Our IoT technology can mitigate 80% of theft, losses in Nigeria’s oil and gas – Ayoola
In this interview, Lare Ayoola, CEO of Tranter IT speaks to Frank Eleanya on how the utility of internet of things (IoT) technologies in industries like oil and gas would change the landscape for firms.
You launched IOT AFRICA last year, what has been the market reception since then?
The market reception was very good and what came as a pleasant surprise was the fact that the market was waiting for us. Launching IoT Africa was a move that we made to be the SPV for our Sigfox business. IoT Africa is the Sigfox operator for Nigeria, it is an exclusive license and what it means is that we will be rolling out a low power wide area network across the entire country this will enable the connectivity of IoT devices to our network at the most affordable price. Reliability is guaranteed given the type of communication protocol that Sigfox is known for and we feel that the market will benefit tremendously from this. The reaction of the market to IOT Africa was a reaction to Sigfox. Sigfox technology allows low power communication between devices and the network because it is low power, the batteries of the Sigfox devices last between 5-10 years. Now, this is what the market has been looking for. The market has been looking for a solution that will allow them to connect them with their assets which were only possible with powered assets like motor vehicles, houses where you have power at least most of the time but in the case of Sigfox devices i.e IoT devices that are compliant with the Sigfox technology allow the devices to operate only on battery without having to be recharged for between 4 and 10 years. These opened up the market tremendously to assets such as shipping containers, bicycles, measuring parameters within the farm where access to electricity is not easy or readily available. It is also useful in the oil industry for the digital oil fields where many kilometres of electrical and communication cables will not be required anymore because the Sigfox devices are self-powered with battery life lasting for 5-10 years. The installation is very quick and an oil field could be digitally connected within a day or two as opposed to previous or existing technologies where you would require permits to dig within the oil fields given all the sensitive pipes that are run underground and overground, all that is scattered. No need for digging permits, no need for electrical cables, no need for communications cables and life is made simple. Creating a digital oil field is now a very easy thing to do, given the fact that IoT Africa is here in Nigeria as a Sigfox operator providing a low power wide area network enabling connectivity of IoT devices to the cloud and from the cloud to the clients’ platform and from the clients’ platform to the clients’ dashboard. The reception has been very good and the market has been waiting for this type of solution. They didn’t know in many cases that the solution existed, they have been looking for it and hoping for it and we have come to deliver that in Nigeria and Nigeria is embracing us in a manner that is extremely encouraging.
Please tell us about the partnership between Tranter IT and OleumTech?
The relationship between Tranter It and OleumTech is one where Tranter IT is the exclusive distributor for OleumTech in Nigeria. Our business model is to sell to the market but we also welcome channel partners, resellers who have their own niches and have access to their own niche markets and we will sell to them as well. It is an exclusive distribution relationship. A relationship that came about because of our relationship with Sigfox and in this case it is Tranter IT that is the exclusive distributor of OleumTech. This relationship will enable, facilitate, expedite the digital oil fields. Now OleumTech is particularly known for wireless devices that are intrinsically safe, meaning they can operate in the most hazardous conditions as you often find within the oil sector especially in the upstream sector and also in the downstream sector. For example, OlueumTech devices can operate within a gas plant given that they are C1-D1 certified, which means they are certified to work under the most hazardous conditions. The relationship with OleumTech is a very good one for us, a very good one for Nigeria, a very good one for industry because Oleumtech is an industrial IOT device manufacturer, the largest in the world. Oleumtech has rolled out over 500,000 devices across the world and has built 40,000 networks. When we talk about networks, Oleumtech is not only a one-way communication, that is from the device to the cloud. OleumTech facilitates and enables automation and control which means an Oleumtech network using the OTC range of Oleumtech can be built to facilitate automation and control, within an industrial plant. For example, an Oleumtech sensor and transmitter can detect that the temperature has gone beyond a particular threshold and that information will be communicated through the Oleumtech network from the Oleumtech devices to the Oleumtech gateway from the gateway to the cloud and that information will be received through the automation processor, that is the PLC. Once it has identified that an action is required, an automatic action could be taken. For example, to turn off the plants, to close or open a valve, to activate a sprinkler, any action is required. Oleumtech enables both data collection, data harvesting from the fields, the processing plants, industries, the farm, the gas plants and it also facilitates and enables automation and control which is where Oleumtech stands out. One of the beautiful things about Oleumtech is that their battery life is, for the Sigfox range of Oleumtech devices, they have 8 years’ life span and for the OTC range of the OleumTech devices, you have a battery lifespan of 10 years. This is something that is revolutionary and will benefit industries in Nigeria tremendously.
Why is this partnership crucial to the oil and gas industry in Nigeria?
