Today, there are more cell phones than people in the world. But you would not guess it by visiting oil and gas installations.

The primary reason, of course, is safety: because a malfunctioning device could cause a spark that could ignite flammable gas, commercially available smartphones are banned from many sites, including oil wells and refineries. In addition, many assets are geographically remote, and low connectivity can make it challenging to communicate with the outside world, upload information, or access online tools.

This has made the digital transformation of the Oil and Gas industry an uphill battle. While other industries have made mobile devices the cornerstone of their digitization, many oil and gas companies still swear by ruggedized laptops. They need help to phase out paper-based processes.

But the situation is changing. With intrinsically safe devices, bespoke mobile applications, and greater connectivity allowed by 5G and LEO networks, some leading actors are using smartphones to increase productivity, become more efficient, and reduce costs. Here is why:

·        Mobile workers need mobile solutions

If challenges to using mobile devices in oil and gas are significant, so are its potential benefits.

Oil and Gas facilities are often immense: a pipeline can span thousands of miles, and the world’s largest refinery, in Gujarat, India, is half the size of Manhattan. Saddling the thousands of mobile workers who operate and maintain these facilities with desktop interfaces and pen-and-paper processes can therefore prove highly wasteful.

·        Real-time capture leads to more accurate data and saves time.

With the appropriate mobile device and applications, workers can signal problems on the spot and enrich their descriptions with images, a short video, or even a voice recording.

·        Smartphones lead to smarter maintenance.

These benefits can make a real difference when it comes to maintenance. Tooled with suitable applications, field workers can view the characteristics and history of each piece of equipment and run automated monitoring processes from their smartphones.

·        Environmental regulations could impose faster reaction times.

And, as governments ramp up environmental regulations, Oil & Gas companies find that empowering mobile workers could become essential to meeting their mandated sustainability targets.

Around the world, several countries and territories have adopted new rules that require Oil & Gas companies to curb the greenhouse gas emissions caused by their production processes. Among the practices in their crosshairs are leaks and methane flaring – using fire at oil and gas wells to burn off excess gas.

Connected mobile workers are critical in helping Oil & Gas companies abide by these new rules. They can intervene faster and, with access to meter readings, analytics, and historical data, are better equipped to detect leaks. They can also make better decisions regarding maintenance and equipment shutdowns. Finally, they let companies meet their reporting obligations and demonstrate compliance, avoiding steep financial penalties.

Three things to consider: devices, applications, integrations

These benefits make a compelling case for more mobile devices and connected workers in Oil & gas operations. But several considerations must be kept in mind for successful implementation.

These prerequisites – usability, interface with enterprise applications, and integration within asset management systems – means that we may not see the latest iPhone and its latest features become enterprise tools in Oil & Gas anytime soon. But today, the conditions are met for the oil and gas industry to (finally) go mobile. And, from maintenance to collaboration and sustainability, smart mobile devices have the potential to be key accelerators of digital transformation.

This blog was originally posted on Hexagon’s website. To read the full post here.