The trend for oil and gas global markets for 2025 show a great increase in the market, where gas consumption will grow faster than oil consumption. The greatest increase and demand for oil will come from the transportation market vertical (over 90%). Our planet’s population will grow by over 1.1 billion people, and the levels of oil and gas consumption will grow accordingly. [i]Research continues to show the vast growth in off shore platforms will continue to be developed in deep sea and further from shore. Deep water capital expenditure (Capex) is expected to increase by 130% (2014-2018)[ii].
The further the oil and gas platform is from shore, the greater the isolation and dependence on communications. The harsh sea conditions of salt, water, wind, extreme temperatures and vast distances are only a few of many challenges, making a reliable communications system critical. Daily operations alone requires transmission of an insurmountable quantity of data, from drilling information to data reports, logistics, supply, production and more.
Today, most communications from oil and gas platforms to shore or surrounding vessels depend on expensive satellite links. Each surrounding vessel requires a separate link, as well as a major satellite link connecting the offshore platform itself. The cost per link can run up to $15,000 per month. Furthermore, this will provide voice communications only, and will exclude data, internet, and video, in a limited range of only a few miles, and not necessarily in real time.
How to Overcome these Challenges
There are other options for offshore communications that make all this much easier, cost effective, efficient and reliable. There are several mission-critical communications solution providers that deliver unique technologies to overcome these challenges. First, by reducing the number of required satellite links per network, thus dramatically reducing costs. Some solutions may reduce the number of satellite links, while others may construct full wireless private mobile networks on a single link for backhaul only.
The second way to overcome these challenges is via technology architecture. Some technologies, usually WiFi-based, require a network architecture consisting of receivers, transceivers and base stations. However, these rely on each and every base station to transmit information to and from a designated post. A failure in one unit can affect the whole network and constitute a point of failure. Such network topologies also often consist of larger hardware components and units, which of course entail greater management requirements. MESH-based topologies or Mobile MESH-based topologies will dramatically reduce the number of hardware components by providing "multifunctional" units where each unit serves as receiver, transmitter and base station all in one. Each unit will "self-heal" and "self-adapt" to the harsh environment condition, and with each unit receiving and transmitting all video, data and VoIP, a no-single-point of failure network is achieved.
Another aspect to consider is the number of communication points available in each solution.
Most WiFi-based solutions will provide a point-to-point communications system only. MESH-based solutions can provide point-to-multi-point systems, while 4G Mobile MESH will deliver multiple points-to-multiple points solution with broadcast abilities. These may also include dynamic network adaptation system which consists of virtual intelligence device responsible for making optimal routing decisions and automatically choosing the best communications route available.
So the further from shore offshore oil and gas platform, the greater their dependability of wireless communications. Will the growing demand and development for deep sea off shore platforms bring greater demand for offshore wireless communications solutions? Let's hope so…
Yossi Segal is the Co-Founder & VP of Research and Development for Mobilicom
[i] Likoil – Global Trends in Oil & Gas Markets to 2025]
[ii] Douglas-Westwood's (DW), 12th edition, World Deepwater Market Forecast 2014-201]
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