Utilizing the power of technology to get real-time data from the off-shore environment promises much in the sector. O&G asked Jarlath Lally from 4RF, Peter Rex Drescher from Semco Maritime and Brian Kelly from PCCW Global to discuss how these solutions can be leveraged in the sector.
Can you explain how the use of real-time infrastructures can assist oil and gas companies with improving remote monitoring and management of their assets?
PRD. Traditionally the market for intelligent networking products and services has been quite technology-focused; a provider would specialize in delivering switches and routers for network infrastructure or servers to support the applications. Semco Maritime has taken a vertical market approach to the oil and gas market, which until recently was the only uncharted vertical – with its own supply chains and growing turnover. And the critical technology that has become predominant in on-shore applications in verticals such as finance and health care has spawned a number of emerging technologies and solutions that are now being dragged back off-shore.
The larger on-shore markets have accelerated the development of technologies and systems that can now be successfully implemented in off-shore environments. Common for these are high availability, flexible design, software upgradeable intelligence and so on. Good examples of this is naturally unified communications and intelligent information networks that bring immediate cost savings to the oil and has vertical by introducing rich media conversations and collaboration tools to support decision making and rapid spreading of business critical information.
BK. The Maritime VSAT service provided by PCCW Global enables high-speed, real-time connectivity between remote oil rig/platforms and company headquarters. The high-bandwidth link serves legacy low-data rate monitoring systems, as well as more sophisticated solutions, including real-time video signals. This provides more timely and efficient management of offshore assets.
JL. Communicating real time information about operational parameters, geological conditions, asset security, equipment performance, is vital to the efficient and safe management of oil and gas infrastructure.
The effectiveness of real-time applications is in turn dependent on the communications infrastructure. This has to support the necessary bandwidth requirements, availability (or up-time), real-time delay and latency thresholds, and either legacy or Ethernet interfaces. The infrastructure also has to be inherently secure and reliable.
These criteria can be particularly difficult and expensive to satisfy, especially for remote asset management. This is where licensed sub 3GHz microwave radio links can be extremely useful. Longer distance links (40Km to >100Km) and near line of sight capabilities combine to reduce or eliminate the need for costly ‘repeater’ sites. Real security and interference protection is ensured using licensed frequencies. Delay for time sensitive applications is better compared to satellite options.
To augment these characteristics we have integrated an Ethernet switch, a 32 port multiplexer and a full feature cross connect. These features serve to reduce (i) the communications equipment needed, (ii) the points of failure in the network and (iii) the power requirements (often a costly design challenge at remote locations).
Remote control, collaboration and automation are becoming obvious trends in the energy sector. Are these technologies reliable, secure and flexible enough now to meet the needs of oil and gas companies?
JL. Our particular focus is on connecting remote assets, such as offshore platforms. In our experience the reliability of a particular application is dictated, not by its inherent characteristics, but by the communications infrastructure supporting it.
Fibre and satellite are options but both technologies can be expensive. Long distance sub 3 GHz radio links with equipment redundancy (protection) and hitless (error free) switching are often considered more suitable as primary or back-up links (in tandem with fibre). Furthermore, the use of licensed frequencies ensures absolute security.
Flexibility is key. Older technology used relatively basic modulation. As a result link capacity is not always sufficient to support today’s bandwidth intensive applications (for example video monitoring).
Our ‘next generation’ technology extends to 64 or 128QAM modulation, delivering the absolute maximum payload – up to 65 Mbit/s with 14MHz channels. A fully integrated solution means both legacy and Ethernet (IP) applications are supported in a ‘single box’.
To ensure reliability, we conduct thermal ‘soak testing’ on every system. Operating continuously for seven to 10 years, often in harsh environments requires bullet-proof reliability – something we pride ourselves on.
BK. Being a telecoms service provider, PCCW Global is not in a position to comment on the reliability, security and flexibility of technologies mentioned. However, the Maritime VSAT service from PCCW Global carries an availability commitment of over 99.9 percent.
PRD. When Semco Maritime originally acquired providers of ‘network intelligence’ it was with the clear motivation of adding intelligence to the numerous parallel systems and functions found in the O&G sector. By adding intelligence to the infrastructure itself, immediate savings in both equipment and devices were possible – without sacrificing safety or security. The concept of intelligent information networks builds upon utilizing one common infrastructure to carry applications data and support business processes and essentially to merge several disparate systems. An obvious example is naturally the convergence of public address systems, general alarm, telephony and video conference into one common intelligent architecture. Building upon this common standards based infrastructure, it takes very little effort to add CCTV and distance learning offerings.
Semco Maritime have made a very deliberate entry on this arena by focusing on developing Cisco-certified individuals – right up to the expert level – thus leveraging market leading solutions to address network security and management. Raising this to the power of ‘n’ gives us the best possible platform for supporting the collaboration and knowledge-sharing found in web 2.0 – the seamless sharing of content.
So-called intelligent oilfields have become a hot topic in recent years. What benefits can these high-tech oilfields bring to an exploration and production company today?
PRD. Just like ‘unmanned aerial vehicles’ (UAVs) are finding their way from warfare to surgical procedures, likewise the emergence of denser information networks in harsh environments enable us to gather and process information from sources that have been beyond our reach before.
