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Driving offshore growth with satellite communications

The offshore market has long understood the value of digitalisation

Morten Hagland Hansen, VP, SES Networks
|Jun 7|magazine7 min read

The offshore market has long understood the value of digitalisation.

Recognising the value of digital technologies as a vital cost-cutting tool in an industry that places a premium on financial prudence, new digital applications are being developed and implemented for offshore today at a stunning pace. However, without robust and reliable connectivity, their effectiveness is severely restricted.

While the demand for bandwidth increases, delivering dependable connectivity to offshore rigs and platforms is becoming more complex as activity moves further into deeper waters. Installing cables may not be a financially viable option, and other terrestrial alternatives can’t reach that far out. Satellite connectivity bridges this gap. 

The benefits of digitalisation

Modern monitoring equipment uses Internet of Things technologies to provide insights on every aspect of an operation. These sensors mean operational technology is becoming increasingly connected, feeding critical data into onshore IT systems that previously operated in isolation, while cloud computing platforms allow companies to process and analyse that data more effectively and cost-efficiently. 

This enables more critical information to move onshore in real-time. Alongside improved communication equipment, including reliable HD video calling, it is enabling more staff to move onshore – cutting costs for operators. 

In some cases, being able to access this data in real-time has meant more offshore functions can be performed remotely – while some have implemented a ‘digital twin’ of their operations to allow for better predictive maintenance and data-driven optimisation.

The rise of O3b MEO satellites

These ground-breaking digital applications rely on the existence of high-speed, low-latency connectivity – a pipe dream until 2014, when the O3b Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellite constellation became operational. 

The O3b constellation represented a step change for connectivity, delivering up to 1 Gbps of aggregated bandwidth and latency of less than 150 milliseconds for data services. This level of connectivity paves the way for offshore sites to leverage the full range of digital applications that can help them increase profits through reduced operational costs and improved efficiency. 

SES Networks’ O3b MEO constellation is currently powering connectivity for four out of the six oil and gas supermajors and other energy companies across offshore sites in Brazil, Guyana, Angola, Nigeria, and the Gulf of Mexico. And in 2021, SES Networks will launch O3b mPOWER, its next-generation MEO communications system. O3b mPOWER is a comprehensive managed communications system that directly addresses the throughput, performance, scale and flexibility requirements of offshore oil and gas operations.

Looking ahead

Market conditions in recent years have made cost-efficiency an even more pressing goal across the oil and gas sector. However, cost-efficiency can only be unlocked with the appropriate tools, and high-speed, reliable and scalable connectivity solutions are crucial to enable the right set of applications that can fully digitalise operations. Demand for real-time data is growing, and it is critical that the offshore industry has the tools required to make the best use of the data revolution for their individual operations. 

This article was contributed by Morten Hagland Hansen, VP Commercial Maritime and Energy at SES Networks 

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