Accelerating IT/OT Convergence in Oil & Gas Mission-Critical Platforms

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Marco Machi | February 24, 2021

With total generated revenues of over $3.3 trillion worldwide, the oil & gas industry continues to be a key driver of our global economy, despite the impact of cyclical trends and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As the industry continues to deal with volatile oil prices and demand for crude-oil byproducts, the current crisis pushes technology stakeholders and infrastructure operators to accelerate their digital transition, realigning their business models around increased IT/OT platforms’ reliable operational efficiency at Edge’s harsh and corrosive environment.

Two Top Priorities Oil & Gas Operators and Technology Providers are Focusing on Now

  1. The first priority is accelerating IT/OT convergence across infrastructures by adopting the industrial IoT, Cloud, big data, AI, and ML algorithms for failure patterns recognition and optimizing workforce/assets and network management. With an ongoing shift towards digitalization and decentralization in power and automation, these tools offer vital support for reliable data-centric models. They drive connected & autonomous operations, reducing critical HW failure rates, and systems downtime.
  2. The second priority is an increased focus on IT and OT platform reliability. Ruggedization of edge computing devices and other mission-critical components is accomplished by replacing mechanical-seals, IP-XX enclosure designs, and traditional conformal coating solutions with advanced thin-film and nanocoating materials and processes. This change is due to the fact that traditional solutions cannot survive prolonged exposure to corrosive agents, humidity, and other hazards during operation, service, and maintenance.

View Marco’s webinar, “5 Things to Know to Achieve Reliability and Resiliency in the Evolving Industrial Landscape”.

Typical Harsh Edge Computing and Electronics Applications

To fully grasp the importance of harsh edge computing and electronics’ ruggedization in oil & gas upstream operations, one should understand their typical applications:

  • Power Automation & Metering
  • Power Quality & Conditioning for mission-critical loads
  • Process automation
  • Process Instrumentation
  • Safety & Security
  • IIoT edge networking/communication
  • Control & Production Process (DCS / PLC Controllers and I/O Modules)
  • Data Acquisition
  • Simulation & Modeling
  • Measurement & Analytics
  • Imaging
  • HMI
  • Well Production / Condition Monitoring

These functional areas rely heavily on critical platforms and components to guarantee proper data integration between the OT side (DCS, digital endpoints, controllers, and actuators, etc.…) and the IT side (HSE, Finance, Work & Asset Mgmt., Planning, etc..).

Most of these platforms’ reliability and their controlled operations downstream can be highly compromised in time, in harsh environments without nanocoatings. The inevitable decay of mechanical seals and gaskets through different forms of degradation causes disruptions in processes automation and costly shutdowns.

In today’s connected and increasingly autonomous operations, mission-critical electronics’ ruggedization through advanced nanocoating solutions directly impacts the IT/OT convergence and its core value proposition. That is, bundling operational insights with business insights, allowing oil & gas operators to make informed and timely decisions across their operations. Nanocoatings’ material properties and performance, as compared to traditional conformal coatings, coupled with their “3D” deposition process, make them a superior choice.

Where Electronics’ Reliability Matters the Most – At Thick & Thin Edge

It is essential to review how the oil & gas industry is evolving in its transition to digitalized and decentralized operational models across exploration, production, and operations maintenance to understand the value of advanced coating technologies for mission-critical platform’s electronics. Activities in these functional areas are by nature complex and require a high degree of operational excellence, safety, and productivity. In these environments, the increased adoption and deployment of edge computing platforms have become the new normal to address some of the critical operational priorities:

  • Preemptive maintenance (through distributed sensors, endpoints, or drone technology)
  • Real-time data aggregation and processing for drilling condition monitoring sensors, pumping stations’ flow/pressure meters, and control & optimization of sand-water-chemicals mixtures, to maximize wells’ output and productivity
  • Seismic imaging to map changes in oil & gas reserves and operating wells’ lifespan prediction
  • Failure modes patterns recognition and analytics
  • IoT edge connectivity and communication between field sensors and endpoints in DCS thick-edge environments towards upstream nodes and centralized Cloud for analysis

Today, each of these functions is processed by highly sophisticated computing platforms, relying on a multitude of CPU/Controller PCBs and I/O points. Typically, most of these electronics are protected through spray-based conformal coating solutions, providing only partial protection due to gravity during the deposition process.

