on the manufacturer’s requirements—for example, when the device is turned on or off, when the thresholds of the Modbus registers fall out of range or when a register is passed a set threshold for an extended period of time. Customized email notifications with fault details can be sent to multiple people.

Reports via the web interface are available to show the state changes of the monitored registers on the Modbus and the full log data when retrieved.

Reduction in Diagnosis Time and Site Visits

The features of DataTrail’s remote monitoring solution offer multiple benefits and in some cases, surpass the original requirements of the client. ”Our solution has allowed the manufacturer to reduce the number of site visits by up to 50%,” says Hofmann. Besides reducing labour, vehicle and fuel costs, the decreased number of site visits has the also increased end-user satisfaction by reducing downtime.

Another benefit of the solution is that the time to diagnose and resolve problems has decreased from hours to sometimes even minutes. The overall savings in operational costs meant that the manufacturer was able to recover their initial capital investment cost and several months of satellite airtime within a few reduced site visits. The solution is also allowing the manufacturer to allocate technical resources to other functions within the company.

“For any business, it’s all about having the right information at the right time, regardless of time or location,” added Hofmann. “That’s the essential ingredient for maximum productivity, utilization and profitability.”

About the Author: Anu Sood is the Global Channel Marketing Manager at SkyWave Mobile Communications where she is focused on marketing machine-to-machine (M2M) services and solutions for the transportation, oil & gas and utilities markets.

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