Marriott Hotel, Overton Circle-Dyce, Aberdeen, AB21 7AZ, United Kingdom .... May 15

 

Backdrop

 

On 15th May 2019 the City of Aberdeen will once again be the host location for Oilfield Connectivity: The Next Generation Digital Oilfield – M2M, IoT, Applications in the Cloud, organised as part of the GVF-EMP Partnership Portfolio. The conference will be the 13th annual programme in the series dedicated to communications in the 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 satellite connectivity industry.

 

The 2019 Hydrocarbons Context

 

Volatility was a marked feature of the 2018 oil market with some of the highest prices that the market has seen in almost four years, and 2019 may show even greater volatility, influenced by such key variables as:

 

recurrent geopolitical concerns (e.g., global trade risks such as with instabilities in US-China relations, emerging markets currency crises, higher US interest rates relative to other prime – OECD – economies, a strengthened US dollar), financial moves, and supply and demand fluctuations, all of which could inject considerable uncertainty into the annual US$2 trillion world petroleum market. Additionally – as anticipated as of late January – 2019 is a year that will feature continuing threats to the achievement of consensus stability amongst OPEC nations, and uncertainty over sanctions on Iran’s oil industry.

 

Global demand for oil may slow, suggested by a variety of global economic indicators of a worldwide economic slowdown that could push oil prices down in 2019, though it is possible that low oil prices could stimulate demand as economies like China purchase more crude.

 

Lower development and project costs led to the resumption of exploration and development (E&D) activity during 2018, which may continue into 2019. According to Wood Mackenzie, energy companies will spend a total of US$425bn in upstream sector in 2019, up from US$400bn in 2016-17, but significantly below the US$770bn capital expenditure in 2014, before prices crashed from US$100 per bbl.

 

After collapsing between 2014-16 by more than 40% amid the general downturn, upstream recovery saw accelerated 5% growth in 2018, accounting for projects worth US$472bn, the IEA said in its World Energy Investment 2018 Report. General predictions indicate the price range of US$60-65 rather than US$70-80 per bbl in 2019.

 

Big Oil-Big Data

 

Finding and producing hydrocarbons is technically challenging and economically risky. The process generates a large amount of data, and the industry needs new technologies and approaches to integrate and interpret this data to drive faster and more accurate decisions. Doing so will lead to safely finding new resources, increasing recovery rates and reducing environmental impact.

 

The term “big data” has historically been regarded by the oil and gas industry as a term used by “softer” industries to track people’s behaviour, however, the concept – defined as increasing volume, variety and velocity of data – is quite familiar to the oil and gas industry.

 

The processes and decisions related to oil and natural gas exploration, development and production generate large amounts of data and volumes increase daily. With new data acquisition, processing and storage solutions – and the development of new devices to track a wider array of reservoir, machinery and personnel performance – today’s total data is predicted to double in the next two years.

 

Many types of captured data are used to create models and images below the Earth’s surface and to describe activities around the oil wells, such as machinery performance, oil flow rates and pressures. The oil industry recognises that great power and imminent breakthroughs can be found in this data by using it in smarter, faster ways.

 

Three Big Oil Industry Issues that Consume Money and Produce Data

 

Oil is hard to find. Reservoirs are generally 5,000 to 35,000 feet below the Earth’s surface. Low-resolution imaging and expensive well logs (after the wells are drilled) are the only options for finding and describing the reservoirs.

Oil is expensive to produce. The large amount science, machinery and manpower required to produce a barrel of oil must be done profitably, taking into account cost, quantity and market availability.

Drilling for oil presents potential environmental and human safety concerns that must be addressed.

 

Finding Oil

 

3D seismic data has been the industry’s most significant scientific breakthrough, producing data to greatly improve the imaging of the Earth’s subsurface and removing the need to drill expensive holes. R&D spending in geophysics has focused around four main categories – acquisition, processing, interpretation and hardware optimisation – all rich in big data volumes, variety and velocity. One raw seismic dataset is usually in the hundreds of gigabytes, resulting in terabytes once the numerous and expensive processing and interpretations are finished. These processing algorithms calculate many billions of data points with each run, and hundreds of these runs occur globally every day, all for one goal – create a clear, accurate picture of the Earth’s subsurface and identify all of the major components of hydrocarbon systems.

 

With the addition of lower resolution seismic datasets, the problem becomes: lots of data, different scales, different types, with a critical need to get the most clarity possible through integration.

 

Producing Oil

 

Every well that’s drilled uses extensive machinery, measurement devices and people – all of which produce video, image and structured data. This area is probably the fastest growing in terms of the volume, variety and velocity of data being captured. Improving drilling and completion operations can significantly reduce costs. Offshore wells can cost tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. The cost goes up as the seafloor and the reservoirs deepen – requiring more technology to do it safely and successfully. Analytical approaches that impact the success rate of finding or reducing the cost to develop and produce oil and gas can make energy more affordable, safer and environmentally conscious.

 

Answers

 

The integration and mining of data produced in the hydrocarbon finding and producing process offers huge potential. The biggest question is: Where is more oil? The next biggest question is: How do we get substantially more out of the ground safely, with minimal environmental impact? Another relevant question is: How do we use data that has such potential to unlock these answers?

 

Data science will help the oil and gas industry learn more about each subsystem and inject more accuracy and confidence in every decision, ultimately reducing risk. Big data analytics will be key:

 

Integration over a wide variety of large data volumes – incorporating all relevant information for finding additional hydrocarbons, and identifying the data and the best-known technologies to produce it – for that particular system,

 

Make daily operational data relevant to reduce operating costs and improve recovery rate,

 

Decision management – take into consideration all “knowns” and local conditions and quickly identify if or how to proceed.

 

Historically the term digital oilfield meant installing digital gauges and transmitting devices for production rates and pressures (instead of manual readings). In the next stage, companies displayed this data in one room and then on the same big computer screen as an “earth model” built by the geoscientists and engineers. Today’s stage is a rather linear extension from this hardware-centric integration solution, with dashboards and software making digital monitoring and operations more effective, but more can be done.

 

With smarter solutions, with built-in intelligence, computers can make simple decisions, while indicating a set of potential outcomes to the user in more difficult situations, helping with faster decisions based on best practices. Ultimately, costs for these operations will be cut and production will go up.

 

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.

 

HTS – High Throughput Satellites & the New LEO Dawn

 

In all of this, high throughput satellites (HTS) have been more than a game-changer. HTS 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 is the emergence of the “mega-LEOs” with numbers of launches – to low earth rather than geosynchronous orbit – on an unprecedented scale, resulting in a vast increase in orbiting capacity and throughout.

 

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.

 

M2M & IoT

 

In the digital oilfield, IoT 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.

 

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. IPv6 will bring on the full potential of IoT, 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.

 

IoT will create dynamic networks of billions of wireless identifiable ‘things’, and 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 continues to grow 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 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.

 

Cyber Security – Networking Threats

 

Assessing and responding to the new cyber landscape – which poses significant threat to secure critical information infrastructures – is critical. Evolving cyber threats and the exploitation of data vulnerabilities is advancing, 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 across the energy industries.

 

Denial-of-Service (DoS) attacks involve malicious attempts to disrupt the operation of computer systems or networks connected to the Internet, most commonly in the form of disrupting computer system or network operation by consuming the bandwidth of the targeted 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.

 

Mobility

 

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.

 

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.