In the offshore market of the oil and gas industry, monitoring pipelines can present a challenge as most of the equipment is below sea level. But it is not just the pipelines that need to be moni- tored. Interconnects, machinery, and other expensive equipment around the starting point for a pipeline also need to be inspected
regularly. While certain technology like sensors can allow operators
to monitor for malfunctions or discrepancies, instrumenting every
foot of pipeline with these sensors is not an efficient or cost-effective
solution. To provide maintenance to subsea pipelines and machinery,
operators need to have a fair understanding of the conditions below
sea level. This is where the capability for visual inspection is needed.
Visual inspection is the key in maintaining the health of underwater pipelines and machinery. However, it is not as simple as taking a
snapshot of what the equipment looks like and calling it a day. Adding the dimension of time to footage can greatly improve monitoring
ability. This capability allows operators to compare a fresh image of
the pipeline with earlier shots, enabling them to predict when maintenance may be needed or highlight an area of pipeline or a piece of
equipment that needs to continue to be monitored closely.
Video streaming and automated vessels
Companies like Speedcast work as system integrators with partner
companies to provide the services of capturing imagery and footage
through the use of Internet of Things (Io T) technology, integrating
ser vices into a full communications solution by providing connectivity
so that the video stream can be a real-time, reliable feed. This enables
the captured data, whether it is a video stream or data from sensors,
to be sent to a central storage or processing facility.
Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater
vehicles are often used to gather footage of underwater sites. ROVs
equipped with cameras and arms can be used to interact with objects
under the sea in different ways and can follow the pipeline while
capturing a video stream. This allows for real-time video streaming of
the pipeline for customers that need to interact with something under-
water or need to have an operator controlling the vehicle in real time.
Real-time video streaming can be extremely beneficial when it comes
to maintenance, as operators need to capture what things look like in
order to make decisions on when to schedule proactive maintenance
rather than waiting and reacting only when something goes wrong.
Due to the massive expanse of some pipelines, many of which
have miles upon miles to cover, pipelines typically have markings or
numbers to differentiate between different sections. This helps the
operator see which section of pipeline the ROV is monitoring.
With new technology, the video processing software can recognize
the characters and translate and tag the video stream to indicate which
section the video relates to. This is all processed in the cloud so that
subsequent retrieval of that footage or imagery can then be easily
tracked and indexed, enabling operators easy access and viewing of
footage for specific areas when needed. This also allows operators to
compare current or future data and imagery with that of video from
six months prior and so on.
Character recognition, along with the ability to compare data and
footage with past records, gives operators a great way of under-
standing the condition of the pipeline. In addition, by reviewing and
comparing footage, they will have an idea of which sections of the
pipeline differentiate from time to time and which areas might need
to be watched to ensure the specific part, valve, or other equipment
in question continues to function properly.
In addition to character recognition, other capabilities of cloud
services include summarizations, time-lapse and hyper-lapse of vid-
eos, allowing operators to view miles and miles of pipeline in a few
seconds, thereby condensing the whole process down while focus-
ing on sections that look different from one sequence to the next for
Voice-over capabilities are also a great way to increase the effectiveness of footage. Operators can have an expert or professional do
a voice-over while the ROV is following the pipeline and capturing
footage, explaining what is being shown and highlighting areas of
potential concern or that need to be watched for future monitoring.
This speech can also be converted to text and tagged to the video
for indexing purposes.
The video gathered from these underwater vehicles is coded in
such a way that clients can use a low-capacity link to decrease the
need from full, high-definition resolution with 4 megabit (Mb) to 6
Mb capacity, down to 256 kilobit (Kb) capacity for transmitting all of
the relevant data.
Additionally, video typically ranges from 2 megabits per second
(Mbps) to 4 Mbps, but with clever encoding of that video through
Speedcast’s solution, videos can drop as low as down to 512 kilobits
per second. This can mean a vast savings in just connectivity costs.
In the future, it is expected that more video analytics could be applied to footage to the point that the software is able to apply suggested
monitoring and maintenance scheduling, decreasing the need for an
individual or personnel to review every inch of pipeline. This could
not only reduce cost further, but also enhance crew safety as it would
allow companies to remove unnecessary personnel from hazardous
Making use of the latest algorithms and processing of the cloud is
a great example of how having an integrated product and using the
powers of a cloud-based video processing system and real-time connectivity can be beneficial to the maintenance of offshore pipelines. •
ROVs equipped with cameras and arms can be used to interact with
objects under the sea in different ways and can follow the pipeline while
capturing a video stream. (Image courtesy iStock/Speedcast)
IoT technology enables
of offshore pipelines