A case for HTS
Fuelling the future oil and gas sector
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.