We’ve been talking about the impact of the drop in oil prices over the past six months, and as we’ve discussed, the impact touches many different parts of an oil and gas company’s business, from the operational changes needed to maintain profitability to changes in how an oil and gas company invests in future grown. But there are also industry-wide impacts, as well, and in North America, lower oil prices have delayed the important debate over how to transport oil and gas from the new production facilities in the north to the existing refining capacity in the south.
The recent drop in oil demand has resulted in a subsequent drop in oil and gas production. While this has taken the pressure off the current infrastructure, this equilibrium will not last forever. When demand inevitably increases, so will the need for new midstream infrastructure capacity.
Balancing Infrastructure Needs and Environmental Concerns
Any expansion of midstream oil production capacity is inevitably surrounded by controversy and pressure from environmentalists. The public debate has centered around the Keystone Pipeline, designed to link the oil fields in Canada and North Dakota to refineries in Illinois and the Gulf Coast, but this is just one of a number of infrastructure projects that are waiting to be implemented.
From 2010 to 2013, capital spending on midstream infrastructure increased by 50-60% and reached $85 billion in 2014. The expected investment from now to 2025 is estimated at $1.15 trillion.
The challenge for the industry is how to build and maintain this new infrastructure while convincing the U.S. public and politicians that it is not presenting an additional environmental risk.
Electronic Infrastructure Monitoring
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (May 6, 2015) suggested that technology has a key role to play in safely managing the new pipelines. Using cloud technology to monitor sensors built into the pipelines is a good example. This will allow faults in the pipes to be identified immediately, and it will accurately locate the position of a fault much more accurately to assist maintenance.
Clearly, another required technological advance will be the ability to electronically manage and distribute the documentation and processes relating to maintenance and operation of the pipeline. The ability, through cloud based sensing devices, to monitor and identify potential problems must be supported by effective maintenance for the overall system to operate within environmental standards.
Controlling Documentation, Too
One of the key requirements for an effective maintenance operation is to have the current, up-to-date documentation available to engineers when they are required to undertake a work order. EMC Documentum Asset Operations – based on the industry-leading EMC Documentum enterprise content management platform – is designed to manage operations and maintenance documentation and is in use today by many of the country’s leading energy providers, including pipeline operators.
Documentum Asset Operations is specifically designed to manage the as-built documentation relating to a particular asset, as well as the management of change processes needed to satisfy the regulatory standards. It also supports mobile field workers, allowing operators to access and read current asset documentation and to enter new asset information on mobile devices, such as iPads. Documentum Asset Operations Mobile records GPS locations and allows the operator to add photographs and bar code information. Information added within the mobile device is then fully synchronized to the corporate Documentum Asset Operations system of record.
By extending your information management strategy to include both electronic monitoring and document control, you are significantly improving your operational efficiency and ability to quickly react when maintenance is required.
How are you managing your information today? Is it electronic? Are you considering cloud and mobile technologies? Share your thoughts and let’s discuss below.