Drones Can Optimize Upstream Oil and Gas Operations

The oil and gas industry ‘figuratively’ powers the country, inciting growth and progress in multiple industries. However, how do you power the oil and gas industry, especially its upstream operations? Drones, ideaForge drones, in particular, can give this ‘power push’ within the oil and gas industry.

Let’s take it from the top.

Oil and gas: The Growth Story

India is the third-largest oil consumer in the world. The country stands to consume around 4.6 million barrels per day (MBPD) in 2020. There is (approximately) a 9.8% reduction from the consumption of 5.1 MBPD in 2019, which is in line with global pandemic related slowdown. However, the country still holds its position by consuming around 4% of global oil production.

Strong midstream and downstream industrial growth further bolstered oil and gas in India. You can also see the parallels of the country’s oil consumption potential in the automobile industry, which has had 8.3% YoY market growth (w.r.t. sales).

Oil and Gas – Upstream Exploration and Production: Challenges

You saw the brighter end of the picture. Now, let’s look at the challenges facing the economic sustainability of this growth.

Here’s the bottleneck. India is overly dependent on oil imports to support the current demand. Between FY’17 and FY’20, the crude oil imports moved from $ 70.72 billion to $101.4 billion – a 43.4% increase.

India’s dependence on oil imports is a staggering 83.8%. Such an outflow of foreign currency puts a lot of strain on the overall fiscal deficit and growth projections of the country. Furthermore, it opens up the country’s economy to global market and geopolitical risk.

High exploration costs

Companies are looking to improve their upstream integration ratio through efficient exploration and production (E&P). This would reduce their overall dependence on oil imports and bring down the cost of production. However, high exploration costs often bog down these companies.

Long survey and mapping time

Companies often undertake manual surveying to evaluate potential E&P blocks. Such manual surveys take many weeks to complete. Such a long-drawn survey and mapping process impedes the company’s ability to take the right decision at the right time.

Decentralized analytics

Manual surveying and mapping aren’t just cost and time-heavy, but they also produce decentralized analytic. As the information is compiled part-by-part, it increases the error range of the results.

Drones for Oil and Gas: Key to Upstream Efficiency

Drones are the main enablers when it comes down to bringing in a new wave of cost-efficiency, productivity, and process improvements within upstream oil and gas activities. Consider the four key E&P operations.

i. Search

ii. Exploration

iii. Drilling

iv. Extraction

Drones streamline each facet of these operations by bringing in greater control, higher visibility, leaner management, and dynamic decision-making.

Fast surveying and mapping with drones

Manual block surveying and mapping took weeks to complete. The entire process involved hauling heavy equipment, resources and personnel to the remote block location. They indulged in a lengthy surveying process involving manually putting in hundreds of Ground Control Points (GCPs). These GCPs took a long time to calibrate themselves as per the requirement of high location accuracy.

Drones reduced the overall upstream surveying and mapping time to a mere 1/6th of the manual process. It also reduced the overall surveying cost by 90%. The drone-led Post-Processing Kinematic (PPK) and Real-Time Kinematic (RTK) increased the efficiency of the GCPs and their related Differential GPS (DGPS).

The surveyors or operators could carry ideaForge drones in their backpacks on to the oil and gas block. They could conduct initial aerial reconnaissance to understand exactly what equipment and resources would be required on-site. This would streamline all procurement and logistics, further cutting down exploration time and cost.

3D digital elevation models (DEM)

Drones bring in a highly well-refined layer of 3D modelling to oil and gas surveying and mapping. ideaForge drones enable 3D digital elevation modelling (DEM) and contour profiling for a detailed and defined territorial mapping of the entire block.

Drone-led watershed and vegetative mapping

Drones help map the surrounding areas like watershed and nearby vegetation to get a clear idea of resources, accessibility and environmental impact. These surrounding inspections and their accuracy can streamline future regulatory clearances.

Centralized and fast post-processing

All the analytics and live (high-resolution) visual and thermal (encrypted) feed from the drones were automatically compiled and immediately processed. The post-processing time was greatly reduced and the error range minimized.

The drones securely synchronize every speck of information gathered on-site directly with the central system. This helps all stakeholders to get on the same page, even remotely, regarding the feasibility and sustainability of the oil and gas block.

Drone-enabled upstream ‘discovery’ projections

The companies using drones for upstream operations are in a far better position to establish the exact 2P (Proven or Possible) reserve ratio. They could fast track the surveying and mapping to plan operations in each block.

Further, they could prioritize their plant construction and extraction process, aligning the necessary logistics. The drones not only increased the accuracy and efficacy of these decisions but also enabled better logistics planning, improved construction tracking, and higher on-site safety protocols.

Outlook: Drones within the Oil and Gas Industry

The Indian government intends to reduce the country’s dependence on oil imports by 10% by 2022. Many companies have taken heed of this plan and are working to boost their E&P holdings. Here, drones would be the ultimate and pivotal catalyst that would multiply the return of every rupee spent by a factor of 6x to 10x. It is the key to a better tomorrow.

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