PGNiG plans to use drones to search for oil and gas and to monitor gas pipes. The company can save millions

2018-03-28  |  06:00
Says:Łukasz Kroplewski, Vice-President of the Management Board for Development, PGNIG SA
Jan Byrtek, co-founder of BZB UAS Krzysztof Potera, Head of the Geology and Production Branch, PGNIG SA
Function:Krzysztof Potera, Head of the Geology and Production Branch, PGNIG SA
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  • Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo is investigating the possibilities of using unmanned aircraft systems to, i.a., detect gas leaks and monitor gas pipes. The systems are already used for geodetic measurements. The objective of using drones is not only to streamline the company’s operations but also to save millions. Currently PGNiG is cooperating with a start-up on using a new type of UAS for the company's purposes.

     “The PGNiG capital group consists of PSG with 180,000 km of gas pipes, Termika, specialising in electricity and heat, and Obrót Detaliczny with almost 7 m customers. The goal is for gas to be cheap, thus we will use all the possible means to optimise our operations. This is why we started using drones,” said Łukasz Kroplewski, Vice-President of the Management Board for Development at PGNIG SA, in a conversation with the Newseria Biznes agency.

    UAS are going to be used in searching for resources, detecting gas leaks and monitoring gas pipes. For a few years already, the company has used them for geodetic field studies to prepare detailed orthophotomaps. Drones are used to make aerial photos, which are needed to prepare the terrain for natural gas and oil searches and for planning the location of the oil rig. Now PGNiG, together with the BZB UAS start-up company selected through the MIT Enterprise Forum Poland accelerator, are adjusting the prototype of the new drone to the respective needs of the gas industry.

    "We are currently working on launching cooperation with BZB UAS. We hope that the winner selected in the third edition of MIT Enterprise Forum Poland under the ScaleUP – Start in Poland programme will bring us specific benefits, which will also contribute to lowering the costs of our operations. So, on the one hand, this will increase our competitiveness, and on the other, reduce the price of gas paid by customers – these are the goals of our cooperation with start-ups,” Łukasz Kroplewski said.

    As Vice-President of PGNiG informs the company has already carried out the first pilot tests of the newly designed drone. The machine constructed by BZB UAS is made of EPO foam reinforced with composites and equipped with 3D-printed components. These drones can work up to 2.5 hours even in extreme weather conditions, at temperatures from -30 to +40 degrees Celsius. They are completely autonomous, and the operator's task is limited to setting the route on the computer and sending it to the autopilot. Photos taken by the machine are sent directly to cloud storage, and combined into a three-dimensional map of the area.

    “The drone that we are testing together with PGNiG is used for geodetic purposes. We do flyovers of the infrastructure, take photos, send them to cloud storage. Later the photos are converted into orthophotomaps and a point cloud, from which we can extract distances, volumes or areas which we want to measure. Our drone will considerably speed up our work on infrastructure, enabling us to check and analyse areas for new products and to detect gas,” said Jan Byrtek, co-founder of the BZB UAS start-up company.

    Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo is successfully using drones in its operations. The Geology and Production Branch of PGNiG SA uses them for field studies. The measurements division of the branch has had its own UAS for three years.

     “We are using drones, especially on site, when we want to set the points for geophysical measurements. With the drones we can not only check where a drilling hole should be located but also whether it can be easily accessed by our vehicles. Despite the fact that we have used drones for some time, we see new possibilities of streamlining our operations and reducing the costs,”  stated Krzysztof Potera, Head of the Geology and Production Branch, PGNIG SA.

    According to PGNiG's evaluations, the application of drones on a larger scale will bring millions in savings and will rationalise the company’s activities. In a few hours the machines are able to explore many square kilometres of land, thanks to which land surveyors can spend less time on measurements. Maps created using drones are also more accurate and take into consideration e.g. the lay of the land, development density and the exact location of roads and electricity lines.

    “Drones may prove very helpful in ensuring infrastructure safety. In our case the infrastructure is the extraction area associated with the direct operation of an oil and gas mine. Extremely high pressures are involved; thus, it is crucial to continuously check the integrity of pipelines and gas pipes. We cannot miss any hazardous event, such as an oil leak. Currently, our employees are conducting these checks, walking the distances by foot. In the future, the use of drones could change that. “Thanks to them we would be able carry out more such inspections,” Krzysztof Potera explains.

    In the next five years PGNiG is planning to invest almost PLN 700 m in innovations and implementing new technologies. Last year, the company launched InnVento, the first incubator in Poland for start-ups working on solutions for the petroleum and power industries. In turn, in January 2018, the first INGA – Innovative Gas Industry competition was launched as a joint venture of PGNiG SA, Gaz-System SA and the National Centre for Research and Development with a record-breaking budget of PLN 400 m. Its goal is to acquire solutions to increase the competitiveness of the Polish gas industry.

    “We are launching collaboration with start-ups under the Open Innovation formula. We provide start-ups with an opportunity to use the assistance of renown specialists, infrastructure, including out InnVento start-up centre, our mentors and departments, for instance the legal and economic department. There is a possibility of cooperation aimed at securing one’s interests with our Intellectual Property Protection Department in the area of copyright and industrial property. Start-ups often give us even more than that. They open our eyes to things we are unable to notice from our position of a leader,” Łukasz Kroplewski said.


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