Technological advancement in sensors, digital electronics and wireless communications have enabled development of low cost and low power wireless sensors and networks, thereby enabling a paradigm shift in autonomous monitoring and control for a wide range of applications in the oil and gas industry. These applications can be found all across the industry including supply chain, refineries/petrochemical plants, pipelines, exploration, drilling, production and transportation. One of the challenges is powering up these sensor/control devices. Despite the ultra-low power consumption of wireless nodes and the high energy density of batteries, they still have limited stored energy and, therefore, a limited lifetime. In many scenarios, the battery replacement of sensors could be a very time consuming task and even uneconomical and unmanageable. To tackle these issues and enable fully autonomous and maintenance free wireless sensing and control, a continuous source of energy is required.
We have investigated Energy Harvesting as the potential solution for providing reliable and long-term power for sensors by scavenging various ambient energy sources such as environmental/machine vibrations, thermal sources, flow, solar, wind energy and converting it to useable electrical energy. This paper provides a survey of energy harvesting techniques including mechanical (piezoelectric, electrostatic, electromagnetic and magentostrictive), thermal (thermoelectric, pyroelectric), light, and various state-of-the-art technologies. The requirements and technical challenges, along with financial drivers and benefits, are addressed. Various ambient energy sources present at the surface and their usage for different applications in the oil and gas industry are identified and discussed in detail.
Finally, recommendations are made for improvement and achieving the goal of practical implementation of energy harvesting to enable self-powered remote and wireless monitoring and control in oil and gas. Although the energy harvesting market is rapidly increasing because of its growing demand in various industries, the technology hasn’t been thoroughly investigated for oil and gas applications.