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Fiber Optics in the Oil and Gas Industries

fiber optic, fiber optic cables, fiber optic cable, oil and gas, oil and gas industries

Let’s not joke around. Oil and gas are two of the biggest industries in the world. One look at oil royalties will substantiate that claim. Oil and gas are also two of the most critical resources. The ever-increasing demand has caused them both to expand near-exponentially, even though the core infrastructure has more or less remained the same. As the technology that connects locations and systems together has improved, so too has the need for the oil and gas industries to coordinate and consolidate.

The industry that fuels the world isn’t immune to the need to connect everything and subject itself to the “internet of things.” Fiber optic cables are seeing use in this industry, as companies leverage their advantages to improve operational performance and efficiency.

Why Fiber Optics?

It’s not hard to see why the oil industry wants to use fiber optic cables. They provide connectivity in installations where even the slightest delay could cause a problem. And any problem occurring in a facility that processes, drills for, or refines crude oil is one where safety and productivity are paramount. These are already difficult environments, so there is no need to make them any worse.

Tracking Things As They Happen

One of the most crucial elements of making these environments safe is real-time monitoring and tracking. This is something that fiber optic cables provide. The use of light, rather than electrical signals, to transmit data means that it gets from point A to point B faster. This allows for more accurate monitoring and analysis, giving people a better reaction time in case anything goes wrong.

Sensors

Fiber optics is also useful in sensing data. A fiber optic cable can transmit a large amount of data on temperature, oil reserve levels, asset locations, and more. The bandwidth, weight, and installation time are faster and they have the advantage of maintaining the strength of the signal over long distances. This is something that more traditional copper wires can’t do without additional infrastructure.

Performance Under Extreme Conditions

A related strength of fiber optic cable is that it can deliver optimal performance even under high temperatures and pressures. These are conditions that you can expect in refineries and other locations. With the proper protection, a fiber optic cable can endure these conditions without any loss of signal strength or distortion of the data coming through to the other end.

Hard to Reach Areas

A fiber optic cable supplier can also add sensing capability to the cables, allowing for monitoring the reservoirs. This provides much cleaner, more accurate data to understand what is happening in areas beyond human sight. This gives a better picture of the conditions and informs how the crew might want to adapt to avoid any potential problems.

Optical fiber systems are also useful in inspecting the facilities. They’re flexible and can weave into spaces that are too tight or too hazardous for human inspection. This includes the ability to detect any leaks in the pipes.

People also use distributed sensing systems along with the cables. This helps in measuring the temperature and formation of hydration along the pipelines. Combined with electrical trace heating, this can give an accurate picture of how hot things are getting and when someone might need to step in.

Monitoring Pipelines

Pipelines are considered the safest mode of transporting oil and gas. These pipelines are in many places, see widespread use, and are in high demand. Rather than just pipes, however, they are very complex feats of engineering that have to survive earthquakes, mudslides, and other geological issues. At the same time, there are many structural and mechanical concerns. Fiber optic monitoring is the most cost-effective method of monitoring these pipes.

Why are oil companies so concerned with pipelines and leaks, anyway? There is a loss of product, which is likely their main motivator. There is also the loss of life that is related to any accidents that occur, along with damage to the environment around the pipelines. Even small ruptures can cause a great deal of damage in the immediate area, as well as long-term environmental havoc.

Why So Many Safety Concerns?

As you might have noticed, all of these are safety-related concerns. While fiber optic cables can allow for industrial network setup in an oil and gas facility, safety is the greater concern for optical fiber technologies in this industry. Systems like Distributed Temperature Sensing and Distributed Acoustic Sensing is useful in detecting leaks and other potential safety concerns.

The ability to detect the leaks in real time gives companies better odds of containing the oil before it causes too much damage. Fiber optic technologies allow for a passive sensor, rather than needing an active signal to act upon the system. And since light is used to transmit the signal, the information gets to where it needs to be faster.

Conclusion

Fiber optics in the oil and gas industries are used for various purposes. However, apart from the networking and communications uses, the bulk of it is in safety. The cables provide a number of advantages over the older, more traditional copper cables. They are likely to remain in use as critical safety and maintenance equipment for a long time to come.


More on this topic: 5 Reasons Why Structured Cabling is an Essential for Every Business


 

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