RFID technology to drive safety, reduce non-productive downtime, enhance operational efficiencies, and extend asset lifecycles.
Oil and Gas asset tracking has successfully integrated RFID technology into drilling, completion, and production, to drive safety, reduce non-productive downtime, enhance operational efficiencies, and extend asset lifecycles.
Using Radio Frequency technology for asset tracking in the Oil and Gas industry calls for systems to be ruggedized to ensure they deliver under extreme temperatures, pressure, corrosion, vibrations, shocks when operating downhole, subsea, and on the surface.
Drill pipes make up the majority of a drill string’s length and account for considerable inventories held or rented by drilling companies, resulting in significant expenditures and risks.
Extreme wellbores impose high demands on materials, connections, and fatigue life, all of which necessitate detailed information and data points for each individual pipe. Difficulties are exacerbated by the participation of service providers in the lifecycle management of drill pipes, given the critical information they maintain on mandatory inspections and repairs.
These demands can be met by implementing effective tracking and data capture on individual joints of pipe. Because of manual identification and tracking methods, drill pipes would be managed in sets instead of individually. Once moved to the drilling rig for commissioning, the history of operating time, circulation hours, rotor revolutions, would only be documented for an entire set. This results in unreliable information and data sets for individual items, forcing inspections to rely on external signs of physical wear.
With RFID pipe tracking, identification can be automated, streamlining handling procedures throughout the drill pipe’s lifecycle, while supporting data collecting to improve safety and future performance:
Inventory and yard management
Inspections: Fatigue damage accumulation, fatigue strength
Repairs and maintenance
An RFID drill pipe sees a rugged RFID transponder flush-mounted in the tool joints, and the chip is programmed with a serial number to offer unique identification.
When tripping a pipe out/in the well, the chip can be scanned using a fixed RFID reader situated below the rotor to establish an automatic pipe tally. The serial number is matched to retrieve and update the pipe’s information: location, movements, individual-joint dimensions, exact length, physical wear, fatigue damage, inspection information, and so on.
Tracking assets in drilling, fracking, offshore, and mining operations takes place in some of the world’s toughest environments for humans and technology.
Tracking technologies widely used in other industries struggle to match the oil and gas industry’s real-world needs and standards. QR and barcodes, for example, must be intact, clean, and visible in order to be scanned.
Specialized Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID) are available that have been qualified to withstand the harshest environments in which exploration, development, and completion take place. Each Oil and Gas RFID tag contains a silicon chip with information recorded that can be read electronically, at a distance using an RFID reader.
Unlike active tags which need their own energy source, passive tags are powered by the electromagnetic field generated by the reader, making them less costly and smaller than active tags.
Moreover, RFID comes with different frequency standards such as HF, LF, and UHF, that perform differently in the field. For instance, tags can be read from several meters away while others will require a very close distance in order to be scanned and interrogated. The former will be favored where there are requirements to scan assets beyond the line of sight of the reader, being hard to reach, and also for identifying inventory in bulk.
Xerafy has been at the forefront of UHF RFID technology advancements working with leading oil, gas, and mining operators to develop solutions that are aligned with global standards, ATEX-certified, and On-Metal. The Xerafy tags have been qualified in the harsh-environment operations of upstream, midstream, and downstream applications, including typical drilling and completion fluids such as mud, seawater, brine, and sand and proppant mixes.
Xerafy has created innovative features, such as the ability to implant an RFID responder in the metal of a drill string, oilfield tool, or lifting equipment.
While RFID encased in steel should not operate in theory, Xerafy’s patent-pending antenna design bypasses these constraints by utilizing the asset’s metal itself, transforming it into an RF antenna with detecting capabilities in all directions. This means that the RFID tag can be put in a hole drilled in a mill slot on the drill pipe’s pin end, with an epoxy used to join the threads and secure the tag in place.
The same levels of care and innovation go into designing a range of attachment mechanisms that ensure a tag is securely bonded to the asset it is tracking: Embedded in metal, Welding, Rivets, Screws, Fasteners.
Additionally, each Xerafy RFID tag can be customized to provide identification redundancy, e.g. with a unique serial number being encoded in the chip and also laser-etched on the surface of the tag to be read with the naked eye or scanned as a QR barcode.
All of the Xerafy Oil and Gas RFID tagging solutions comply fully with the RAIN RFID standard. Available independently of OEMs, they offer energy industry operators the opportunity to develop their own automated systems for identification, tracking, and traceability, and can be used to retrofit new as well as existing equipment, with engineering support available from Xerafy and its network of certified partners. Xerafy also works directly with equipment OEMs looking to embed RFID to offer IoT features and services throughout the value chain.
Oil and Gas assets and equipment and their RFID tags are detected using readers, which communicate data to a database in real-time. The selection of RFID readers will be influenced by accuracy and automation needs.
The maximum distance at which information can be scanned is determined by the size of the tags and the object. Some applications will necessitate operating over larger distances and in different directions (for example, while locating pipelines in the yard), whereas others will be specifically designed for limited ranges in order to prevent stray reads from other tags (e.g. when tripping pipes, or for adjacent pipes on the same rack).
Furthermore, readers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing for strategic placement while keeping data capture automation and full coverage in mind, without interfering with workflows.
The oil and gas asset tracking software will in effect link each asset serial number to a database holding a wide range of information: Inspection reports, manufacturer documentation, and historical data. Making the tracking system interoperable with existing systems will allow for seamless integration into existing operations in the office, yard, and on the rig floor.
This ensures that the system provides operational visibility to everyone involved, even in the field:
A tool pusher on the rig floor can see when the pipe was last inspected, who inspected it, and its real measurements using a handheld device.
Inspectors can directly review crucial operational data, such as total rotations or the joint’s sequential position in the drill string.
In the repair shop, each job is easily identified and tracked.
One critical success factor for digitization projects is to reduce the need for change management by offering suitable interfaces for varied users in various situations.
Beyond their operational value, Oil and Gas asset tracking systems ultimately generate data points that help increase awareness, can be audited, and are used to improve process efficiency and risk reduction.