WorldWide Drilling Resource

28 NOVEMBER 2020 WorldWide Drilling Resource ® Drones Provide Valuable Information in the Permian Basin Adapted from Information by Shell When it comes to using cutting-edge technology to improve gas and oil production, most people probably wouldn’t consider the modern drone. Currently, Shell is working with Avitas Systems, a GE / Baker Hughes venture, to develop and integrate unmanned aerial systems (better known as drones) into surveillance activities at its shales operations. Since 2018, the company has used drones equipped with methane detection cameras and sensors in the Permian Basin. The two-year drone pilot program focused on testing technology and software platforms which led to the company using drones equipped with optical gas imaging cameras and laser-based detection system across the entire area. Although Shell uses surveillance drones on its projects every day, it has presented some unique challenges, especially in the U.S. Regulations in the U.S. require drones to stay within range of the pilot’s vision, limiting their reach and operational scope. However, earlier this year, in Loving County, Texas, the FAA (Federal Aviation Adminstration) granted Avitas Systems its first approval to fly drones for civil use beyond visual line of sight, with the assistance of radar. After hundreds of flight hours, the company’s drone pilot demonstrated the potential for multimission surveillance drones operated beyond visual line of sight, and supported by advanced analytics, to be an integral part of operations not only in the Permian, but across North America and Argentina. Surveillance drones may enable automated detection of gas and oil leaks, corrosion, abnormal heat signatures, presence of wildlife, road conditions, and more. They also give operations teams better insight into the overall condition of sites and how conditions change over time. This could give the team the tools to identify issues sooner and fix them faster. Shell operators in the Permian Basin travel from site-to-site across hundreds of miles to conduct surveillance tasks. Extensive road travel takes valuable man-hours away from core maintenance and operational tasks. Drones will take operators off the roads increasing the efficiency of the company’s workforce, while reducing the risk of travel-related injuries. The positive results from the pilot program has accelerated the company’s plan to use drones throughout the company’s 500,000 acres in the Permian Basin. The next step for the program is to study how flying drones at higher altitudes can survey larger areas and more sites. G&O