RFID for Oil and Gas
Asset Tracking

The Oil and Gas industry has successfully integrated RFID technology into drilling, completion, and production applications, to drive safety, reduce non-productive downtime, enhance operational efficiencies, and extend asset lifecycles.

6 Use Cases For RFID Systems Driving Digitization in Oil and Gas and Mining

  1. Drill Pipe Inspections

  2. Drill Bits and Downhole Tools

  3. Drilling Offshore and Deepwater

  4. ​Iron Fleet Maintenance

  5. Rigging and Lifting Equipment

  6. Mining Sites

Using Radio Frequency technology for asset tracking in the Oil and Gas industry calls for systems to be ruggedized to ensure they deliver under extreme temperatures, pressure, corrosion, vibrations, shocks when operating downhole, subsea, and on the surface. Select components are available to build on, that have been qualified in the field by leading industry players: Rugged embedded RFID tags, agile readers, and interoperable tracking software.

 

THE CHALLENGES FOR TRACKING SYSTEMS IN OIL AND GAS

Tracking assets in drilling, fracking, offshore, and mining operations takes place in some of the world’s toughest environments for humans and technology.

 

Safety hazards are significant in potentially hazardous and isolated regions with limited Internet and cellular connectivity. When dealing with large fleets of owned and/or contracted equipment and components utilized in drilling and production activities, inspections and maintenance in the field become even more difficult.

 

Manual tracking has significant hidden costs: It is time-consuming, tedious, error-prone, and lacks real-time visibility, resulting in unplanned disruptions.

 

Tracking technologies widely used in other industries struggle to match the oil and gas industry's real-world needs and standards. QR and barcodes, for example, must be intact, clean, and visible in order to be scanned. Oilfield conditions are among the most difficult physical environments to work in: Deepwater, high-chemical exposures, downhole pressure, and vibrations, HPHT (High Pressure-High Temperature drilling over 150°C and/or pressure more than 10,000psi).
 

  • How to capture the data required to run operations efficiently?

  • How to perform inspections in the field for remote locations?

  • How can traditional asset tracking functions such as identification, inventory, and replenishment be reliably automated?

  • How do you create an asset tracking software and system that provides dependable real-time data?

  • How can operational efficiency and staff productivity be improved without compromising safety?

DRILL PIPE INSPECTIONS

Drill pipes make up the majority of a drill string's length and account for considerable inventories held or rented by drilling companies, resulting in significant expenditures and risks.

 

Extreme wellbores impose high demands on materials, connections, and fatigue life, all of which necessitate detailed information and data points for each individual pipe. Difficulties are exacerbated by the participation of service providers in the lifecycle management of drill pipes, given the critical information they maintain on mandatory inspections and repairs.

 

These demands can be met by implementing effective tracking and data capture on individual joints of pipe. Because of manual identification and tracking methods, drill pipes would be managed in sets instead of individually. Once moved to the drilling rig for commissioning, the history of operating time, circulation hours, rotor revolutions, would only be documented for an entire set. This results in unreliable information and data sets for individual items, forcing inspections to rely on external signs of physical wear.

RFID is utilized for drill pipe identification​ and drilling automation, streamlining procedures throughout the drill pipe's complete lifecycle management and supporting data collecting to improve safety and future drill pipe performance:

  • Inventory and yard management

  • Pipe tripping

  • Inspections: Fatigue damage accumulation, fatigue strength

  • Repairs and maintenance

 

When using RFID technology to track drill pipes, an RFID transponder is flush-mounted in the tool joints, and the chip is programmed with a serial number to offer unique identification. When tripping a pipe out/in the well, the chip can be scanned using a reader situated below the rotor to establish an automatic pipe tally. The serial number is matched to retrieve and update the pipe's information: location, movements, individual-joint dimensions, exact length, physical wear, fatigue damage, inspection information, and so on.

 

DRILL BITS DOWNHOLE TOOLS

Drill bits are in use across the Oil and Gas and Mining industries to drill or dig the earth's surface, using a rotary drilling method.

Operators are focused on lowering the total drilling cost (TDC) of their operations by striking the correct balance between a high rate of penetration (ROP) for their drill bits, and long service life. This process places the bits under extreme conditions, with high temperatures, high pressure, strong hardness, water, and chemicals being the norm.

These environments have proved unsurmountable challenges for off-the-shelf RFID tagging solutions. Moreover, the design and form factors of drill bits provide very limited real estate for the mounting position of traditional RFID tags. However specialized RFID tagging solutions are available to be embedded by OEMs and by operators into their equipment.

Worn Out Drill Bit at Mining Site
 

OFFSHORE AND DEEPWATER

The extraction of oil from the seabed comes with significant technical and environmental challenges.

 

Deepwater drilling takes place from 5,000 ft water depth and sees increased risks for drilling and completing wells safely and efficiently. RFID-enabled tools are utilized to address these issues by reducing risks, rig time, and nonproductive time, as well as performing operations that traditional tools cannot. Specific selection criteria, however, apply regarding contingency, safety, and risk-assessment elements.

Xerafy XPLORER for Offshore Drilling
 

IRON FLEET MAINTENANCE

Oilwell and frac operations rely on fleets of iron pieces in the field: Pressure pumps, pressure control…

 

Companies must produce inspection certifications or face costly downtimes in the millions of dollars. Certificates are traditionally produced and stored physically, relying on time-consuming manual data collection, making iron fleet administration and maintenance a time-consuming, labor-intensive, and error-prone operation.

