A case for HTS

Fu­elling the fu­ture oil and gas sec­tor

OffComm News - - OPINION -

Cop­ing with un­prece­dented band­width

for the dig­i­tal oil­field

Liv­ing for months at length on a re­mote well site or ves­sel out at sea with no in­ter­net ac­cess, so­cial me­dia, or con­nec­tion to the out­side world ex­cept for the oc­ca­sional phone call to loved ones back home.

That was life on oil­rigs and ex­plo­ration ves­sels just two decades ago when I be­gan my ca­reer as a field en­gi­neer in the North Sea and the Middle East. Back then, rig telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions were pri­mar­ily used to keep in touch with fam­ily and head­quar­ters on land or oth­ers at sea, writes Glen Tindall, VP of sales for Asia- Pa­cific, at SES. The oil and gas sec­tor has un­der­gone many changes, with the na­ture of off­shore com­mu­ni­ca­tions evolv­ing along with it.

Satel­lites al­ready play a crit­i­cal and well- es­tab­lished role in off­shore com­mu­ni­ca­tions, par­tic­u­larly in re­mote ar­eas where build­ing ter­res­trial net­works is not fea­si­ble. Even when high- speed fi­bre net­works are in place they are vul­ner­a­ble to weather and cli­matic con­di­tions. There­fore, many com­pa­nies rely on satel­lite as a fail­safe op­tion. Aside from this, as oil and gas ex­plo­ration pushes into in­creas­ingly harsh and re­mote en­vi­ron­ments, satel­lite is the only vi­able op­tion for con­nec­tiv­ity. Deep­wa­ter and arc­tic ex­plo­ration is of­ten as­so­ci­ated with high safety and op­er­a­tional risks, so pro­vid­ing re­li­able and ro­bust con­nec­tiv­ity is paramount.

Be­tween the need for re­mote mon­i­tor­ing, real- time video, and in­ter­net acdess for crew wel­fare, and the need for nearin­stan­ta­neous com­mu­ni­ca­tion from head­quar­ters to ships and rigs, it's no won­der that off­shore band­width de­mand has in­creased con­sid­er­ably. From 256kbps to up to 8mbps, the typ­i­cal amount of band­width re­quired by a typ­i­cal en­ergy rig has grown re­mark­ably in less than a decade, and looks set to rise even fur­ther.

De­spite the re­cent cool­ing of the oil and gas sec­tor, com­pa­nies are in­vest­ing the same amount or more in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies over the next three to five years to im­prove their op­er­a­tional ef­fi­ciency and to pro­vide en­hanced oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety.

In May 2014, in­fra­struc­ture and lo­gis­ti­cal ser­vices spe­cial­ist

Brastrad­ing pre­dicted that max­i­miz­ing the suc­cess­ful op­er­a­tion of th­ese smarter, con­nected oil and gas rigs will re­quire a band­width us­age level of 100 times that of to­day. The ques­tions we must be­gin ask­ing our­selves are: can the oil and gas sec­tor cope with the un­prece­dented band­width that dig­i­tal oil­fields re­quire? Are cur­rent off­shore com­mu­ni­ca­tions net­works equipped to do so?

Eco­nom­ics of satel­lite ca­pac­ity

To ad­dress the grow­ing de­mand for off­shore con­nec­tiv­ity, the satel­lite in­dus­try has re­sponded by in­tro­duc­ing High Through­put Satel­lites ( HTS) in the past few years. As the name sug­gests, th­ese satel­lites are able to pro­vide through­put at over 20 times the level that a tra­di­tional ‘ wide- beam’ satel­lite can achieve. This is ac­com­plished through the use of a se­ries of smaller, more con­cen­trated beams which en­able vastly more data to be trans­mit­ted in a given area.

Through in­creased data through­put, HTS can ad­dress the in­dus­try’s need for more ca­pac­ity and pro­vide faster satel­lite con­nec­tiv­ity to sup­port band­width- heavy video, data, and voice ap­pli­ca­tions. With HTS of­fer­ing a lower cost per bit, the eco­nom­ics of satel­lite ca­pac­ity will also im­prove sig­nif­i­cantly. Th­ese cost- sav­ings on band­width will al­low com­pa­nies to in­crease their in­vest­ments in dig­i­tal tech­nolo­gies and will play a part in en­abling digi­ti­sa­tion across the en­tire up­stream value chain – from ex­plo­ration to drilling and pro­duc­tion.

With in­creas­ing digi­ti­sa­tion and con­tin­ued ex­plo­ration into deeper wa­ters, it is clear that the oil and gas in­dus­try’s band­width de­mands will inevitably con­tinue to in­crease. HTS is equipped to meet the in­dus­try’s band­width de­mands and will no doubt come to play a sig­nif­i­cant role in the oil and gas sec­tor of the fu­ture.

Glen Tindall,

SES

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