We have launched the Semco intelligent information network to dig deeper into the sources of critical data. By spanning a dense web of wireless networks across the well-heads we are now capable of conveying real-time geo-data and drilling process data right to the fingertips of experts located hundreds of miles away in comfortable air-conditioned offices.
As scarcity of engineering and geological competences becomes dominant, the need to consolidate arises. Semco is a live partner in creating a new breed of professional services – by conveying drilling data to any location with a network, man-power services can be raised to the next level. Geologists in Norway can service – in real time – rigs in the Mexican Gulf with experts sitting in Doha to assess yield and pressure levels on hundreds of wells.
JL. For us an ‘intelligent oilfield’ is one based on a secure and highly reliable communications infrastructure. The best applications are rendered useless if the data cannot be delivered to the decision maker. As such our radio systems enable the ‘intelligent oilfield’.
The more performance information at the operator’s disposal, the more effective decision-making becomes. Such benefits are well documented in numerous case studies. This information is provided by SCADA, video, tele-protection, geo-data, and other applications. To be useful, the information needs to be consolidated and transported to the operations centre.
A loss of communications and therefore information can lead to down-time costing millions of dollars in lost production. These are ‘mission critical’ applications in the truest sense. For this reason we have focused on designing our radio systems with the highest specification components and materials available. Our quality has been proven through deployments in over 90 countries and testimony from the likes of British Gas (Tunisia).
Unlike higher frequency radio systems – all of the active electronics are housed indoors in a single box. This reduces exposure to environmental corrosion and improved reliability. Installation and maintenance costs are also reduced.
BK. Given the high price of oil and upwardly spiraling demand, it is essential to get as much crude to the surface and to the refiners as possible. Never has the phrase ‘time is money’ been a truer statement! PCCW Global’s suite of satellite services enables the transmission of critical data in real time to facilitate the most efficient operations, thereby helping to maximize production and revenues.
It has been estimated that global upstream industry wastes up to 25 percent of its investments through uninformed decision-making. How do your solutions enable effective collaboration and information sharing in order to improve bottom-line decisions in the oil and gas sector?
BK. With PCCW Global’s Maritime VSAT service, the offshore oilfield is just as accessible as an onshore office, with company headquarters able to communicate every bit as effectively via extension-based PBX calling, audio and video conferencing and document collaboration, plus high-speed networking for office backend systems. Offshore oilfields can be reached with ease at all times and remain under full head office control.
PRD. By adopting the Semco intelligent information network you can actually view any transport of information as a straightforward matter. What remains is to align the business processes of the enterprise with the appropriate criticality assessments and then just convert the identified information streams into traffic classes, implement the proper QoS in the intelligent infrastructure, and voila: information is accounted for and present in any business process.
25 percent of information wasted is definitely history. Appropriate training of staff to a reality where we revisit web 2.0 – the collective intelligence of an organization – by empowering each member to publish information will truly reduce information waste. Wikipedia is the most beautiful example of the world joining forces to polish, correct, edit and republish in one eternal cycle. The end result is obvious; information is available in an ever-correct form.
Semco Maritime supports the 2.0 concept by placing the intelligent information network as the center of business processes. Just add data centers, video conferencing, collaboration a little Semco magic baking powder and your organization can actually measure the network IQ raise as a quantity representing the willingness and ability to adopt new technology.
JL. Our solutions are targeted at providing the most reliable, most secure and most bandwidth efficient connections to remote assets. We connect locations separated by distances of 40km to well over 100 km. We work exclusively with licensed frequencies, supporting maximum distance and real security.
Our system performance is respected as the best in our market and we are considered the highest quality manufacturer. As such, today, our clients include most global oil and gas companies and many regional operators.
We work closely with them to manage their frequency applications, design their networks, and plan their deployments. As an organization we are entirely focused on guaranteeing carrier class performance and exceptional reliability in all our products. For more details see our website www.4rf.com.
About the contributors
Brian Kelly is a Business Development Manager for PCCW Global. Based in Houston, Texas, Brian has been working in the oil and gas patch for 15 years. Having spent time with both international and domestic carriers, he has specialized in IT solutions for the industry. Many of these solutions were to remote areas of the world and addressed the specific needs of the E&P community. Satellite services were critical parts in many cases providing the main path for field based data and voice transfer. These were integrated with customer's land based services to form a cohesive, efficient network yielding gains to the bottom line.
Kelly is also a member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which raises millions of dollars for education in Texas.
Peter Rex Drescher is the Solutions Architect within Semco Maritimes telecommunications department. His background is in robotics and industrial communications and he has widespread experience as a networking professional and trainer for Cisco Systems Inc. Lately Peter left a position as Chief Technical Officer of a VSAT operation in Nigeria and brings to the table a wealth of experience within voice, unified communications and network security.
Peter holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical engineering.
Jarlath Lally is VP Marketing at 4RF, and heads up a global marketing team currently focused on introducing the company’s unique and highly respected microwave radio solutions to the oil and gas sector. Before joining 4RF Communications Jarlath ran his own ICT consultancy, and previously held senior positions at Stratex Networks (now Harris-Stratex), NEC Europe, and Cisco Systems.