Oil and Gas App Streamlines Inspection Process

By Whitney Oswald

Imagine being an oil and gas compliance inspector and needing to head out into the field for a few days to inspect many sites. Before even heading out to the field, you have to spend quite a bit of time prepping for your trip. Identifying what sites you want to visit, getting the permitting and compliance documents together and printed off for each site, and trying to determine directions to those sites. Sometimes you might even get out in the field only to find out the site doesn’t have any equipment installed yet. And if you find yourself with free time, it’s hard to check out many additional sites, because you don’t know any of the basic information about those sites or even if they are located within state jurisdiction. Arriving at the site with a stack of paperwork, clipboard, and pen while hauling around your Infrared (IR) Camera and other tools doesn’t make your job any easier, either.

What if I told you that Utah Division of Air Quality (DAQ) has figured out a novel approach to streamlining this whole process, improving many of these noted issues and frustrations associated with oil and gas compliance inspections?

DAQ, along with the Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) recently completed an EPA Exchange Network grant-funded project to develop an Oil and Gas Tablet and Desktop Compliance Application. The goal of the application was to increase the efficiency of oil and gas field inspections by DAQ compliance personnel. The software was designed with two working parts:

  1. The desktop computer interface, which is a browser-based application (this portion can also be used from a tablet if desired)
  2. The tablet interface, an Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI)-based tablet specific application, Collector and Navigator.

The application allows an inspector to plan a trip using the desktop application, downloading digital permits and documents to the tablet in preparation for the inspections. Using this application, an inspector in the field will have the ability to collect and store pertinent field data, including notes and images in real time on a tablet. On return to the office, the inspector can update the compliance database by uploading and synchronizing the data collected with the tablet to the enterprise database and can use the collected data to write a compliance memo or other compliance documents.

The application provides high-resolution imagery, so an inspector can get a good idea of the equipment installed on the site before even setting foot on the ground. It also provides information about all the oil and gas sites in the Basin, including basic information such as operator name, facility name, and throughputs, or more complicated information like emissions. Finally, the application is a Geographic Information System (GIS)-based application, so each site is included on a map with latitude and longitude coordinates and jurisdictional overlays. This allows inspectors to always know what jurisdiction a site is on. Finally, the software includes voice-navigated, point-by-point directions to help inspectors get to where they’re going.

Our hope is that this application will help to make the oil and gas compliance inspectors jobs a little easier. And, if all works out, this same application architecture could be expanded for application at other sources.

The DAQ compliance section has been a huge help and an important partner in the development of this application lending their time to provide input and feedback of the application. We hope to have the application out in the field for real world use in June 2017, and we look forward to seeing the efficiency increases achieved.

The DAQ app is just one of the many continuous improvement projects at DEQ. Our agency is committed to advancing our mission to safeguard Utah’s air, land, and water, making efficient use of taxpayer dollars, improving our performance, and implementing innovations that advance quality, efficiency, and effectiveness. Check out our FY 2018 Budget Presentation to the Natural Resources, Agriculture, and Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee for a division-by-division list of DEQ continuous improvement projects.

I am an environmental scientist with the Technical Analysis section at DAQ. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Utah State University and a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Utah. When not working, I love traveling and spending time outdoors with my husband and two dogs.