The 2017 Mission
Oilfield Connectivity 2017 brings the GVF-EMP Oilfield Connectivity Series to its latest event to address the communications networking needs of the global ‘oil & gas patch’. The rationale for an Aberdeen - based oilfield connectivity event building on the success of the previous nine Aberdeen gatherings, and others of the entire global Series – held in Lagos, Abuja, Rio de Janeiro, Abu Dhabi, Cairo and Kuala Lumpur – is that it brings 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 industry
Big Oil - Big Data
Government financial and other incentives, 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.
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 investigate the implications for satellite communications with particular reference to high throughput satellite (HTS) advances.
Internet of Things (IoT)
As noted elsewhere here, key issues in today’s oil & gas sector are “Big Data”, as well as M2M communications, and the arena of the “Internet of Things” (IoT). The relationship of these issues to the regional E&P communications and applications networking agenda will be prioritised in the programme, together with a range of other topic areas arising from the international energy environment and the wider global economy.
M2M – Machine-2-Machine
M2M communications is now a key connectivity focus in oil & gas, and the interface and synergy of M2M communications and satellite communications will comprise part of the conference subject-matter. 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 satellite industry very important.
The Cloud – Applications and Connectivity Imperatives for the Digital Oilfield
The list of applications and connectivity imperatives to be discussed 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/gasfield 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 & A New LEO Dawn
In all of this, high throughput satellites (HTS) have been more than a game-changer. HTS is a satellite industry-wide innovation which 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 – which may be summarized as 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. OneWeb, SpaceX and LeoSat have separate plans to build hundreds of new satellites: OneWeb, a constellation of around 650 micro satellites to bring broadband access to the unconnected /unserved population around the world; SpaceX, thousands of micro satellites to bring Internet connectivity all over the world too; LeoSat’s planned constellation of 80-120 Ka-band satellites will provide high-speed, low-latency, broadband services worldwide, specifically for large private corporations and government agencies.
Satellite-Terrestrial Hybrid Communications
The Aberdeen event will examine 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 monetize 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.