The smarter ( and more cost- ef­fec­tive) dig­i­tal oil­field

One of the few ar­eas in which oil and gas com­pa­nies may con­sider in­vest­ing more, rather than less, money in a down­turn is com­mu­ni­ca­tions — on the ba­sis that the right sort of com­mu­ni­ca­tions ef­fi­cien­cies can save more money than they cost. But what are the

OffComm News - - RE­MOTE IN­SIGHT RE­PORT -

Ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tions are es­sen­tial to ef­fec­tive work­ing, and there are a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ap­proaches on of­fer that can save money for re­mote oil and gas ex­plo­ration at a time of low oil prices. Bet­ter use of satel­lite band­width, for ex­am­ple, might make your satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­vest­ment go fur­ther. Which is the claim of SpeedNet from EMC — Emerg­ing Mar­kets Com­mu­ni­ca­tions — a provider of hy­brid global satel­lite and ter­res­trial com­mu­ni­ca­tions. This cloud- based browser en­ables faster brows­ing over satel­lite, and uses less band­width. “As a re­sult,” says Hadassa Lutz, EMC’s Pres­i­dent of En­ergy, “the cor­po­rate net­work per­forms faster, with­out in­creas­ing data rates, thereby re­duc­ing costs.” SpeedNet com­bines both a lo­cal and a vir­tual browser into a sin­gle plat­form. This al­lows the cloud servers to do the ‘ heavy lift­ing’ and re­lies on the client soft­ware to in­tel­li­gently switch be­tween lo­cal and cloud. Another EMC tech­nol­ogy that op­ti­mizes the per­for­mance of satel­lite con­nec­tiv­ity is the Noise Re­duc­tion Sys­tem ( NRS). This en­ables a more ef­fi­cient con­ver­sion of Mhz to Mb, im­prov­ing the per­for­mance and low­er­ing the cost. Not sur­pris­ingly, as a man­aged con­nec­tiv­ity ser­vice provider, EMC is keen to pro­mote com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­vest­ment. As Lutz says: “Com­mu­ni­ca­tions is a vi­tal com­po­nent of an off­shore pro­ject and should be main­tained, even dur­ing un­sta­ble mar­ket con­di­tions.” Joe Spytek, CEO at ITC Global, whose of­fer­ing in­cludes end- toend satel­lite- based net­work­ing so­lu­tions for re­mote, dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ments, says his en­gi­neer­ing teams “cus­tom- de­sign net­work so­lu­tions based on each client’s spe­cific re­quire­ments… be­cause we un­der­stand that ev­ery ex­plo­ration, pro­duc­tion and drilling op­er­a­tion has a dif­fer­ent set of chal­lenges.”

So where do the sav­ings come from?

ITC Global, says Spytek, “con­tin­ues to stream­line the way we pur­chase space seg­ment, which strength­ens our abil­ity to drive fur­ther ef­fi­cien­cies and de­velop cost- ef­fec­tive so­lu­tions for our cus­tomers.” How­ever, he is clear that cost ef­fi­cien­cies won't mean less data use. “De­mand for band­width will con­tinue to grow, as will de­mand for ef­fi­cient, re­li­able com­mu­ni­ca­tions so­lu­tions,” he says. In some parts of the world, of course, rigs can use fi­bre op­tics. But this can be an ex­pen­sive in­vest­ment even if you don’t own the ac­tual net­work. There need to be other sav­ings in­volved. An ex­am­ple of such sav­ings comes from Colin Sem­pill, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor at SSE En­ter­prise Tele­coms, a provider of net­work in­fra­struc­ture ser­vices. He ex­plains that in the past the lim­i­ta­tions of satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions for some op­er­a­tors of oil and gas plat­forms in the North Sea meant that IT sys­tems were placed on

the rigs. Data anal­y­sis took place ‘ on- rig’ so that only sum­mary in­for­ma­tion needed to be sent back to the main­land. But there is now an al­ter­na­tive. “SSE part­ner,

Tamp­net [ op­er­a­tor of the largest off­shore high ca­pac­ity com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work in the world], has in­vested in a sub- sea fi­bre op­tic net­work that con­nects more than 100 off­shore oil and gas plat­forms back to the main­land in Aberdeen,” says Sem­pill. He con­tin­ues, “SSE En­ter­prise Tele­coms pro­vides the on­shore con­nec­tiv­ity to con­nect the off­shore net­work into Aberdeen city and to the new bright­solid data cen­tre, and fur­ther pro­vides on­ward fi­bre con­nec­tions to oil and gas firms in the city it­self.” Richard Higgs, CEO of cloud host­ing and data cen­tre group bright­solid, adds: “Our aim is to pro­vide a col­lab­o­ra­tive plat­form for the in­dus­try where or­gan­i­sa­tions can se­curely and cost- ef­fec­tively share data whilst mak­ing sense of it.” Sem­pill ex­plains fur­ther: “The huge ca­pac­ity avail­able al­lows oil and gas firms to re­lo­cate server and stor­age equip­ment from rigs into the bright­solid data cen­tre, with­out per­for­mance penalty, and at an af­ford­able band­width cost. It also of­fers a great op­por­tu­nity for con­sol­i­da­tion of equip­ment sup­port­ing the mul­ti­ple rigs in the data cen­tre and greatly low­ers op­er­at­ing and sup­port costs, as on­shore ser­vice pro­vi­sion costs less than off­shore.” Sav­ings are also claimed by Red­line

Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a cre­ator of wide- area wire­less net­works for chal­leng­ing lo­ca­tions and mis­sion- crit­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions in­clud­ing, of course, oil and gas com­pa­nies, which are fur­ther sup­ported by a team of HSE- cer­ti­fied ex­perts ex­pe­ri­enced in wire­less and oil and gas op­er­a­tions. Leigh Chang, VP mar­ket­ing for Red­line, cites a num­ber of pos­i­tive im­pacts of net­works and net­work- based tech­nol­ogy in this con­text. They in­clude in­creased pro­duc­tion and greater ef­fi­ciency, as well as im­proved worker safety and well- be­ing. For ex­am­ple, real- time seis­mic drilling can be sup­ported and en­hanced by al­low­ing data to move to and from sen­sors at the drill site, while multi- pur­pose net­works at a drill site ( of­fer­ing voice, video and de­liv­ery of data to re­mote ex­perts as well as uni­ver­sal ac­cess to busi­ness sys­tems and doc­u­ments) al­low teams to col­lab­o­rate re­gard­less of their lo­ca­tions. In ad­di­tion, both re­mote mon­i­tor­ing of well sites and the abil­ity to ad­just­ing pro­duc­tion pa­ram­e­ters re­motely in re­sponse to data min­i­mize cost, re­duce travel, in­crease ef­fi­ciency, and im­prove worker safety. Chang, like Spytek, feels that there is no in­di­ca­tion that the amount of data pro­duced will de­crease. “In fact,” he adds, “more and more ap­pli­ca­tions to im­prove op­er­a­tions be­come ap­par­ent as net­works are de­ployed.”

Mak­ing smart oil­fields even smarter

Ar­ria NLG, by con­trast is also about ef­fi­cient com­mu­ni­ca­tion but of a rather dif­fer­ent sort as the com­pany’s de­scrip­tion of its area of ex­per­tise — nat­u­ral lan­guage gen­er­a­tion — in­di­cates. Its tech­nol­ogy is, as Ar­ria NLG's SVP of busi­ness devel­op­ment, John Bell, puts it, about ac­cel­er­at­ing work­flows “by get­ting to the lan­guage el­e­ment of in­for­ma­tion much, much quicker”. In the case of oil and gas, that means of­fer­ing sim­ple, easy to un­der­stand sum­maries of a pos­si­bly be­wil­der­ing amount of data. Bell ex­plains: “What we are do­ing with oil and gas com­pa­nies is work­ing with their key ma­chine as­sets. We are mon­i­tor­ing things such as oil tem­per­a­tures, flow rates and pres­sures: all the stan­dard mea­sures you’d ex­pect to mon­i­tor from equip­ment. But rather than tak­ing the route of graph­ics and charts the Ar­ria NLG En­gine goes straight to a piece of lan­guage.” You don't need to spend hours study­ing and as­sess­ing vi­su­al­iza­tions and then send­ing out a sum­mary. The NLG En­gine can do the sum­maris­ing for you. Thus, Bell sug­gests, “the NLG En­gine goes straight to a piece of lan­guage that might say, ‘ The com­pres­sor’s been run­ning at a steady state for the last three hours. We've seen an in­crease in vi­bra­tion. No prob­lem at the mo­ment but if it con­tin­ues at this rate you’re go­ing to need to call in a main­te­nance en­gi­neer.’ It will just tell you that rather than some­one hav­ing to an­a­lyze and in­ter­pret it for you.” The rea­son this sort of of­fer­ing is needed is that, while au­to­mated tech­nol­ogy has re­duced the need for en­gi­neers with clip­boards to take down read­ings, the analy­ses and in­ter­pre­ta­tion of so much data has ar­guably taken up much of the time saved. Also, as Bell points out, many of the pro­cesses around in­ter­pre­ta­tion and analy­ses can be au­to­mated, be­cause there will usu­ally be only a mod­est num­ber of out­comes and they can be fairly sim­ply ex­pressed. The up­shot could be not just fi­nan­cial sav­ings but much more pro­duc­tive en­gi­neer­ing staff, which ~ at a time when many oil en­gi­neers are near­ing re­tire­ment and re­cruit­ing the next gen­er­a­tion is prov­ing dif­fi­cult ~ is a use­ful bonus. Thus, de­pend­ing on the need and ap­pli­ca­tion, ap­pro­pri­ate in­vest­ment can not only cut the cost of com­mu­ni­ca­tions but can make smarter oil­fields even smarter. In ad­di­tion, as Spytek says of most oil and gas com­pa­nies: “Mak­ing an in­vest­ment in their com­mu­ni­ca­tions to de­velop ef­fi­cien­cies in their op­er­a­tions would put them in op­ti­mal po­si­tion to be stronger and bet­ter pre­pared once the mar­ket turns.”

More and more ap­pli­ca­tions to im­prove op­er­a­tions be­come ap­par­ent as net­works are de­ployed

John Bell, SVP busi­ness devel­op­ment, Ar­ria NLG

Colin Sem­pill, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor, SSE En­ter­prise Tele­coms

Leigh Chang,VP mar­ket­ing, Red­line

Richard Higgs,CEO, bright­solid

Joe Spytek,CEO, ITC Global

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