Dr. Robot Makes Oil Mining Safer, Healthier
Russia’s Lukoil Group, one of the world’s largest oil extraction, exploration, production and refinement companies, is an early technology adopter piloting a new Internet of Things (IoT) solution that examines and monitors worker health.
Lukoil recently introduced automated compulsory medical tests prior to each shift for the 1,200 miners at its heavy crude oil extraction facility near Ukhta, Russia. The solution, called ESMO, is based on a medical examination system from Moscow-based Quasar LLC.
“The solution can prevent human error in such pre-shift examinations,” says Ekaterina Osorina, Business Development Manager for SAP CIS, based in Moscow.
“Working conditions are very difficult here in Ukhta,” says Nikolai Kulyabov, Deputy Director, Human Resources and Operations, NSU Yareganeft, the subsidiary of Lukoil Komi. The oil is so viscous that it must be heated in-situ with steam before it’s pumped to the surface for processing. Shifts of 80-120 workers descend hundreds of meters into the wells to extract oil by mineshaft methods, which excavates materials from deep shafts — and one of the most dangerous types of mining.
“Our goal is to strengthen the monitoring of our employees’ health and prevent accidents in the mines,” notes Kulyabov.
“Automation through IoT presents a promising way forward”
Emilie Ditton, Research Director, IDC Worldwide Mining Research, says that mining companies are actively addressing the safety and health of their workers and they have the IT infrastructure to support operations in this direction – but the application of IoT in this sector is still in its early stages. For example, Australian mining companies have piloted wearable solutions for headgear that monitor worker fatigue, but labor unions tend to see such projects with skepticism, pointing out that collecting personal data can lead to misinterpretation or abuse.
Despite technical and legal challenges, Ditton predicts a bright future for IoT that includes a mix of automated and human-based capabilities: “There’s no question that current energy prices are forcing companies in the oil & gas industry to rethink their operations and find sources of cost savings. Automation through IoT presents a promising way forward.”
Testing vital signs in 90 seconds
After testing a pilot system “ESMO” in Ukhta for six months in 2015, Lukoil decided to install medical terminals from Quasar in all of its mines. The system consists of medical terminals that perform pre-shift medical tests and a monitoring and control system that limits access to the mines only to miners who have passed the examination. Before each shift, miners line up for examination at a room containing four medical terminals each carrying an array of measuring devices in a procedure that takes only 90 seconds. Workers initiate their own examinations with a company ID card and a touchscreen. First blood pressure, pulse and temperature are measured, followed by a breath test for alcohol and a measurement of the pupil’s response to visual stimuli to detect tiredness and depression, but can also indicate drug abuse. Workers complete the test by signing their names on the screen.
Lukoil plans to integrate the examination system in Ukhta with the human resources software from SAP. SAP has also developed a prototype examination system based its SAP HANA Cloud Platform, which can be used to perform analysis of the data in real time.
Ultimate decision is made by a doctor
As soon as an employee passes the examination, medical data is sent to the doctor’s workstation and to other SAP business processes, for example, to an HR solution for tracking work hours. The ultimate decision on whether to allow the employee to work that day is made by a doctor.
“It allows us to perform the full medical inspections of large groups of people in a short period of time,” explains Kulyabov. Before the medical terminals, Yareganeft employed up to four paramedics requiring about up to five minutes per worker. “That took a lot of time,” said Kulyabov.
“In addition to reducing risk, the system ESMO minimizes the costs associated with basing a team of medical staff at each location,” says Galina Gromova, Deputy Director, Quasar.
Predicting and preventing illness and injury
“In the future, as technology advances,” explains SAP’s Osorina, “the medical terminals could be replaced by wearable electronic devices, such as smart bracelets, allowing workers’ vital signs to be monitored in real time. An occupational safety engineer could use admittance statistics to analyze and detect occupational illnesses, or even perform predictions to improve operational efficiency.”
Kulyabov recalls that employees were initially afraid, confused, and even angered by the automated examinations, but these reactions subsided once employees began to get used to the routine and even see benefits. Employees have access to their own data and feel safer knowing they are entering the mine with a team in good health.
Experts say that after initial resistance to the testing, some employees pay more attention to their health than before, or even abstain from drinking and smoking. SAP in Russia and Quasar are working to strengthen the integration between their products because they see the potential to roll out similar IoT scenarios not only to other oil & gas and metal & mining companies, but also to ground and air transportation companies.
About Lukoil Group
Lukoil is one of the world’s biggest vertically integrated private oil and gas companies. It produces over 2% of global crude oil and accounts for about 1% of the world’s proven reserves of hydrocarbons. The main business activities of the Lukoil Group are the exploration and development of oil and gas fields, production and sale of petroleum and petrochemicals products and energy. The Group plays a key role in the energy sector in Russia with its share of oil production at 16% and refining at 15%. With more than 100,000 employees, Lukoil operates in more than 40 countries around the world, and constantly extending its geographical presence. At the end of 2015, Lukoil was the second-largest taxpayer in Russia.
Moscow-based Quasar LLC, is the developer of ESMO, an electronic system for medical examinations. ESMO carries out real-time automated-robotic medical non-invasive analysis of the health status of employees in order for control of access of employees to the area of their labor activity according for medical reasons.