The partnership is crucial because previously the oil and gas industry did not have access to intrinsically safe Industrial IOT wireless devices that could operate within the oil and gas industry, they had to use wired sensors and run cables for kilometres to the control centres. Oleumtech has brought its technology and enabled Oluemtech services to be rendered locally. Obviously Oleumtech has recognised the government’s policy of local content and has, in reaction to that, found a local partner which is Tranter IT, to deliver services to Nigeria and especially the oil industry. So the oil industry is excited that we are here and we expect to make tremendous progress over the next 12 months.
What is your perception of the theft and losses that companies in the oil and gas sector face?
Theft and loss in the oil industry have plagued the oil and gas industry for many years and one of the reasons why this could not be thoroughly abated is the fact that information was getting to the decision-makers too slowly. Also within the auditing and control processes administration in the oil and gas industry, information was being collected by humans by people and that information was often inaccurate or deliberately incorrect and the oil industry could only react to the information and data it was receiving. With Oleumtech, the information is collected directly from the field, from the plant, the loading base so the volume of product that is passing from A to B, the volume of product that is been loaded on a tanker or on a vessel, the volume of petrol that is being delivered to a car or a truck can now be measured and transmitted to the cloud to a safe database and that information is readily available almost real-time to the oil industry so decisions can be made, so when theft occurs, the information is immediately available and quick action can be taken to stop the theft and to prevent the theft. There have been a lot of inefficiencies in the oil industry but now with the introduction of IoT Africa providing the Sigfox network which allows devices even in remote areas to communicate with a Sigfox network and therefore be delivered to the clients operating or command sensor. With the introduction of Oleumtech, with Oleumtech coming to Nigeria through Tranter IT, now the oil industry has access to wireless devices and to be connected to any area of the oil industry, whether upstream, midstream or downstream and that information can be communicated to the oil companies. the oil companies stand to benefit tremendously and to understand what is going on in the field as it is happening at the very least, every 10 minutes and will be able to make corrections far more rapidly than they had ever done before.
How much will IOT help the industry save?
Well, it depends but the range of savings will be between 10 percent and 40 percent savings. We are expecting, for example in downstream operations of the oil and gas industry is losing between 15-25 percent of their products one way or the other, through waste, leakages, theft, diversion and we, Tranter IT in collaboration with IoT Africa, Sigfox and Oleumtech will be able to eliminate that to a large extent by 80 percent. The 15-25% losses currently being suffered will be reduced by approximately 80% once an industrial IOT solution combining Sigfox, Tranter it, IOT Africa, and Oleumtech. When you bring those parties together and implement a solution, an 80% reduction in losses should be expected.
How does our IOT devices compare with other devices in the market?
In the case of the OleumTech IOT devices which comprises a sensor such as a temperature sensor, pressure sensor, flow meter, tank level measurement, cationic protection, monitoring, flare stack monitoring, et Cetra, Oleumtech is the best in that area. There is no company that can compete with Oleumtech on quality and price and the number of industry certifications that Oleumtech has, enabling the devices to be used in any hazardous environment across the world. Oleumtech also has the GP range (general product range) which can be used in the non-hazardous areas. These items are cheaper than the intrinsically safe items that are suitable for working in a hazardous environment. Oleumtech is the number one company in the world for wireless industrial IoT devices and communication and also for automation and control systems. In the case of Oleumtech we are the best, in the case of our other devices such as temperature, humidity sensors for domestic and commercial office use, I would say we are the best because nobody can match the battery life of our devices. Our communication is unjammable let me not forget to mention that the introduction of Sigfox to Nigeria has enabled tracking that is extremely difficult to jam so we can track cars, trucks and all kinds of assets whether powered or not and the Sigfox devices are extremely difficult to jam unlike the GSM counterparts where a $150,000 jamming device or jammers can be used to jam the signals which are why cars and expensive vehicles are being stolen though they have trackers they cannot be found because the tracker has been jammed so there is no more safety and security in using GSM enabled devices though they are very good for telling you where your vehicles are if they plan to steal your vehicle then they jam the signal, therefore, you will not know where your vehicle is. The GSM devices are still good for operational use but not very good anymore for security apps and that is where Sigfox compliant resources come in. They can track and they do not need to be connected to any external power source and they are very difficult to jam. You need military-grade jamming devices which are very expensive in order to jam a Sigfox device from communicating with the Sigfox network and therefore with a client.
Looking at the current economy, will you say IOT will increase the revenue for companies who will use the IoT devices?
