Growth of bandwidth demand on energy rigs shows no sign of slowing
The historic driver of bandwidth demand – internet access for the crew – has been eclipsed by technological advances in the ways that energy rigs are operated and monitored, writes Gary B. Bray, Vice President, Energy at Signalhorn Trusted Networks GmbH.
Remote monitoring of energy rigs, and new government requirements to record and store operational data, are two major factors driving demand for broadband connectivity for onshore and offshore platforms. In less than a decade, the amount of bandwidth required by a typical energy rig has grown from a measly 256 Kbps to at least 4 Mbps - and sometimes even 8 Mbps. With advanced monitoring technology, rig operators don’t require as much crew located at the site; the goal is to reduce personnel and to be able to manage and monitor these facilities remotely. But these new monitoring applications require significantly more bandwidth. On deep- water platforms, drilling companies may have to invest in excess of over a million dollars in additional equipment to allow for this remote management capability. Submarine fiber is often used in remote monitoring applications. But even rigs using fiber employ VSAT as backup in case there is a break in the fiber. In some regions, such as West Africa, getting fiber the “last mile” from an urban area to a remote exploration site can be a challenge. So despite the expansion of terrestrial fiber networks, satellite remains the best option for reliable and continuous connectivity.
Following the Deepwater Horizon incident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, data replication, video CCTV, and storage of critical data have become a necessity among oil exploration companies. We anticipate that this necessity will soon become a standard for the industry. Furthermore, governments are looking to adopt new regulations requiring rig operators to undertake more sophisticated management of data that is produced at the site, requiring operators to store the data, on site and remotely, in such a manner that it can be retrieved when required. Signalhorn is helping its energy customers identify how best they can store and manage their data for streamlined retrieval if and when required. A big question on all our minds relates to how much – and for how long – governments will require rig operators to store and retain such data: will it be data gathered over the previous 24 hours, a week, a year? Regulations are still being developed regionally but we are beginning to understand the requirements under consideration, and how they might impact our customers.
The Signalhorn approach
Oil and gas companies are increasingly deploying cloud computing, but we don’t see the technology being used extensively when it comes to real- time drilling applications. Rather, it is being employed more for mail services, and for disaster recovery backup systems. Signalhorn has innovative cloud computing and cyber security platforms and has some pilots under way to help our drilling customers meet these evolving challenges. So far, the results look very encouraging. Signalhorn is engaged with virtually every satellite operator and also operates submarine fiber networks; we are one of the largest bandwidth providers in the oil and gas market. Our dedicated team manages and monitors our satellite capacity to ensure that our energy customers have what they need when they need it to operate at their highest capacity and in accordance with evolving regulatory requirements.