Remote communications for exploration and production

Paul Boughton

Exploration and drilling are highly challenging tasks and need reliable, always available communications, often outside the reach of terrestrial communication networks. Volker Jarsch reports.

Communication via satellite is the way to reach the off-shore and remote sites. Engineers and supporting staff require good voice quality and stable data throughput amongst the relevant sites.

The drilling process depends on real-time direct connectivity with the customer's engineering lab. Information gained at the drilling site needs to be transmitted without delay to the lab for analysis by the geologists and their supporting tools. In turn, the drilling process is controlled in real-time by control-info created at the lab. Surveillance of remote installations, pipeline sections and video reporting of relevant events require broadband transmissions from one or more sites to the company headquarters, and also to the headquarters in the region where the drilling and the production take place.

Current mainstream satcom solutions fall short in fulfilling these evolving requirements and force companies to compromise on functionalities that challenge technical boundaries. Point-to-point connections with dedicated satellite capacity meet the requirement for single-hop connectivity, but are constrained in the fixed bandwidth. They are expensive, because not all capacity of each single link is used all the time and parallel connections between multiple sites require cumulative space capacity, ie they are for oil and gas applications insufficient and yet unnecessarily expensive.

The typically offered star networks with one central site at a service provider's main site allow some cost reduction. However, the routing of all traffic via the one central site, which is typically not at the oil company's headquarters, means double hops or dependency on additional terrestrial routes to reach the relevant company sites. This makes star networks unable to fulfil the requirement for single hop connectivity and for the forwarding, eg in multicast, of high quality video from remote sites directly and with guaranteed quality to one or several company sites processing this information.

Enabling agile networks

ND SatCom's new satellite communications platform SKYWAN 5G overcomes these handicaps and fulfils the requirements of drilling, exploration and transport in an ideal way: Small private networks become cost effective and the communication is fully in the enterprise's sphere. Single hop connectivity between exploration sites, drilling sites, pipeline stations, labs, and management sites or headquarters allow best voice quality for phone, excellent real-time quality for data, fully automatic IP-routing, and best video quality for surveillance and analysis - at acceptable investment and operational costs. SKYWAN 5G ensures connectivity, performance, quality of service and a degree of reliability that was never reached before. All you need is ONE type of hardware and you are prepared for all challenges ahead.

Companies providing communication services for Oil&Gas enterprises can differentiate their offering from that of the competition by providing individual SKYWAN 5G network structures which fit optimally the requirements of their end customers.

It enables agile network connectivity, without double hops. Your time critical data is transmitted in single-hop directly from their origin to their destination site; avoiding double hops and extra delays. Bandwidth is allocated as required - your connections adapt to the different traffic types, ie video gets more bandwidth capacity and committed real-time quality to achieve best possible image resolution.

If required, fast file transfers get all of the available capacity at a certain point and are completed in the shortest possible time. This dynamic allocation of bandwidth brings substantial savings on satellite capacity cost since the overall network capacity can be reduced thanks to the statistical effects and mix of traffic in the entire network. At the same time the users get the feeling that their traffic is transmitted faster than using the mainstream solutions.

The savings can, of course, be yet further increased through the integration of all types of sites in one network: off-shore platforms, ships, fixed sites, land-mobile and transportable sites and moving vehicles can all communicate in one single project- or company specific network. The network can then be seamlessly integrated with the IT environment of the company, and still provide controlled interfaces to public networks. Point-to-point, point-to-multipoint, and multipoint-to-point connectivity, including automatic routing of IP traffic make the SKYWAN 5G the platform of choice for companies who have the need for a certain type of connectivity today, but may be needing a different one in the future.

Ease of operation

A SKYWAN 5G network guarantees highest availability due to unique redundancy and diversity concepts. Handling and maintenance of your dedicated- or virtual private network, which could also be managed by the service provider of your choice, is as easy as it gets. And best of all, you are completely independent of terrestrial networks and uncontrollable routes.

For more information visit

Volker Jarsch is Director Satcom Solutions, ND SatCom GmbH, Immenstaad, Germany.

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