Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Saudi oil company adopts RFID to track offshore personnel

Steve Rogerson
April 4, 2016

Looking to reduce the risk of an adverse event and be prepared to act efficiently when the need arises, Middle East oil company Saudi Aramco’s Safaniyah Offshore Producing Department (SOfPD) has launched a jack-up barge equipped with a real-time personnel location tracking system.
This system virtually eliminates any uncertainty about the number of crew members aboard the vessel in case of an emergency and, in the event of an incident, allows staff onshore to provide accurate crew information to coordinate a rapid emergency response with those offshore.
Like any other industrial operation, offshore oil production has its own potential hazards. The SOfPD department’s challenge is to reduce the risk of an adverse event and be prepared to act effectively when the need arises to protect lives and property. It is critical that in the event of an emergency crew members can be found and mustered to a safe location to organise an emergency response and, if need be, ensure a quick and effective rescue.
The potential for human error in the head count leads to uncertainty about how many crew members are on board the vessel and, in the event of an incident, operators have no way of knowing where their colleagues are. Because of the importance of a coordinated and rapid emergency response across both offshore and the emergency control centre onshore, it is important accurate crew information is available to on-board operators and offshore personnel.
The use of RFID technology in ID cards that crew members and visitors must wear as they board achieves a significant update in tracking and identifying those on board at all times.
The system begins tracking crew members as soon as they board the vessel, and it continues until they disembark. As barge personnel and visitors arrive on board through the helideck or gangways, they are issued with passive, battery-free RFID cards. These cards are read at checkpoints as personnel and visitors move around the facility.
Meanwhile, master controller servers process those data, calculating location information. That information is then relayed to the Tanajib Emergency Control Center, where personnel use configurable maps and reporting software to track the crew. The system then generates alerts when the barge exceeds its total manning capacity.
RFID readers at key points establish zone-level location of personnel. These points include gangways, doorways, stairs and elevators on all decks except the helideck.
The RFID system has several advantages that led to its selection, including its flexible data visualisation options, the fact that it is secure from hacking and other intrusions, and it has Atex (Atmosphères Explosibles) compliant casings for outdoor installations.
The technology can be implemented to track people, assets and supplies on onshore and offshore facilities, including gas-oil separation plants, unmanned platforms, boats, barges, office buildings and mass transportation such as buses. It can also be used to streamline the supply chain for construction and production operations.
In addition, RFID can provide another level of visibility into operations, enabling data driven decisions. This capability brings with it the potential to enhance operational performance, boost return on capital, improve safety and mitigate risk.