Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Energy firms turn to IoT to reduce environmental impact

Steve Rogerson
March 14, 2018
Energy businesses are increasingly looking to leverage IoT technologies to manage and reduce the impact of their operations on the environment, according to a study by mobile satellite company Inmarsat, which found that monitoring environmental changes is the biggest driver of the technology in the energy sector.
Market research specialist Vanson Bourne interviewed 100 energy companies from across the world. It found that monitoring the environment was the primary driver of IoT adoption in the sector, cited by over half (51 per cent) of respondents, ahead of identifying cost saving opportunities (47 per cent) and monitoring customer engagement (44 per cent).
Moreover, 44 per cent of respondents said they had already improved their environmental sustainability as a result of their use of the IoT, and a further 36 per cent expected to do so in future, indicating the effectiveness of the technology in this area.
“The energy industry is the biggest net contributor to greenhouse gas emissions globally and, while it has made great strides over the past few years to reduce emissions, there remains much work to be done,” said Phil Meyers, vice-president at Inmarsat Enterprise. “Energy companies are coming under increasing pressure from regulators, pressure groups and the general public to address this issue, and it is clear that many are looking to new technologies, such as IoT, to increase the sustainability of their operations and reduce their environmental footprints.”
Energy lost in the transmission and distribution of fuel is an area that could see some significant and immediate improvements. In the USA, he said, the oil and gas industry was responsible for leaking approximately a million tonnes of methane into the environment every year, contributing as much to greenhouse emissions as 5.6 million cars. However, by deploying IoT sensors, energy companies can automatically optimise gas distribution to manage pressure in their networks and reduce leakage.
IoT-enabled, condition-based maintenance tools, meanwhile, can also be deployed to monitor the performance of equipment, helping to identify potential problems and address them before they disrupt operations and wreak havoc on the environment.
“The IoT holds a great deal of promise for enabling the energy sector to cut waste and reduce its impact on the environment, but realising these benefits depends upon stable and reliable connectivity,” said Meyers. “The success of the IoT depends on the ability to regularly transmit data gathered by connected networks of sensors and devices back to a control room for analysis and, in the case of the energy sector, much of that will take place at long distances across remote locations that may lack cellular coverage, which is why satellite is critical.”
Satellite communication networks are optimised to deal with critical communications, providing the reliable and resilient connectivity that can be fundamental to the successful deployment of IoT services. Inmarsat’s L-band satellite communications network can deliver connectivity to any location, he said, and collect large volumes of data with 99.9% uptime, enabling energy companies to safeguard their operations and focus on continued innovation.