Another suboptimal approach to electronics protection has been the use of mechanical seals and gaskets to prevent the ingress of highly corrosive agents typical of these harsh operating environments (i.e., aggressive chemicals, sour gases, saltwater, extreme temperature, condensation, etc.). These solutions have shown limited performance, mainly due to degradation and structural damage over time, significantly impacting the reliability and lifecycle of critical assets upstream and downstream.

View our webinar “How to Prevent Electronic Failure When Your Product is on the Edge”.

Advanced nanocoating solutions directly impacts the IT/OT convergence and its core value proposition.

Thin-film Coating for Thin/Thick-Edge Computing and IT/OT Electronics

With the need to meet the highly demanding performance and reliability requirements, several operators and global IT/OT technology suppliers are turning their attention to “thin-film” and “nanocoating” alternative technologies to ruggedize sensitive electronics and significantly extend the lifecycle of mission-critical IT/OT platforms. There are specific applications where these material technologies drive compelling value and benefits to ruggedize sensitive electronics in distributed power, process automation, and IIoT networking platforms, at thin-edge and most importantly, at thick-edge.

Power Automation

  • Thick-edge – (Rugged MV Relays / IEDs) Protection & control, condition monitoring of MV GIS/AIS switchgear and CBs, power-transformers’ partial-discharge, short-circuit, corrosion, and dissolved gas monitoring.
  • Thin-edge – Rugged Base Systems Servers

Process Instrumentation

  • Thick-edge –
    • Distributed I/O rack for parent-DCS controllers communication in hazardous areas
    • Wireless / HART sensors for field process network control, i.e., pumping stations, flow/pressure meters, measurement applications, etc.
  • Thin-edge – Industrial-grade wireless / HART gateways

Safety / Access Control

  • Thick-edge – fire & gas/alarms / restricted areas access shutdown sensors actuators, digital endpoints control. Distributed I/O rack for parent-DCS controllers communication
  • Thin-edge – Rugged high-integrity Programmable Automation Controller (PAC) CPUs and I/O modules

Distributed Control System DCS / PLC

  • Thick/Thin-edge – Advanced process control and mission-critical endpoints monitoring

IoT Edge Networking / Secure Communication

  • Thick-edge – Rugged Edge-servers and Fog computing and nodes
  • Thin-edge – Rugged routers, switches, wireless-access-points (WAPs)
  • Digital endpoints – condition monitoring sensors, drives, DCS controllers, and actuators

Download our industrial fact sheet

Contact Us Today for Converged IT/OT Platforms in Oil & Gas Reliability

HZO has emerged as a global solutions leader, driving Parylene and chemical vapor deposition (CVD) solutions for many of these mission-critical platforms and partnering with IT/OT leaders to increase the reliability of sensitive electronics and shutdowns cost-avoidance in large infrastructures. Other technology leaders in energy utility, DER, and cloud/hyperscale critical power are also considering HZO advanced material technologies to achieve optimized network and asset management and extend lifecycle on critical areas of their infrastructure.  

If you would like to inquire about our services for your organization, reach out today.

global IT/OT technology suppliers are turning to coating technologies to extend the lifecycle of mission-critical IT/OT platforms.

Marco Machi

20+ years’ experience in energy and industrial automation with ABB and Hitachi, leading global BU’s sales and business development in Power Utility, Heavy Industrial, Automotive and Rail Network Control segments, in Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

Ryan Moore

Ryan is a 9-year veteran to the world of protecting electronics from harsh environments and a lover of all things technology.

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