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5 Tips for Maximizing Oil & Gas Asset Utilization With RFID

Asset utilization is of massive importance in oil & gas, playing a critical role in equipment performance, operational compliance, and maintenance schedules. In this post, we look at the five most impactful ways RFID is helping improve asset utilization in the field.

Oil & gas operations require countless numbers of physical resources and infrastructure crucial to the exploration, production and transportation of hydrocarbons. We call these things “assets” but what exactly do we mean by the word? Isn’t everything an oil & gas firm owns technically an asset? 

Great question.

What Are Oil & Gas Assets?

When it comes to upstream oil & gas production, “assets” refers to the various hardware, machinery, tools, and parts needed for drilling, exploration, and field management. This includes a wide range of equipment — pumps, regulators, valves, pipes, tools, and numerous others — distributed across vast geographic regions and often clustered around oil and gas reserves, both onshore and offshore. These assets make the extraction, processing, and distribution of oil and natural gas possible, so tracking their inventory throughout the energy supply chain is mission critical. 

What Is Asset Utilization (& Why Is It Such a Big Deal in Oil & Gas)?

In the context of the oil & gas industry, asset utilization refers to the efficient and effective use of these physical resources and infrastructure to extract, produce, and transport hydrocarbons (such as oil and natural gas). Simply put, asset utilization measures how well these critical components are being used to generate value. And, especially, in terms of factors like production output, operational efficiency and maintenance effectiveness. 

High asset utilization indicates a company is effectively maximizing its resources, leading to increased revenue, profitability and competitiveness. Low asset utilization can indicate the opposite. Thus, effective asset utilization isn’t just a part of doing business — it is foundational to an oil & gas firm’s competitive advantage and revenue-generating potential. 

How Do You Maximize Asset Utilization With RFID? 5 Tips for Oil & Gas

We’ve established just how vital asset utilization is to a firm’s success. But how do you get more visibility into it? How do you get it under greater control? And critically, where does RFID fit in? 

Tip #1 — Use RFID Tags to Track Assets
A comprehensive, well-designed RFID asset tracking system — including RFID tags, readers and software — provides vital insight that can enable an oil & gas firm to mitigate disruption and improve financial predictability and performance. 

RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification, works by using electromagnetic fields to automatically track the location and movement of tags attached to a piece of equipment, such as a drill bit or pipe joint. This allows field teams to read tags on each asset as they walk from trucks to the well head. 

Types of RFID Tags
There are two primary types of RFID tag: passive and active. The biggest difference between the two concerns their power source. Active tags have their own power source, usually a battery. Passive RFID tags are considered a “simple apparatus” and draw their power from the RFID reader used to locate the tag. 

In general, passive RFID tags are the most durable and can be used on virtually all oil & gas assets, regardless of the environment or working conditions. That said, passive and active tags can both be embedded within equipment, providing additional protection from extreme temperatures, UV rays, rain and other hazardous conditions.

Tip #2 — Capture Real-Time Information
RFID tags don’t just enhance visibility and tracking in the oilfield. Active RFID tags, in particular, can provide that insight in real-time. In an industry where downtime can cost a firm thousands of dollars per minute, this degree of timeliness is virtually priceless. 

Rigging up Drill Pipes
RFID tags play an important role in the drill pipe lifecycle. Drill pipes are expensive, high-use assets that incur significant wear and tear and require frequent inspection and maintenance. Firms can use RFID tags attached to pipe ends, couplings and joints, to better understand performance, longevity and life cycle planning. 

Ordinarily a labor-intensive and expensive process, RFID asset tracking becomes virtually instantaneous when it’s part of a real-time location system (RTLS). Using the right tags, a firm can immediately understand pipe location, movement, dimensions of individual joints, damage, inspection history and more. Such insights can help transform how a firm monitors field assets and operations, providing more predictability around equipment investment and maintenance schedules.

Tip #3 — Use Data to Build a Digital Twin of Your Operation
It’s not enough to simply gather data about your assets. It’s what you do with the insights that matters. 

Is there predictability in the downtime cycles of certain assets? 

Should you shorten your maintenance window? 

Leveraging RFID to gather serialized information and then correlating it to equipment and location can allow an oil & gas firm to build a sophisticated digital twin of its organization — or a virtual, data-based duplicate of all its physical assets, processes and systems.

Some are also going a step further, using that information to train AI and machine learning models which can help better forecast their business in different ways.

Tip #4 — Improve Safety & Compliance
While RFID technology’s biggest boon is likely predictive asset maintenance, this kind of maintenance has significant implications for safety and compliance. When assets perform in predictable ways, workers stay safer.

Beyond direct safety, RFID technology can be used to help track valuable information on individual worker training and certification, even for specific pieces of equipment or tasks. 

Tip #5 — Optimize Equipment Performance
Regularly scheduled maintenance is what keeps an oil & gas operation running smoothly. But at the end of the day, what firms want to prevent more than anything else is unexpected downtime caused by equipment failure.

Rugged RFID tags built for oil & gas environments can help firms track the aging process of assets over time. This includes pumps, which have a lifecycle that depends heavily on what kind of material is being pumped through them. If you can tag an asset like a pump with a durable enough RFID tag, then you can keep track of its use and, more crucially, of how that use impacts its gradual degradation. This, in turn, enables you to very accurately determine when you will need to replace it. 

Data of this kind allows a firm to avoid downtime scenarios but also better optimize the amount of backup equipment they need to keep on hand. Long-term, it helps create a larger picture of asset performance, revealing important patterns and potential resource-saving opportunities. 

Conclusion 

Oil & gas is big industry. Asset utilization is just the beginning of where RFID’s impact is being felt. Increasingly so, the technology is affording broader and deeper control over operations — including production, performance, efficiency, compliance and safety. 

Looking to better leverage RFID within your oil & gas operation? We can help. Contact us today about your needs and one of our experts will be in touch.

Kathy Gannon, Strategic Sales Director at HID, boasts 15+ years of RFID mastery. Her expertise thrives in challenging environments like metal, liquid, and oil and gas. As a visionary, she redefines RFID efficiency, helping her clients select the best RFID products to meet their needs, transform businesses with cutting-edge solutions, and revolutionize the way we approach RFID efficiency and innovation.

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