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.

OffComm News - - FRONT PAGE - Gary B. Bray, Sig­nal­horn

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.

The chal­lenges

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.

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