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September 22, 2014
Leveraging technology innovation: time for digital pipelines?
By: Tracey Countryman

Across the world, oil and gas pipeline operators are investing heavily in new technologies to address talent shortage, replace aging networks and achieve better control, inspection and maintenance of assets. Industry analyst IHS estimates an investment of more than US$80 billion every year in petroleum infrastructure in the US during 2014-2020 and US$60 billion every year during 2020-2025. Will these investments help pipeline operators to better leverage emerging technologies to deliver significant improvements in their performance and maximize value across their networks? Are we ready yet for “digital pipelines”?

Accenture defines the digital pipeline as information convergence in a cloud-based environment, with new technologies being added to provide near real-time visibility into the condition and risk profile of assets, and workforce enablement via remote collaboration tools. Today, rapidly evolving on-the-leading-edge technologies are allowing operators to build virtual pipeline assets which facilitate a safer working environment, reduce operating costs, and encourage both expert knowledge retention and remote expert collaboration.

Previous posts on this blog have discussed some of the technologies highlighted in our point of view, such as unmanned aerial vehicles or drones, and wearable computer devices that provide on-site visualization of maintenance information, asset detail and three-dimensional images for seamless collaboration with experts residing at an off-site location. Similar people tracking devices are allowing for real time monitoring of hazardous atmosphere and provide “man-down” alerts.

The convergence of operations and information technologies is enabling analytics to play an increasingly larger role in driving operational and commercial insights. In industries such as energy or airlines, where delay directly impacts profitability, advanced predictive analytics solutions are helping companies to improve maintenance, avoid unplanned downtime and recover faster from outages. The use of advanced network modelling, automation of business processes, big data computing power, and proactive maintenance techniques are enabling operators to fine-tune in more real time running pipeline networks, while industrial automation security is helping to protect such critical infrastructure from cyber threats.

Read more on how digital pipelines can bring about breakthrough improvements in integrity, safety, compliance and operational efficiency.

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