Marriott Hotel . . . Overton Cir . . . Dyce . . . Aberdeen . . . AB21 7AZ . . . May 10th . . . 2018


The 2018 Oil & Gas Context


On 10th May 2018 the City of Aberdeen will once again be the host location for Oilfield Connectivity: The Next Generation Digital Oilfield. The conference, sponsored by Hughes, Comtech EF Data, ND Satcom and Newtec, will be the 11th programme in the series dedicated to communications in Europe’s oil & gas ecosystem, bringing to the market an ICT-oriented dialogue at the crucial interface of demand for ICT solutions by the energy vertical and the supply of those solutions from the connectivity services industry.


The 2018 Oil & Gas Context


The current oil market is still challenged by high stocks and sluggish prices.  However, a Russian-led non-OPEC alliance with OPEC, has agreed to extended production cuts of about 1.8 million barrels per day, aimed at diminishing global inventories and strengthening oil prices.  In addition, increasing global demand and a clearer idea of how digital technologies can drive down costs, should enable a continued, steady rise in oil prices, from the 2016 US$40/bbl low, to the current level of around US$64/bbl, and beyond. 


DNV GL’s latest industry outlook report, which surveyed 813 senior industry professionals and executives globally, found that 63 percent of poll participants were confident about growth in the industry this year.  This figure stood at 32 percent in DNV GL’s report a year ago.  Europe had the most improved outlook for the oil and gas sector, up from 25 percent last year to 64 percent, with Latin America at 77 percent (46 percent in 2017) and Asia Pacific at 57 percent (30 percent in 2017). Confidence in North America rose from 49 percent to 57 percent.


The North Sea


According to Bloomberg “for all the talk of aging oil fields and shrinking production, the UK is about to achieve a surprising feat: it’s on the brink of becoming a net crude oil exporter for the first time in 14 years. To put the milestone into context, it’s one of the key criteria for joining OPEC. 


“A handful of new projects in the North Sea that will come on stream this year will lift the nation’s crude output above 1 MMbpd”, according to JBC Energy GmbH, a Vienna-based forecaster. On a net trade basis, that will soon allow overseas sales to overtake imports.  There is clear potential for the UK to return to being a net exporter again – the last year Britain shipped out more crude than it received was in 2004”.


In a recent statement issued by Yvonne English of Fircroft, whilst admitting that exact figures are hard to ascertain, has put forward the following statistics as being broadly agreed by analysts of the North Sea industry:


  • Approximately 24bn barrels could still be available for extraction
  • There are between 30 to 40 years of production remaining
  • The UK continental shelf provides more than half of the UK’s oil & gas demand
  • Oil & gas provides more than 70 per cent of the UK’s total primary energy
  • Since 1970 the industry (UK-wide) has paid more than £300 billion in production tax


In conclusion, Ms English states that “these figures demonstrate the importance of the North Sea oil & gas industry to date, and provides an indication of the scale of the contribution it can make in the future.”


Big Oil – Big Data


Government financial and other incentives, leaner production operations driven by technological innovation and investments by energy companies, have encouraged international technology companies to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the potential of “Big Oil”.  With “Big Oil” has come “Big Data” – the specialism which focuses on solutions and services to store, manage, protect and analyse information extracted from the large volume of data generated by the oil industry, much of which is increasingly generated out of the rapidly expanding satellite communications/Machine-2-Machine (M2M) interface.


Robust Communication is an Imperative


The oil & gas sector faces many challenges which arise from operations in dangerous, harsh, and remote environments.  The industry’s commercial and operational centres require a range of means to communicate with E&P rigs and platforms, and to draw information from computer applications, mission-critical equipment, and other in-field infrastructure.  Robust communication is an imperative, permitting key personnel to maintain all-round contact – field workers with senior operations management and expert decision makers in other locations – facilitating the relaying of decisions and instructions that are based upon data streams from such sources as drilling equipment, seismic sensors, and security applications installations.


Crew Welfare


The connected crew has evolved from luxury to necessity in attracting workers from younger generations to work on drilling rigs.  Millennials, in particular, are seemingly very dependent on their personal devices and on such applications as social media, online shopping, sports and news information and video streaming.  Access to these services are now considered to be a key contractual negotiating point in personnel recruitment.




Oil & gas companies are aligning their upstream business processes with mobile technology, applying mobile applications to aid communication and workflow and fostering enhanced workforce productivity.  The conference will reference the implications for satellite communications with particular reference to high throughput satellite (HTS) advances.


Internet of Things (IoT) & M2M – Machine-2-Machine


In the context of the digital oilfield, the Internet of Things is emerging as a revolutionary, mission critical technology in its application to oil and gas production, improving efficiencies, driving down costs and extending the digital edge through connected devices.


