How do you best power it? If you’re in most industries, your facility can likely tap into the local utility’s grid cheaply and quickly. But upstream oil and gas E&P isn’t “most industries.”
For starters, an estimated 85 percent of its facilities are typically off-grid 1: offshore or, if onshore, in remote places like West Texas deserts, North Slope tundra or third-world jungles.
Of all the world’s many industries, gas exploration and oil production (E&P) activities are arguably the most ripe for automation given two reasons:
First, technology advancements have far outrun their adoption by an industry that historically has preferred what it considers time-tested oil production methods – even if those include measuring tank fluid levels with dipsticks and gathering data via clipboards.
Second, the economic benefits of those advancements have become too compelling to ignore. That’s especially true for the many producers today whose production costs are rising faster than profit margins.
A DC microgrid can eliminate wasteful AC-to-DC conversions that would otherwise be required for use in most automation applications. These applications typically use solid-state digital components like programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that run on 24V DC power.
Also, with the continued dramatic fall in panel costs, solar power is becoming more and more cost-effective source of off-grid power. For example, the explosion of global solar-panel manufacturing is turning out 24V solar panels at a price point similar to that of the more common and traditional 12V panels that otherwise would need 12V-to-24V converters. This boosts efficiencies by eliminating these “step-up” components and reducing the panel space requirements of an enclosure.