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Regulations, Resignations & Robots

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Picture of Meenal Datar

Meenal Datar

Membership specialist

The oil and gas industry has watched for years as its veterans retire from the workforce. It’s been referred to by a number of names, from ‘the graying of the workforce’ to today’s favourite, the ‘Great Resignation.’ It is a factor in many industries, prodded and poked by journalists and sociologists and written about in Forbes articles and Buzzfeed listicles. It is one of the most predicted events in our modern times. Like a looming hurricane, that doesn’t mean an easy answer was available.

The Great Resignation was in full swing before Covid. The 2019 Global Energy Talent Index by Airswift and Energy Jobline showed a talent crisis in 39% of North American and 42% of European companies. However, the pandemic certainly exacerbated the effects, changing both how we work and how we think.

THE GOAL OF DIGITALISATION

Factors compound factors. Added to this stew was the realisation of a long-sought goal of digitalisation. The shift from pen and paper to digital began to gain traction. Robotic devices quickly evolved from glorified toys to sturdy tools that inspectors could rely on to get results. Maintenance became a minigame of measuring multiple conditions against known tolerances and scheduling work accordingly. Machine learning, data analytics and the Internet of Things crept up and then swept into the industrial landscape.

Now, in Texas and many other US states, regulations are poised to become more complicated, intertwined as they are with competing standards from other national, provincial and corporate bodies. In the case of the Lone Star State, Hurricane Harvey and a few isolated incidents showed that certain aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) needed tougher regulations. No one argues against safety, but the implementation of new regulations
would be complicated.

MORE PROBLEMS MORE SOLUTIONS

However, recalling on the industry’s experience was leaving the market, it left AST owner/operators with a difficult situation. How were they to comply with new regulations and different standard requirements? Regulatory authorities tend not to be aligned on which standard to use. And how are they to replace the skilled workers who were exiting the workforce?

The answer to some of these problems can be the other problems. The digital tools used for inspections have, applied correctly, simplified much of the process. Photographs long ago gave back-office managers the opportunity to spot-check documented anomalies. New inspection tools enabled this at scale. A submersible robot can check a tank while it’s in use, full of substances that would be deadly to human lungs. It can take hundreds of readings and transmit them, checking things a human eye could not. A crawler on a tank’s surface can see inside its walls via non-destructive testing (NDT).

These tools are impressive, but even the most basic inspection benefits from a digital native using their smartphone to record results and send them back to a repository. But what happens to the new deluge of data?

NEW DATA

A system that manages the massive amount of information is required. One that can analyse, aggregate and automate the handling of the inspection data, ensuring that simple yet informative reports are available to all stakeholders so everyone is on the same page. This secure platform would empower AST owner/operators to do side-by-side and year-over-year comparisons without spending hours seeking a USB drive or PDF report for reference.

Now, the problem is the solution. New digital tools and workflows enable new talent and management to see immediate results from well-planned inspections without risking their personal safety.

 

John Evans from HUVRdata and Earl Crochet (Crochet Midstream Consulting) will be speaking at the StocExpo conference on 14-16 March. Don’t forget to register now and claim your conference ticket.

 

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