Of course, M2M communications is already a key connectivity focus in oil & gas, and the interface and synergy of M2M communications and satellite communications will comprise one of the conference reference points.  Naturally, this dialogue must begin with at least a nod to immediate future-history, noting the longer-term significance of transitioning to Internet Protocol version 6 (IPv6).  It is IPv6 which will bring on the full potential of the Internet of Things, and it is the IoT which will be the ultimate realization of a future universal M2M environment which will far exceed the potential boundaries and limited scope of even the greatest reach of a legacy supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems environment in the oil & gas sector.


The IoT which will create dynamic networks of billions of wireless identifiable ‘things’, intelligently communicating with one another, bringing ubiquitous computing, and integrating the digital world and the physical world.  More concretely, improved sensor device capabilities will facilitate business logic at the edges of networks as decision-making is based on real-time readings from sensors that are used to monitor pretty much anything and everything.  Globally, satellite M2M has been growing fast, and the aggregated target markets make its potential for the connectivity industry very important.


The Cloud – Applications and Connectivity Imperatives for the Digital Oilfield


The list of applications and connectivity imperatives to be referenced at this event will include ICT aspects of: safety systems provision on oil & gas installations at sea; the enhanced application of satellite-based security provisions related to the use of “Cloud”-based data traffic networking; and, of great significance to the growth of “Big Oil” and “Big Data” in the region, the impact of HTS on the communications solutions vital to hydrocarbons E&P, including, potentially, video streams from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on security patrol around isolated offshore installations.


The definition of the Digital Oilfield brings together Cloud server applications which facilitate the transfer of oil/gas field IT infrastructure, and IT personnel expertise, away from multiple offshore, or other remote locations, to centrally located headquarters/regional offices in support of fully integrated operations which comprise “always-on”, real-time, well-head/drilling measurements and data networking/sharing, along with video-based equipment and instrument monitoring, video-based remote surveillance for safety and security, and video conferencing. Additionally, it encompasses components of crew welfare/training, and also Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) environments, and it is also linked with the prioritisation of mission-critical traffic flows over the less critical.


HTS – High Throughput Satellites & the New LEO Dawn


In all of this, high throughput satellites (HTS) have been more than a game-changer. HTS as a technology has demonstrated its potential to break many satellite communications end-user verticals markets wide open to greater deployment of satellite-based solutions, particularly, though not exclusively, for the oil and gas sector.


The technology – featuring multiple spot-beams and frequency re-use techniques – brings to the end user requirement multiple advantages, including lower space segment costs per megabyte, higher throughput rates, and greatly improved capacity availability.


The accelerating growth of satellite-based traffic and of the demand for bandwidth and throughput capacity has also heightened the importance for oil and gas of other satellite technologies, particularly bandwidth, throughput and traffic optimisation techniques, encompassing: Traffic Shaping; Traffic Prioritisation; Optimising Throughput via Physical Layer Enhancements, and Adaptive Coding & Modulation (ACM); and, WAN Optimisation (Acceleration, Caching, Compression, and Pre-fetching).


Amidst this HTS transformation, the satellite industry is looking ahead to the orbiting of the “mega-LEOs” with numbers of launches – to low earth rather than geosynchronous orbit – on an unprecedented scale.


Satellite-Terrestrial Hybrid Communications


The Aberdeen event will reference the full range of satellite-based communications, and integrated satellite-terrestrial hybrid communications solutions, to which the oil & gas industry turns to play a vital role in providing the essential connectivity and access to vital applications. Mission critical operational success in the upstream E&P environment is dependent on access to the most efficient ICTs, and to the wealth of sophisticated applications these technologies bring to the disposal of the teams of geologists, geophysicists, drilling engineers, seismic data analysts, etc., etc., who locate new oil & gas reserves and get them out of the ground and from beneath the ocean floor through the collection of massive amounts of disparate data in multiple formats (including GPS, acoustic, compass and other sensor data) and using the information for predictive analysis. Widely spread and remotely located experts can see data as it is collected in real time and can determine the size and potential value of a payload before any actual drilling begins, a capability that can significantly reduce the amount of time and other resources wasted on drilling sites that don't have a strong yield potential.


Cyber Security – Networking & the SCADA Threat


It is now increasingly important to assess and respond to the new cyber landscape which threatens all secure critical information infrastructures. The evolution of cyber threats and exploitation of data vulnerability is advancing in by leaps and bounds, and the ability and proliferation of sophisticated efforts by malicious state and economic actors to steal and monetise corporate data or leverage it to assert power, track trends/behaviour etc. or even cause physical disruption in operations is a growing concern in the oil & energy industry.


Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks involve malicious attempts to disrupt the operation of a computer system or network that is connected to the Internet. The most common form of attack is one which disrupts the operation of the computer system or network by consuming the bandwidth of the victim network or overloading the resources of computer systems. Almost all critical industrial infrastructures and processes are managed remotely from central control rooms, one example is the flow of gas and oil through pipes, using forms of process control and SCADA.