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Remote technology points to cost efficiency and quality gains

Published: 3 December 2018

  • Remote technology can reduce the need for travel to a site for surveys and help the oil and gas industry to avoid scheduling delays

  • Live-streaming of inspections and surveys from distant locations also lowers costs, safety risks and impact on the environment

  • Industry contractor Saipem and equipment manufacturer Cameron benefit from instant access to experts globally for quicker resolution of on-site issues

Companies across the oil and gas value chain are seeking quicker, more accessible and more cost-effective ways to ensure technical safety and performance of projects and operations without the need to travel.  

A growing number are using digital technologies to bring inspectors and surveyors to a site virtually in order to witness and verify the quality and integrity of equipment and assets to company specifications or industry standards. Remote technology, using proven and readily available digital equipment such as smartphones, tablet computers and digital cameras, allows inspections to be streamed live online from distant locations (Figure 1).

Lino Papetti, head of post order management, E&C onshore, Saipem

The technology is ready, and I personally believe that now is the time to start using it seriously"

  • Lino Papetti ,
  • head of post order management, E&C onshore ,
  • Saipem

“We can use remote technology on a number of applications within our typical engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract. The technology is ready, and I personally believe that now is the time to start using it seriously,” said Lino Papetti , head of post order management, E&C onshore, Saipem. 

“This could include almost all the equipment and bulk material that we traditionally inspect,” he added. “As a contractor, we increasingly have to expedite and inspect lower tiers of our supply chain to ensure a timely and quality delivery to our projects. We believe that remote inspection will make it easier to achieve this goal, with benefits on mobility, safety, and sustainability.” 

Remote technology can provide easy, near-real-time access to experts in any internet-connected location at any time. It thereby significantly reduces the financial, safety, and environmental risks associated with travel. Paolo Albini, head of procurement and post order management, E&C, offshore division, Saipem, said: “In our initial tests of these new technologies, we saw the opportunity to save up to 35% on inspection costs using this approach, which can enable quicker feedback and speed up critical decision making.” One such inspection by Saipem took around 2.5 hours, about half what the traditional method would have involved, he said as an example.

Paolo Albini, head of procurement and post order management, E&C, offshore division, Saipem

In our initial tests, we saw the opportunity to save up to 35% on inspection costs using this approach"

  • Paolo Albini ,
  • head of procurement and post order management, E&C, offshore division ,
  • Saipem

“The remote technology approach also enables easy and quick involvement of health, safety, security and environment technical experts in the process,” Albini continued. “In addition, the ability to discuss technical issues on the fly with suppliers can identify possible improvements to productivity, or help to anticipate potential delays.” 

Benefits span technical assurance 

DNV GL has found that the application of remote technology to its inspection, verification, and marine assurance services has increased efficiency by cutting the time that customers need to wait for an inspector or surveyor to become available (Figure 2).

“Our customers are increasingly turning to remote technologies to reduce the need to travel to a site for surveys and inspections, and to reduce costs,” said Koheila Molazemi, technology and innovation director, DNV GL - Oil & Gas.

Koheila Molazemi, global service area leader for risk management advisory, DNV GL - Oil & Gas

High-definition images and video with records stored on military-grade servers let more experts share insight and support critical decision making

  • Koheila Molazemi ,
  • technology and innovation director ,
  • DNV GL - Oil & Gas

“We expect the oil and gas industry to quickly adopt remote technology for technical assurance activities, such as quality assurance, verification, certification and marine warranty. It is easy and intuitive to use, and the availability of high-definition images and video stored on military-grade servers allows multiple parties from DNV GL and our customers to share insight and support critical decision making,” Molazemi added.

The company is seeing rising interest among its operator, supplier, and EPC customer base worldwide in using such digital technologies. These are already being used in projects across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

Technology delivers instant access to deep technical expertise

Instead of booking a survey weeks in advance, remote technology enables easy, instant connection with the most relevant expert for the job. The inspector or surveyor may be in Aberdeen and the survey in Abu Dhabi, for example.

Good connectivity is obviously fundamental for this. “Remote survey technology can be applied to practically every environment in which we conduct physical surveys and inspections,” said Molazemi. “If there are weaknesses in connection, we can put in place robust technologies to overcome these in order to complete the technical assurance work.”

Efficient and accurate evidence gathering

DNV GL has conducted successful pilots of the technology in partnership with operators, EPCs including Saipem, and asset and equipment manufacturers across Europe, Asia, and North and South America.

The manufacturers include Cameron, a Schlumberger Company, whose valves plant at Voghera in Italy is a world‐class centre of excellence for design and manufacturing of engineered-to-order type of valves. Some of its customers, usually major oil and gas companies and EPCs, are starting witnessing inspection activities in the plant’s workshop live from across the globe by live stream.

There are clear gains from a manufacturer’s perspective, said Mauro Ranzini, V&M Grove manufacturing manager, Cameron: “We have all the information captured, recorded, and streamed live. It is completely different to someone witnessing it physically without any records.”

Nauro Ranzini, V&M Grove manufacturing manager, Cameron

Compared with a signed statement, recording and live-streaming inspections is better evidence that something was working before being installed in the field"

  • Mauro Ranzini ,
  • V&M Grove manufacturing manager ,
  • Cameron

Enabling greater reliability, enhanced accuracy, and trust

Being able to trust the process is vital. “We have developed a complete set of risk-based processes and guidance, ensuring the highest levels of safety, integrity, and reliability. Having a strong governance model lets our customers see they are going to receive a consistent service,” explained Molazemi. 

“DNV GL is a leading company in inspection; so, testing the tool designed by it specifically for this purpose gives us a good level of confidence for using it in post-order management,” Saipem’s Papetti said. “Alternatives appear almost daily in a booming market for remote surveillance and inspection activities. DNV GL effectively guarantees an extra level of quality because it is developing this for its core business.”

Companies plan more roll-outs and investment 

Asked how far and fast remote inspection and witnessing could spread, Papetti said: “We will start using it while keeping in mind the supply-chain risk-management level that applies. We are starting with low-risk expediting and inspection activities, and doing it in parallel with the traditional way to compare results.”

He continued: “We plan to extensively use the remote inspection technology. The same technology can be used to support vendor site assistance, as it is becoming increasingly difficult and costly to deploy vendors to remote site locations worldwide.”

Saipem’s Albini added: “If we like it, it could become established in a couple of years and be the first choice, compared with traditional witness inspections, within probably three to four years. It could be even faster though: it is moving so quickly.”

Cameron’s Ranzini commented: “We have just started remote inspection for pressure-testing activities. I see no reason for not also applying the concept to up-front activities such as general site survey and new vendor qualification, for example. We will be investing in our digital infrastructure in order to maximize the efficiency and connectivity of the high‐definition cameras that are installed in some of our 27 test bunkers at the Voghera‐Grove facility in Italy. A similar approach can be easily implemented and expanded throughout other SLB Product Lines across the globe.” This investment will, he said, let third-party agencies connect to Cameron’s system and leverage its infrastructure to stream live to the valve maker’s customers.

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DNV prides itself on providing accurate information but makes no claims or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of contents in this publication, and disclaims liability for any errors or omissions. The authors’ views here do not necessarily reflect DNV’s views.

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