As we move further into 2022, the energy crisis seems to be hitting harder every day. Wholesale gas and electricity prices are soaring to unprecedented levels. In fact, they’re currently running at between 400% and 800% higher than in March 2021! The reasons are complex. In the UK for example, a policy decision to rely more heavily on North Sea reserves has exposed the economy to price hikes. That’s because a rise in post-pandemic consumption is further depleting already reduced local reserves. In the US, a pandemic-driven drop in demand caused many suppliers to simply stop drilling – leading to serious supply and demand issues as we moved through 2021 and beyond. And, of course, the war in Ukraine is acutely compounding the issue.
What’s more, this is all set against the backdrop of increasing concern over climate change. Oil, gas and electricity suppliers recognise the importance of reducing carbon footprint, but they face a delicate balancing act. Ensuring that businesses and consumers receive reliable energy, whilst dealing with tricky supply chain issues, and also moving to cleaner, greener energy production, is an unenviable challenge.
This all paints a rather bleak picture – but let’s pause for a moment and turn to McKinsey’s Global Energy Perspective 2022 for some more positive news. Leading up to COP26, the report says, 64 countries pledged their commitment to achieving net zero in the coming years. Electrification and renewables will make up 50% of global energy by 2050. And, by 2035, decarbonisation technologies are predicted to make up more than 25% of total global investment in the energy sector. So, there is undoubtedly a collective intention to find ways to transform how we supply and consume energy – for economic, commercial, social and environmental benefit alike.
Technology has an increasing part to play, too. In particular DAS (Distributed Acoustic Sensing) Technology is evolving to become a lead player in the strategy to safeguard energy resources. This won’t solve the many and complex pressures supply chains are facing. But it can support oil, gas, and renewable energy operators in ensuring that wastage is minimised by protecting pipeline and cabling infrastructure.
Minimising Oil and Gas Leaks With DAS Photonic Pipeline Monitoring
Pipeline leaks and spills are all too common and can result in catastrophic losses. Given the vast lengths and typically remote locations of pipelines across the globe, leaks are notoriously difficult to monitor, detect, and repair. Even the smallest breach to a pipeline’s integrity can cause extremely serious leaks. Because, when a leak goes undetected, the sheer volume and flow means that the damage is done before the operator even becomes aware of the problem.
DAS pipeline monitoring systems are tackling this with unprecedented speed, accuracy, and reliability. By continuously monitoring the fibre optic cables that typically run alongside pipelines, DAS technology detects even the smallest disturbance along the line. And, in the case of Helios DAS®, leaks are not simply detected. They are pinpointed to within metres, verified as an incident of concern by intelligent algorithms, and reported within minutes. This equips the operator to take rapid, targeted action on genuine pipeline integrity threats, and repair the damage as quickly as possible.
Preventing Pipeline Theft with Fibre Optic Sensing
Pipeline theft – or hot tapping – is also responsible for massive oil losses (not to mention billions of dollars of lost revenue) across the world. But DAS technology is helping to win the battle. Key to this is a DAS asset monitoring system’s machine learning and edge computing capabilities. As well as detecting the location of the disturbance – fast – the right DAS system can also analyse the nature of the disturbance. Is it benign? Is it a leak? Or is criminal activity suspected? Again, this optimises the operator’s response. In the case of theft, for example, DAS technology can be integrated with security systems or a UAV drone. This can be flown rapidly to the location to warn criminals off, film their activities, and even follow them for the best chance of pursuing justice against the perpetrator.
Deploying DAS Photonics to Monitor Offshore Cabling Infrastructure
When it comes to renewable energy, offshore wind farms have an important part to play. Indeed, the IEA has shown that close-to-shore windfarms could have the capacity to meet almost all of the world’s electricity demands by 2040.
But the energy still needs to be transported – and cabling infrastructure is crucial to this. Subsea cables are vulnerable to natural marine disturbances, anchor drag strikes, and cable arcing. The nature of the disturbances may be different to those that threaten pipelines – but the role of the DAS technology remains the same. So, intelligent, always-on subsea cable monitoring can (and should) play a vital role in renewable energy growth, by safeguarding the assets the sector depends on to evolve.
For Fotech, renewable energy is a key area of strategic growth, as confirmed by our recently appointed Strategic Partnerships Manager, Joyce Lamy. We are proud of our technology’s potential to be part of the global energy transition, and of the role it is playing in conserving resources and protecting business critical assets for customers worldwide.
More on DAS Photonic Asset Monitoring
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