By automating fleet inventory in the field, enabling the identification of parts and equipment with their serial number stored electronically in the tag chip, tracking in real-time through automated scanning at strategic locations, and uploading and retrieving accurate certificates, RFID helps create visibility for operators while eliminating human errors, thereby avoiding unnecessary downtimes.

 

RIGGING AND LIFTING

RFID tagging is replacing old QR barcodes and t-cards as a more effective technique for managing lifting and rigging equipment.

 

On-site identification, tracking, and filing of reports on paper takes time and is prone to errors. RFID identification helps in faster inventory checks, replenishment triggers, paperless test certificates, inspection history retrieval, electronic compliance forms, non-compliance reduction, maintenance, and logistics.

 

RFID chips are incorporated into slings, riggings, shackles, chains, and wire ropes. They feature a unique identifying number that connects the specific object to a record in an inspection management system. Embedding the chips into the body of the equipment increases its durability throughout the equipment’s lifecycle, be it from impacts, degreasing, hot washing, shot blasting, or painting.

 

RFID FOR MINING SITES

Mining companies use RFID tracking technology in the field to address their safety, operational efficiency, and compliance challenges.


Mining operators and their equipment suppliers are developing RFID tracking systems to support grinding and crushing equipment tracking, maximize availability, and optimize maintenance of underground assets. Specialized tool tracking solutions have emerged to support maintenance and power tools.

Mining Centrifuge Equipment Tracked With RFID
 

DEVELOPING THE RIGHT RFID TRACKING SYSTEM FOR
OIL AND GAS

Xerafy has been actively developing RFID tracking and identification technology for the energy industry, bringing credibility to RFID for application beyond just supply chain management, alongside industry innovators such as NOV, WeatherfordSPM Oil and Gas, among others.

RUGGED EMBEDDED RFID TAGS

Specialized Radio Frequency Identification tags (RFID) are available that have been qualified to withstand the harsh environments in which exploration, development, and completion take place. Each RFID tag contains a silicon chip with information recorded that can be read electronically, at a distance using an RFID reader.
 

Unlike active tags which need their own energy source, passive tags are powered by the electromagnetic field generated by the reader, making them less costly and smaller than active tags.

Moreover, RFID comes with different frequency standards such as HF, LF, and UHF, that perform differently in the field. For instance, tags can be read from several meters away while others will require a very close distance in order to be scanned and interrogated. The former will be favored where there are requirements to scan assets beyond the line of sight of the reader, being hard to reach, and also for identifying inventory in bulk.

Xerafy has been at the forefront of UHF RFID technology advancements working with leading oil, gas, and mining operators to develop solutions that are aligned with global standards, ATEX-certified, and On-Metal. The Xerafy tags have been qualified in the harsh-environment operations of upstream, midstream, and downstream applications, including typical drilling and completion fluids such as mud, seawater, brine, and sand and proppant mixes.

Xerafy has created innovative features, such as the ability to implant an RFID responder in the metal of a drill string, oilfield tool, or lifting equipment.


While RFID encased in steel should not operate in theory, Xerafy's patent-pending antenna design bypasses these constraints by utilizing the asset's metal itself, transforming it into an RF antenna with detecting capabilities in all directions. This means that the RFID tag can be put in a hole drilled in a mill slot on the drill pipe's pin end, with an epoxy used to join the threads and secure the tag in place.

The same levels of care and innovation go into designing a range of attachment mechanisms that ensure a tag is securely bonded to the asset it is tracking: Embedded in metal, Welding, Rivets, Screws, Fasteners.

Additionally, each Xerafy tag can be customized to provide identification redundancy, e.g. with a unique serial number being encoded in the chip and also laser-etched on the surface of the tag to be read with the naked eye or scanned as a QR barcode.

 

All of the Xerafy RFID tagging solutions comply fully with the RAIN RFID standard. Available independently of OEMs, they offer energy industry operators the opportunity to develop their own automated systems for identification, tracking, and traceability, and can be used to retrofit new as well as existing equipment, with engineering support available from Xerafy and its network of certified partners. Xerafy also works directly with equipment OEMs looking to embed RFID to offer IoT features and services throughout the value chain.

 
 
 
 

AGILE RFID READERS

 

Assets and their RFID tags are detected using readers, which communicate data to a database in real time. The selection of readers will be influenced by accuracy and automation needs.

The maximum distance at which information can be scanned is determined by the size of the tags and the object. Some applications will necessitate operating over larger distances and in different directions (for example, while locating pipelines in the yard), whereas others will be specifically designed for limited ranges in order to prevent stray reads from other tags (e.g. when tripping pipes, or for adjacent pipes on the same rack).

Furthermore, readers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing for strategic placement while keeping data capture automation and full coverage in mind, without interfering with workflows.

INTEROPERABLE TRACKING SOFTWARE

 

The software will in effect link each asset serial number to a database holding a wide range of information: Inspection reports, manufacturer documentation, and historical data. Making the tracking system interoperable with existing systems will allow for seamless integration into existing operations in the office, yard, and on the rig floor. 

 

This ensures that the system provides operational visibility to everyone involved, even in the field: 

  • A tool pusher on the rig floor can see when the pipe was last inspected, who inspected it, and its real measurements using a handheld device.

  • Inspectors can directly review crucial operational data, such as total rotations or the joint's sequential position in the drill string.

  • In the repair shop, each job is easily identified and tracked.

 

One critical success factor for digitization projects is to reduce the need for change management by offering suitable interfaces for varied users in various situations.

Beyond their operational value, asset tracking systems ultimately generate data points that help increase awareness, can be audited, and are used to improve process efficiency and risk reduction.