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Case Study: Drone Applications for Oil and Gas

Oil/ Gas drone Case Study

Partnering with the Reinecke Group out of Midland, TX, we conducted a series of case studies utilizing drones in the oil and gas industry. Some of these ideas proved to be valuable while others did not. This proved to be a great learning opportunity as many oil and gas companies often consider new technologies for routine field use.

Like any company, the use of new technology boils down to the value, cost savings, and safety that can be provided. While drones do produce unique be “cool” photos and videos, that’s not what most oil and gas companies need or even want. The goal of this project was to determine the uses drones have that fit a practical need. We utilized a DJI Phantom 4 and a DJI Matrice 210RTK- D with an x4s and Zenmuse XT-640R for these case studies. The ideas we tested were conducting power grid inspections, underground pipe and flow line mapping and inspections, gas leak detection, detailed asset documentation, and field mapping.

Power Grid Inspections

With the use of thermal imaging, we can quickly inspect and detect over heating components on an entire field or electrical system. Over heating components indicate failure of that part in the not to distant future, resulting in a power outage and potential lost revenues. We found that we could detect these issues under load during the day and at night quite easily. The advantage to working during the day is the ability to capture correlated day light standard images to review in detail exactly what of the components are over heating. For example, determining if it was the lightning arrest or itself theater was going out, or it being a poor connection. These details can be capture and passed on to an electrical engineer for further review and assessment to determine what needs to be done to fix the cause of the overheating components.

This case study proved to be valuable as companies seek a preventative maintenance program rather than reacting to problems that cause downtime. Routine infrared imaging inspections can often even save money when considering the costs associated with lost revenue do to a well being inoperable for a period of time.

Mapping & Inspecting Underground Flow Lines

The Reinecke field utilizes CO2 in there fields for oil extraction. This is a unique way to operate, but proves to be efficient and profitable. CO2 is an extremely cold gas. The lines visible from the surface are usually covered in ice and constantly flow at well below freezing temperatures. When one of these old flow lines blows out, it causes the ground all around it to completely freeze over, causing that well to be down for weeks if not months, waiting on everything to thaw enough to make repairs. This down time, in addition to necessary reactive repairs, can cost a company thousands of dollars. In addition, many of these old fields have poor documentation and mapping of existing flow line locations, active or not, making it extremely difficult to know where lines exist when digging new wells, lines, or even trying to locate a problem.

Using 3 methods, we were able to build a map of both active and inactive flow lines. We could locate some with thermal imaging, others with utility locating devices and others with a sea snake and locating device. Once everything is marked and located throughout a field, we can aerial map it, providing you with gps locations and accurate visuals of lines underground. Knowing this information has proven to be quite valuable and necessary for oil companies.

Example of mapping underground flow lines with utility locating devices:

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We can locate active lines that have enough of a temperature variance to detect. For inactive lines, with them temporarily charged, they can be located just as easily.

Gas Leak Detection

Using a thermal camera specifically tuned to detect gases such as Methane and other poisonous gases, we found that we can locate both minor and major leaks. Routinely monitoring central batteries and pipelines for gas leaks can save an incredible amount of time and money when considering the costs associated with receiving bad publicity for an incident, dealing with the rail road commission, production down time and damage repairs.

Using a drone with a thermal camera gives you access to efficiently and safely inspect for dangerous gases while capturing visual data on the issues that exist and the extent of damages. We can walk your central battery or fly the line, which ever proves to be more efficient for getting the job done at the right budget.

Detailed Asset Documentation

We can capture high resolution maps, images, and 3D models of your assets in the field for more useful documentation and asset management from the office. Identify exactly what your trying to explain to your field staff without even having to be there. Keep up to date documentation on file for future reference and use.

Field mapping

Using aerial mapping, we can build aerial maps with a resolution as good as .5″/ pixel and an accuracy of 3- 5″ with the use of ground control points. This mapping can provide value for companies looking to grow their field and drill new wells, have a high resolution overview of what exists in the field, conduct volume measurements or make sure dikes are fully in tact.

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