The Niger Delta produces approximately 2 million barrels a day, making Nigeria one of West Africa’s biggest producer of petroleum. As a key operator in the region, Shell Nigeria needed to automate several manual processes, in order to create a work environment that is safer and more secure for its employees as well as the production facility. After investigating several Internet of Things (IoT) technologies, the company knew creating a digitally connected oilfield could help its processes become more efficient and its operations more productive. However, because of the location and rugged terrain, bringing connectivity to the oilfield was challenging and expensive.
Automating Manual Processes
To monitor its oilfield operations across a large and remote area in the Niger Delta, Shell Nigeria relied on a series of manual processes for wellhead monitoring and pipeline surveillance. Shell Nigeria is involved in all segments of oil operations, including exploration and production, upstream and midstream, and its IoT solution needed to scale for future expansion as well as be able to deliver different information over different communication protocols. It also required:
- Real-time monitoring of different processes throughout the oilfield.
- Two-way communication that not only improved the company’s ability to monitor remotely, but also the ability to perform remote intervention for scheduled maintenance as well as unscheduled incidents.
- Support for the end devices to run solely on battery power only because the remote locations of some equipment made hardwired electrical connections impossible.
- The ability to monitor operations through a local operations center as well as at the company’s headquarters in Europe.
- A system that provided reliability, data integrity and security.
Connectivity was a key factor—how could Shell take advantage of all the IoT has to offer its operations without incurring significant expense in building out infrastructure to support IoT connectivity? Shell needed to make not only a strong technology case for the IoT, but also a strong financial case. Shell evaluated several options, including satellite, SMS and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). Each of these options required significant infrastructure investment in the form of towers, radios, data communications equipment, battery banks, logistics and installation, making them too expensive.
Connectivity for Machines, Not People
The problem with other solutions Shell considered is that they were designed for use by people, not machines. Shell could benefit most from a technology designed specifically for machine connectivity. To meet its needs for reliability, security and longevity, Shell Nigeria selected Random Phase Multiple Access (RPMAÒ) technology from IngenuÔ, the pioneer in delivering connectivity exclusively to machines, and end devices from Croatia’s KONČAR, a producer of industrial electronics and power electronics devices and systems. Upland Consulting Nigeria provided all of the necessary support and conducted all field/installation services.
Ingenu’s low-power wide-area RPMA network is built from the ground up to support M2M/IoT applications. The network is comprised of:
- Access points that broadcast the RPMA wireless signal
- End devices that receive the signal from the access points
- The RPMA signal itself
Ingenu’s RPMA technology is designed specifically for the unique requirements of machine traffic, operating around the world in unlicensed free spectrum at 2.4 GHz. RPMA optimizes spectrum/frequency usage for clear connectivity. RPMA also helps Shell Nigeria meet its requirements of battery-powered equipment, with the solutions utilizing the lowest possible battery consumption while enabling wide-area coverage with almost unlimited capacity. Security of IoT data is ensured via mutual authentication, message integrity and replay protection, message confidentiality, device anonymity, authentic firmware upgrades and secure multicasts.
KONČAR has built RPMA modules into its end devices, and Shell Nigeria has installed these devices in the flow-stations, manifolds, at wellheads and other customers’ facilities. The devices provide two-way connections between the oilfield and the office, providing the reliable flow of data from the field such as pipeline pressure, temperature and flow. The devices can also encrypt transmitted data, control power consumption, perform over the air (OTA) parameterization and updates, and conduct scheduled and alarm reporting,
In addition, KONČAR delivered the multiple connection and data export system with its Modbus Gateway & Management Studio (MGMS), enabling MODBUS TCP/IP and OPC connectivity for Shell. The KONČAR Remote Terminal Units and wireless pressure and temperature transmitters were installed in flow stations, manifolds, and wellheads to provide connection from the field.
“Upland evaluated several communication technologies to present Shell Nigeria with a solution to replace its manual oilfield data collection processes,” said Bola Awobamise, president and CEO, Upland Consulting Nigeria, Ltd. “The key criteria for selecting a solution were the technology’s ability to cover difficult terrain, power performance, and long-range transmission as well as network scalability, two-way communications, and secure data transmission. Ingenu’s RPMA offered all of these attributes and eclipsed the competition with its connectivity, network capacity, and exceptional value.”
A Digital Oilfield with Huge Savings
The Digital Oilfield (DOF) technology is a combination of IT and automation and instrumentation technologies, providing Shell Nigeria with a real-time view of field processes and the availability of resources, and creating a safer operational environment with the inclusion of remote surveillance.
Ingenu’s RPMA network solution required only four access points to serve the entire Shell Nigeria oilfield, which resulted in a total project cost savings of more than $1 million over the other IoT alternatives the company evaluated. As a result, Shell Nigeria has been able to:
- Improve reporting to its home office and to headquarters
- Enable continuous operations by reducing manual processes and on-site inspections
- Quickly identify and resolve issues, resulting in more efficient operation and safer conditions for employees
- Monitor equipment status in near real-time, preventing unscheduled downtime and safety risks
- Capture and analyze critical production data to further enhance efficiencies
The team of Ingenu, KONČAR and Upland Consulting teamed up to deliver an IoT solution to Shell Nigeria that automated its manual process and created a safer, more secure operational environment. The result: a Digital Oilfield solution at significant cost savings over alternative options.
About the Author
Wilson comes to Ingenu with years of experience in product and program management in the telecommunications, defense, electronics and wireless industries. Prior to joining Ingenu, he was vice president of product management at Ostendo Technologies, where he executed the development of an innovative immersive, curved screen display and secured a major DOD contract win for advanced imaging technologies. Prior to Ostendo, Wilson served in various product and program management roles at large companies and start-ups including L-3 Communications, TollBridge Technologies and Nortel Networks. Early in his career, he served as an officer in the United States Air Force as a program manager for the Delta IV and Atlas V launch vehicle systems. Wilson has an M.S. in Systems Management from the University of Southern California and a B.S. in Astronautical Engineering from the United States Air Force Academy.