Offshore & Online

Drew Brandy, head of land mobile, Inmarsat explores the broadband capability of satellite comms for the upstream industry

Drew Brandy, head of land mobile, Inmarsat explores the broadband capability of satellite comms for the upstream industry

Satellite services have long been an established part of the communications mix for oil and gas companies, operating in areas that are remote from fixed-line and wireless networks.

The latest portable solutions can also provide ‘intelligent gateways’ at unmanned sites for data gathered by sensors and actuators, enabling near real-time status reporting on wells, rigs and other equipment in the field through SCADA applications.

Data links
At remote or offshore sites mobile satellite communications systems, such as Inmarsat’s BGAN service, can transmit data automatically via satellite to asset-monitoring servers for processing by back-end systems.

Remote monitoring backhaul is already widely available over satellite links such as Inmarsat’s IsatM2M, low-speed VSAT and via GSM or GPRS. However, BGAN’s broadband data capability, and support for services such as live colour video, make it a highly flexible option.

This flexibility extends to optimising the time that BGAN remains connected to the internet, helping maintain cost-effectiveness and reduce power consumption.

For instance, a typical ‘data-logging’ set-up for a remote site would use a BGAN terminal to open a standard IP connection only when needed to push data over the internet to a central data-logging centre.

At permanent sites, VSAT (very small aperture terminal) satellite systems can also be used to provide voice and data services at offshore installations. However, they have several widely recognised drawbacks. They are expensive, take expertise and a long time to set up, and are essentially static systems. Even ‘portable’ versions of the technology are relatively cumbersome and take time to configure.

Reliability can also be an issue. VSAT will generally work well in clear conditions but, like other high-frequency satellite systems, can be disrupted by heavy rain. Inmarsat services such as BGAN don’t have this problem because they operate at a much lower frequency than VSAT and are therefore reliable in almost any weather conditions or climate.

Moreover, some countries simply don’t permit the use of VSAT within their borders, and if a VSAT unit malfunctions a specialist maintenance team is invariably required to fix it.

High-performance, high availability
Satellite services distributor, Stratos, specialises in remote communications solutions, including mobile and fixed satellite services. It is now bringing its 20 years’ experience of working with oil and gas customers in the North Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and in various other projects around the world to introduce a new high-performance connectivity service for remote, unmanned SCADA applications using BGAN terminals.

The new high-performance connectivity service reflects the development and increasing importance of SCADA operations, particularly in upstream oil and gas operations and is based on the new, ruggedised SABRE Ranger BGAN from Addvalue.

SCADA terminals typically need to withstand all the environmental challenges associated with off-shore applications so are designed to ensure they reliably transmit mission-critical data from hard-to-reach locations. And utilising the global Inmarsat L-band service, the new SCADA solution is well suited for many regions around the world. It can also fully complement Ku- or Ka-band SCADA VSAT, serving as a network-independent backup solution.

With the ongoing developments in remote site monitoring, SCADA-based services can not only keep a constant check on the status and security of assets, and send commands remotely to manage equipment such as video cameras or environmental controls, but the data can help improve maintenance scheduling and prove vital for disaster prevention, as well as reducing the all important production costs.

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Oil & Gas Middle East - September 2020

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