Oil and Gas Case Study: ROI on M2M Connectivity

The Problem

Our customer needed to develop a solution for remote monitoring and tracking water delivery to a hydraulic fracturing operation. For hydraulic fracturing the process involves using large amounts of water that is then pumped into the ground under high pressure to extract gas and petroleum (shale gas). A large quantity of water is necessary for continued operation and without a steady supply it could halt operations and reduce overall output.



In this operation they needed to bring water from an outside source away from the mining operation. They had a fleet of 34 water trucks that would bring the water into the storage facility on site. The distance between the water source and the mining operation was about 5 miles. The amount of water brought into the site had to be tracked and monitored. Internally they needed to know how much water was available and if more water was necessary to prevent any delays during the operation. The local government also had a policy on the total amount of water that could be used during a given time period as well as charging them for the usage. Each truck had measuring devices to take log of the amount of water, the weight of the truck, GPS as well as the temperature of the water.

A data storage device was connected to all these devices to store the data of each transport that would be fed back to the central facility. The operator needed to find a mobile solution that would give them real time tracking of the amount of water being transported as well as tracking the location of each truck. There were several solutions, but only one stood out.

What is Return on Investment (ROI)?

ROI is not just a mathematical equation or number, it is a method to compare costs with gain. For every project, we should look at the impacts across the entire project of business, not just the initial material cost. Other costs such as labor, down time, maintainence cost should be taken into consideration as well.


The 802.11 Wi-Fi Option

The first option they considered was to utilize 802.11 Wireless infrastructure from the water source to the mining facility. This could be achieved by using rugged versions of 802.11 access points placed along the truck routes and Ethernet clients placed on each individual truck.

In this setup the trucks went along a route of 5 miles around 8000 meters. The maximum distance of an access point utilizing 802.11N is about 600 feet. These access points were also fixed so if either the water facility or mining facility were to change these devices would be useless. There an additional fixed cost of implementing and installing each access point with it's own power source. The operator would also need to maintain their own technician staff or hire an outside provider to repair any issues. This is the expensive option.


The M2M Solution

The customer decided on an M2M solution as it gave them the most flexibility. The solution we recommended had I/O connectivity that interfaced with their data storage device. From the central operating facility they were able to extract any data available in real-time. At any point they could sample the temperature of the water or the total amount of water in the truck before and after the delivery of the water. This log could easily be compiled to reduce any confusion or issues during the transport process. This led to less errors and also real time data of the amount of water on site. An M2M remote monitoring solution was also valuable as if any trucks were off course they could easily track the truck as long a cellular connectivity was available.

By using M2M they did not have any issues of moving the trucks to another location. As long a cellular network was available they always had connectivity to get any data in real-time. For example if there was a change in water or mining facilities the 802.11 situation would not be flexible and a new infrastructure would need to be rebuilt. This could be costly and add delays to the overall process.


Cost Analysis

No technicians to be on staff to maintain the entire network since this cost is the cellular providers responsibility. This cost analysis is to provide connectivity for 34 water trucks.

Cost of M2M over cellular network Cost of 802.11N over 5 miles
34 x I/O Cellular Gateway = $40,800 14 x Access Point = $44,800
34 x M2M data plan (5MB/month) = $3,000 34 x Wireless Client = $81,600
Total Cost = $43,800 Total Cost = $126,400

Above is the estimate cost for the first year.

In the M2M solution there is a monthly fee for the data being utilized. Monthly costs vary depending on overall usage but is low because of the type of data being transferred. In the wireless solution another variable cost is the maintaining a service contract or hiring technicians for the wireless network. A technician normally bills at a rate of $150 per person per hour, could easily exceed the cost of the monthly data costs. The wireless setup also does not include the cost of construction and permits required to implement this network which would vary by region.



Using an M2M solution our customer was able to save about $80,000 on initial setup costs. They were also able to satisfy the requirements set forth by the local government in water usage and be able to store this information both on their central server as well on each individual truck. They also minimized their risks and did not need to rely on build a wireless setup over a 5 mile distance. Instead this cost was passed onto the cellular provider which was able to provide the connectivity. By using M2M they also future proof their design and the trucks can be used for any facility as long a cellular network provider was available.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any question or comment about the M2M Return on Investment.

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