High-speed connectivity helps to optimise energy plant performance

Paul Boughton

Faster, more reliable communication systems are bringing high-speed connectivity to the oil and gas industry - and improving personnel and plant safety too. Sean Ottewell reports.

Redline Communications has signed what it describes as a significant contract with Hess Corporation to provide wireless networks for its operations in the Bakken reserve area of North Dakota, USA. Redline is providing complete turnkey installations of wireless digital oilfield networks, including engineering services for developing network designs optimised for the complex Bakken topography.

Hess has engaged Redline to engineer, design, construct and deploy private wireless networks to bring high-speed connectivity to its oil fields. This ubiquitous network coverage will allow people and machines to communicate to all Hess systems, regardless of where they are located.

With this new, private high-speed wireless network infrastructure, hundreds of vehicles, buildings, rigs, pumps, oil facilities and other assets managed by Hess will be connected via Redline's Virtual Fibre technology, creating a unified digital oil field spanning approximately 6,400m2 across its first five focus areas.

Extensive amounts of data will flow from monitoring equipment and video cameras in the field into a centralised location where it will be analysed in near real-time. This network will give Hess visibility into remote operations, and allow the company to use sophisticated data analysis techniques to identify what parts of the operation require attention, only then dispatching the appropriate personnel to take action.

Under this agreement, Redline will also develop the network architecture and design for the Bakken operation. Redline will deploy the first five focus areas in 2014, with an end-to-end solution that includes Redline hardware and software, plus professional services for network design, planning, construction, project management, installation, delivery and support. It is expected that similar networks will be deployed in five additional areas in 2015.

The Virtual Fibre wireless network will be built using Redline's nomadic rapid alignment system (RAS) platform, RDL-3000 and eLTE-MT systems, which are designed for the harsh environments encountered by the energy sector.

Meanwhile, Huawei has completed a project to install a communication and SCADA system for the 1,304km Kazakhstan segment of the Central Asia-China gas pipeline.

Among the challenges that Huawei had to tackle were the five compressor stations, two metering stations and over 60 valve chambers - all distributed in deserted areas.

The company also had to deal with legacy transmission and communication devices, laying fibre optic cable, mobile communication vehicles, earth stations for satellites and intrusion detector systems.

The project also required complex transnational co-ordination as the Kazakh section joins the Uzbek section of the pipeline at one end and the Chinese section at the other. At no point could one section lose contact with the other.

To ensure the real-time, uninterrupted transmission of data, Huawei proposed a solution using optical transmission as the primary channel and satellite transmission as the auxiliary channel.

To guarantee the communication coverage along the pipeline, Huawei provided wireless-cluster and short wave-system solutions, which established wireless and shortwave stations in each gas compression and metering station. Furthermore, three emergency communications vehicles were used to ensure uninterrupted communication along the whole line on standby.

As a result of the project, the number of staff required at the compressor and metering stations has been halved. Also the accuracy of the transnational measurement data via the SCADA system has halted disagreements that previously occurred between owners, customs and commodity inspectors from the countries involved in the pipeline.

Finally, Apprion has launched the latest addition to its ION Mustering Application - the ION Mustering Tower. This is a stationary access point for real-time personnel check-in within mustering areas during emergencies. The company says its new product is the first wireless, solar-powered mustering tower designed specifically for industrial facilities such as oil and gas plants.

The tower uses a visual strobe light for mustering notification during emergencies, ensuring that it will be seen by personnel. Once employees arrive in the mustering area they can automatically check-in via a wireless badge scan and the tower's WiFi reader updates the system that the employee is safe. This automated system and efficient backhaul reader eliminates manual processes and provides real-time mustering and personnel safety location during emergencies.

"Apprion understands the importance of safety at industrial facilities and values its customers' input when designing new products for facilities like ours," said Ryan Kindred, lead electrical design engineer at BASF, Freeport (Fig. 1).

Redline RDL-3000 outdoor wireless networking systems provide secure reliable TCP/IP transport for applications in a wide range of fixed, portable and full-motion terrestrial and seaborne deployments. Many of the systems include integrated GPS for location services.

Mobile app gives 48 hours notice of sandstorm

Unique System FZE, part of the Unique Maritime group of integrated turnkey subsea and offshore solutions providers, has teamed up with the Geodesy and Hydrographic Survey Section of Dubai Municipality (DM) to launch a mobile app that will enable users to know about an approaching sandstorm 48 hours in advance. The launch is in succession to last year's unveiling of UAE's first sandstorm forecasting system (SFS).

Dubai is the first emirate to use the SFS, which gathers information from its automatic weather stations (AWS) as well as the World Meteorological Organisation. Through the AWS, the information goes to an Etisalat tower from where it gets relayed to the servers at DM.

The project, which was handled by Unique System FZE. has established the sandstorm prediction and weather forecasting model for Dubai using the existing upgraded five tide and meteorological stations and eight terrestrial meteorological stations and the two offshore data buoys. During the upgrade, new rain gauges were also installed so as to complete all stations with rain measurement. The data from each station is transmitted to a central server at DM's survey department. There it is used to create the respective forecast models. These in turn are analysed by a professional meteorologist to create daily forecasts about the sandstorm and associated visibility. The mobile app can be downloaded on all the latest versions of the Android platform.

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