Indeed, the economy of Nigeria, in Nigeria of the world is going through some severe stress at the moment. The coronavirus is not helping matters so for companies, industries, agricultural companies to survive, they need to minimize wastage, minimize losses, improve transparency, improve accountability, improve data collection for analysis, proper and correct decision making in order to the improve the overall performance of the company. For example, in Israel, they use industrial IoT devices to help them manage their agriculture and they use, according to their prime minister, 40-50% less water in their agriculture and maybe 30 percent loss of fertilizers than other countries use. This is simply because they use smart agriculture, it means they are putting devices into agriculture to measure temperature, CO2, nitrate, ph and moisture levels and you are only applying water and fertilizers where required. That Is where a lot of waste come in agriculture, the produce has been harvested whether through animal husbandry, livestock farming, whether from arable farming. When the meat is collected and refrigerated or frozen, IoT devices can also be used to measure the temperature making sure that any point in time, if the refrigerator process is faulty, quick action can be taken and the loss of product will be eliminated or drastically minimized. In the case of grains that are put into silos, moisture detection can be put into these silos using IoT devices. The moisture level is measured within the silo so If the moisture level rises above a certain level, you know that mold is going to occur and deterioration will occur and will be able to take action. The owner of the agricultural produce will be able to take action to apply drying techniques to his silo or move the product to a better position where the waste will be minimized. IoT stands to help companies survive the economic hardship of this time and they will do that by increasing productivity, helping to minimize waste, losses, stealing, and help to guarantee the quality of the product throughout the supply chain.
What will you say are the proposed next steps for oil and gas industries towards embracing IoT?
The next step is very straightforward for the oil and gas industry to embrace IoT. The steps will be basically as quickly as possible to review the solution available and we provide all the solutions available as far as industrial IoT solutions are considered and embark on proof of concept so that the verification of our claims can be made. We don’t doubt them at all but I think everybody wants to have a certain level of comfort before they make substantial investments and then to embark on mass digitization of the oil industry so that the impact of that can be felt as quickly as possible. I was watching on TV yesterday, the group MD of the NNPC said that one of the key objectives is to reduce the cost of production of oil in Nigeria in order for the Nigerian oil industry to remain viable given the fact that the oil prices are dropping drastically. It is no longer $100 per barrel, now in the area of $30 per barrel which is a dramatic drop. In order for the Nigerian oil industry to survive, be profitable, be viable, definitely the oil industry will have to apply all modern effective techniques to minimize waste, to maximize production and transparency within the oil industry. To minimize the diversions and outright theft of petroleum products and even crude oil in order to remain viable. Using industrial IoT in the case of the oil industry is absolutely critical and urgent. Therefore my advice to all owners and operators of oil companies whether you are in the upstream, midstream or downstream sector of the oil industry to seriously look at the industrial IoT solutions that are now available to you through Tranter it and IOT Africa powered by Sigfox industrial IOT devices provided by Oleumtech and once you have looked at them, commence implementation as quickly as possible so that you can benefit from industrial IoT as quickly as possible and be able to weather the storm that has come to the world economy as quickly as possible and as effectively as possible.
Do you have any other additions?
I also want to share the fact that the strategy of Tranter it as the Oleumtech distributor of IOT Africa as a connectivity provider for IoT and our business model is inclusion. We would very much like for as many players to come and partner with us and help us to grow the market and we will help our resellers and channel partners by offering them training and all manner of technical support for them to be able to address their market, the companies that they know, companies they do business with and companies that they can reach so that they can profit from that. A mutually beneficial relationship is what we want to have with the Nigerian economy as a whole. We want to help to improve the economy with the other businessmen and other companies that will like to work or partner with us. We want to help them so that there can be mutual benefits so that we can work with them to grow their business and also to grow our business as a result of that. Inclusion is a critical strategy, this is not a winner takes all strategy. We invite channel partners, companies to come and partner with us. We invite resellers to come, technical companies that want to offer deployment, installation, and support services to our customers and the customers of our channel. We invite companies that specialise in sales to come and help us sell. We invite marketing and advertising agencies to come and help us communicate our message to the public, the Nigerian economy. We are hoping and we expect that the introduction of IoT Africa, the Sigfox operator of Nigeria, providing data connectivity for IoT devices and Tranter it as the Oleumtech distributor, we expect that the introduction, creation or establishment of these services and these companies and these technologies in Nigeria will end up creating many thousands of new jobs and help to create hundreds and thousands of new businesses and we are looking forward to that. We have a target that by us entering into this field of industrial IOT and IOT that not less than 10,000 jobs will be created across the country in many verticals whether oil and gas, agriculture, manufacturing. Logistics, supply chain management even the courier companies will benefit tremendously. Companies will be able to monitor the use of their utilities more effectively and minimize cost, minimize wastages in providing air conditioning electricity, helping them to monitor the temperature in the environment which their workers are working so that CO2 levels can be monitored within the offices and open planned offices as well so that the health of the workers can be good because the environment will be monitored and corrections will be made in the environment so they are always working within an environment that is conducive to productivity, good health and good life. At the end of the day, we are going to work very hard to ensure that we contribute substantially, meaningfully, effectively, and profitably to the Nigerian economy.