Why Drones are Fundamental to the Oil and Gas Industry

By Kate Permenter, Editor, Pipeline News

We’re all familiar with the widespread craze of drones— the flying robots that have been occupying headlines across the world. Maybe you’ve seen the kids next door flying them in your backyard and doing backflips mid-air, or Amazon’s proposal to deliver packages via drones through their potential “Prime Air” service. Drones have been used by the military for over a decade, but have only recently become a hot commodity amongst civilians and commercial businesses.

But drones aren’t just for tricks and package deliveries, they are also a valuable tool for pipeline inspection, including oil and gas pipeline leak detection.

Historically, pipeline inspection methods have been slow, manually intensive, dangerous and costly. This is especially true for leak detection. Pipeline leaks can have a devastating impact on the environment, cause injuries and deaths, and trigger catastrophic economic consequences. Pipeline operators that deploy workers to walk or drive the line for leak detection put their personnel at risk and flying helicopters over the right-of-way can be extremely expensive. The solution for safe, cost-effective leak detection in oil and gas pipelines is drones.

According to a University of Aberdeen report, IR imaging and specialized sensors can be used to detect oil spills and gas emissions. The report says drones can generate aerial thermograms through IR imaging, which uses a thermal imaging camera to measure ground temperature and provide real-time data analysis. IR imaging can pick up on the difference in temperatures between an oil spill (warmer than environment) and gas emissions (cooler than environment), the report states.

As more pipeline operators recognize the pioneering technology that drones offer, leak detection will become a streamlined process that will save on cost, increase safety and enhance overall productivity.

To learn more about how drones are helping big players like Chevron ETC and ConocoPhillips, join our P&GJ-hosted webinar with John Leipper, Solutions Architect at Insitu, and Charlton Evans, Commercial Aviation Products Manager at Insitu. Register here for this forward-looking webinar on November 15, 2016 at 2:00 PM EST.

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