The science behind the North American energy industry [Part 1]
Note: This article first appeared in the May 2015 edition of Energy Digital
The North American energy infrastructure is dependent upon a variety of resources including fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable energy sources.
As reported by our sister site, Energy Digital, continuing technological advancements play a large role in the efficiency, safety and viability of available energy resources.
For the first part of our in-depth look at the science behind the energy industry, we focused on fossil fuels and the processes involved with each:
1. A hole is drilled approximately 1 meter in diameter before a steel pipe is then inserted
2. Using a drill bit or drill collar, a hole is cut through the rock (a drill string, which is attached to the bit, extends as the well becomes deeper)
[Related: An outlook on the current state of Canadian mining]
3. Once the hole is drilled and a steel pipe, or casing, is inserted; perforations are made to allow oil to flow
4. The reservoir is then sealed. A smaller tube provides a pathway for the oil to the surface
After the well is completed, an assembly of valves is affixed to the mouth to control pressure and flow. The petroleum is then distilled at a refinery to produce gasoline, kerosene and other chemicals used in consumer products.
1. The coal is broken down to manageable pieces (a sizer that ensures the largest particle size is less than 75 millimeters)
2. The coal screened to separate fine particles from coarser ones
[Related: Oil prices up 80 per cent in Alberta--What is the industry's current outlook?]
3. Beneficiation, or the process whereby impurities are removed from the coal, is next
4. A cleaning procedure is then introduced, helping to separate particles of stone from the coal
5. The final step charring, removes hydrogen and oxygen, leaving us with a primarily cabon-based product
Natural gas is most often discovered in subterranean rock formations, usually near or in conjunction with coal beds or petroleum reservoirs. After a well is drilled and the gas is extracted, it is processed to remove impurities.
Hydrocarbons and fluids must be removed to produce dry natural gas before it can be transported through major pipelines.
A variety of equipment is usually installed at the well to carry out these purification processes, from a low temperature separator for removing oil and condensates from natural gas, to a flash tank separator that can retrieve methane from the glycol dehydration process.
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Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.