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Seeking smarter oilfields

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Oilfield Technology,

Ronald van der Breggen, Chief Commercial Officer, LeoSat, discusses a unique data network solution for smarter oilfields.

The ‘Digital Oilfield’ has been evolving for over 30 years. All being driven by developments in software and smart hardware designed to improve O&G operational efficiency, optimisation, decision-making, collaboration and integration into production planning. With advances in telecommunication using fibre and microwave, much has been improved, but a lot is still left to be desired, particularly in the remote and harsh environments where oil and gas assets typically operate and which are only addressable by existing satellite network connectivity with limited bandwidth and high latency.

Today, operations in the O&G sector need to have reliable, always-on communications for corporate networking, crew welfare, safety and training as well as remote monitoring and control. Increasingly, modern rigs produce enormous amounts of data that ideally would be processed and reviewed in real time. Up to now, the transportation of the data for analysis has traditionally been achieved either by daily helicopter flights back to operations sites or by connecting to a satellite network. Both of these solutions have drawbacks - transporting data daily by helicopter incurs very high costs and existing satellite networks cannot handle the bandwidth and speed requirements to move this amount of data quickly. What the Oil & Gas industry requires is a data connectivity solution with low latency and high throughput that will substantially improve productivity and on-shore/off-shore collaboration.

Combining the speed of fibre with the ubiquity of satellite

The LeoSat system was conceived by two former Schlumberger executives with direct experience of the challenges of data transportation, and in response to specific needs in the oil and gas sector which are not being met by today’s technology. LeoSat was therefore developed to provide an ultra-low latency, high throughput, global data network solution to meet the challenges of today and in the future. The new low-earth orbit satellite constellation consists of 78 high throughput satellites which will form a mesh network interconnected through laser links, creating an optical backbone in space with is about 1.5 times faster that terrestrial fibre. With high speed, low latency, and highly secure point-to-point communications, LeoSat can help the O&G industry develop new modes of operation. Working in remote locations only served by satellite, the LeoSat network can provide supervision of drilling and production, instant collaboration with support staff located anywhere on the globe, efficient utilisation of manpower and monitoring of critical processes. High speed data links to operating bases, along with data sharing among numerous stake holders and video enabled services will allow the operating base to be connected in real time to the control room in the field and have access to any number of remote experts around the globe.

Proven technology. Innovative deployment

For data transport such is required by oil and gas operations, LeoSat’s unique system has many unique benefits.  Operating in polar orbits at an altitude 5x closer to earth than the MEO orbit and 25x closer than GEO, LeoSat has many advantages over existing satellite systems when it comes to throughput, latency and true global coverage. The LeoSat satellite constellation can provide very high throughput, low-latency and highly-secure communications between any two or more locations on earth, independent of existing terrestrial networks. This is uniquely achieved through deploying optical inter-satellite links (ISLs) which connect the satellites, creating fibre-like symmetric connectivity with speeds of up to 1.6 Gbps and even 5.2 Gbps where needed. A customer uses their LeoSat terminal to uplink data to the nearest satellite where the data is then routed by an on-board processor to the customer’s second location to complete the circuit.  Internet traffic can be terminated in one of LeoSat’s gateways, which will be strategically located around the globe. Contrary to traditional bent-pipe satellite solutions in use today, gateways are not a pre-requisite for LeoSat to operate its network. For customers, this unique use of technology allows for premise-to-premise connections with no terrestrial touch-point in-between and sets a new bar for high-speed data networks. 

Reliability and security

For the oil and gas sector with the need to move large, sensitive amounts of data around the world, reliability and security are key components of a critical data network. LeoSat’s advanced and unique system architecture is able to highly encrypt and logically separate and route the data as it flows through the system allowing the company to deliver the highest performing, most secure, furthest reaching network in the world. With LeoSat, data travels in its native form, but is encrypted and secure from end-to-end across an optical satellite network, with no terrestrial touch points. 

Optimised performance

LeoSat’s advanced global network architecture will enable voice, video and cloud-based enterprise applications for digital oilfield communication, driving efficiencies and ensuring optimised connectivity. Oilfield operators can benefit from a network that is not only completely secure but delivers data faster than on any other satellite or terrestrial network. And with bandwidth requirements continuing to rise with the demand for always-on connectivity, LeoSat is creating a new satellite paradigm – shifting the perception of satellite in the oil and gas sector from a last resort option to a first choice solution for data transportation.

Adapted by David Bizley

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