Creating Safer Workplaces - How Oil & Gas Companies Can Mitigate Risk With Touchless™ Monitoring

Oil & gas facilities are difficult and sometimes dangerous places for workers. Hazardous conditions, including the presence of flammable gas, toxic chemicals, and heavy equipment mean that the health and safety of personnel must always be the priority when extracting, transporting, storing, or distributing petroleum products. 

Despite efforts to improve safety, oil & gas workers are still at risk of injury or death. A US Center for Disease Control (CDC) report found that 470 oil & gas workers died between 2014 and 2019. 

Fortunately, technology, when combined with effective health and safety protocols, can help to mitigate this risk and create a safer work environment across the production process. Touchless™ Monitoring solutions that use thermal and visual sensors make it possible to monitor equipment and processes remotely, reducing exposure to hazardous environments and providing early detection in case of a potential incident. 

This article will highlight five ways that oil & gas companies can improve safety by implementing Touchless™ Monitoring solutions. 

1) Reduced Risk of Catastrophic Failures

Flammable gasses are an ever-present danger, and with that comes the potential for catastrophic fires or explosions if something goes wrong. According to the CDC, explosions accounted for 14.5 percent of all fatal events.

Touchless™ Monitoring solutions can reduce the risk by providing early detection and warning of potential faults. For example, optical gas imaging (OGI) can automatically detect a gas leak, pinpoint the source, and quantify the volume of the leak. 

After receiving the alarm, the Operations & Maintenance team can proactively evacuate the area, diagnose the root cause, and conduct a repair before a serious incident occurs. 

Compared to alternative gas detection methods, the ability to locate and quantify the leak remotely, and quickly survey large areas day and night, makes it possible to assess the level of risk and prioritize a response without the need for further manual inspections or interrupting the process. 

2) Less Exposure to Hazardous Conditions 

Remote monitoring means workers can spend less time operating in hazardous areas, reducing exposure to potentially harmful chemicals that can cause both acute and long-term illness or death. 

Oil tank gauging and measurement, for example, is often done manually, with workers climbing on top of tanks to measure oil levels, pressure, or temperature. Tank gauging caused at least 21 deaths since 2010 after workers were exposed to and inhaled toxic gasses. 

Instead, radiometric thermal imaging sensors allow operators to quantify and visualize the liquid in the tank, measure fuel temperatures, and evaluate conditions for pressure build-up and leaks, all from a safe and remote location. 

3) Reduced Travel Time

While not always top of mind, transportation deaths are in fact among the leading causes of workplace injuries and deaths across industries. This is especially true in oil & gas, where facilities may be located hours away from emergency services and roads are often difficult and dangerous to navigate. 

The CDC report found that vehicle incidents were the most frequent cause of fatal events, accounting for 26.8 percent. The risk was even greater for offshore oil facilities, where transportation events including aircraft and water vehicles accounted for half of all fatalities. 

Remote monitoring reduces risk by minimizing the need to travel. By providing a continuous, 24/7 view of equipment and assets, operators can monitor health and performance remotely. With less time spent on the road, workers are less at risk of fatal collisions. 

4) Access Control and Safety Monitoring

Different parts of a facility have different levels of risk depending on the presence of flammable gas, harmful chemicals, or other hazardous materials. Entering these restricted can only be done by properly trained personnel. 

Sensors can be deployed to monitor access to secure and hazardous areas. The certified explosion-proof sensors can be used within Zone 1 areas if needed or further away in Zone 2 or safe areas to detect when someone enters or exits the area. 

The thermal sensors provide fewer false positives compared to traditional video cameras. On the other hand, health and safety teams can use the visual feed to monitor adherence to safety protocols such as the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). 

While not the primary application, visual cameras can also be used as part of a larger security system by providing high-resolution video that can be used in case of a security incident. 

5) Better Allocation of Scarce Technical Resources

Like many industries, oil & gas is experiencing a shortage of skilled and experienced workers that has only grown as workers left during the COVID-19 pandemic. In many cases, workers have been drawn away from the challenging environments that are common to the industry.

Touchless™ Monitoring reduces the burden on these scarce technical resources by making it possible for highly skilled personnel to monitor performance, manage asset health, and assess the safety of multiple sites from a single remote location. 

Similarly, greater access to data enables oil & gas companies to transition toward a condition-based maintenance strategy based on the actual health and performance of the asset. This predictive maintenance capability requires fewer inspections, freeing up personnel for other, more strategic initiatives. 

Improving Safety While Optimizing Operations & Maintenance 

Oil & gas companies have a responsibility to keep workers safe. Touchless™ Monitoring solutions not only help to mitigate risk by reducing exposure to hazardous environments but also provide greater visibility and control over the entire production process. 

By leveraging data & analytics, oil & gas companies can automatically detect performance and safety issues, diagnose the root cause, and prioritize a response, all while keeping workers away from potentially dangerous situations.