Advances in Satellite Technology Position Energy Companies to Win in New Global Mobility Ecosystem
By Jesus Jimenez, VP-Global Engineering, RigNet
Experts agree that advances in drilling technologies and completion techniques contributed to nearly a decade of growth in the energy industry. These advances lead to a decline in oil prices over the past two years, which has resulted in layoffs across the sector. Ultimately, the energy industry will experience an uptick in activity. In the meantime, operators and service companies will continue to explore new technologies. One key technology is satellite communications, which will be embraced by an industry that thrives on innovation.
The Evolution of Satellite
Satellite’s evolution closely mirrors cellular. In the early days of cellular, limited connectivity and a lack of standards between carriers resulted in frequently dropped calls and service restricted by borders. The adoption of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) by U.S. carriers in the early 2000s improved cellular services by establishing protocols for digital cellular networks. As a result, these universally accepted standards paved the way for ubiquitous global cellular service.
Similarly, fixed satellites and a lack of standards across fixed satellite service providers forced users to rely on patch receivers that were extremely inefficient, complicated to use, and offered poor, unreliable connections. More recently, Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) have supported portable communication devices, however low data rates reduced productivity.
Today, new High Throughput Satellites (HTS) provide global coverage that deliver faster, seamless and lower latency broadband connections. Continuous end-to-end HTS coverage is not only exciting for the oil and gas industry, but ultimately it will be essential as the world moves into a global mobility ecosystem.
Global Mobility Ecosystem
As digital communications continue to mature, the next wave of technological advancements is certain to focus on supporting the evolving global mobility ecosystem. In a world where our homes, cars, offices, and cities will essentially be run by smart technology, sharing and collecting knowledge will connect people and machines that leverage information to drive successful business decisions. Advances in satellite technology will support this new ecosystem as devices, individuals, and enterprises will all demand reliable service to transfer data globally.
Implications for the Energy Sector
New satellite capabilities will be especially beneficial for energy companies that maintain operations in remote locations. For a driller, managing remote drilling sites or a commercial shipping company running a fleet of tankers, unreliable communications or intermittent connectivity is extremely disruptive to the business and can put workers’ safety at risk.
“One key technology is satellite communications, which will be embraced by an industry that thrives on innovation ”
Reliable, high-speed global satellite communications will improve operational efficiencies by enabling energy companies to connect faster with remote locations for real-time sharing of data, knowledge, and ideas.
For example, an offshore drilling rig will benefit from having the ability to submit minute-by-minute production data. The real-time analytics can help onshore managers make more informed decisions and allocate resources more wisely. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows multiple simultaneous calls and video teleconferencing capabilities enable never-before collaboration opportunities between remote sites and headquarters. The ability to send pictures of a malfunctioning part to an expert at the operations center for recommendations on how to repair the part will reduce operating expenses. Furthermore, being able to connect via video conference to a vendor who can walk a crew member through the inspection and maintenance process for a specialized piece of equipment is vital to the rig’s daily production.
For a shipping company, high-speed global satellite communications enable a large crude carrier to maintain communications as it charts a course from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. As a result, headquarters can receive better tracking information related to the location, and scheduled dates of a vessel.
Enterprise applications will experience faster file transfers and transmissions. Communicating between sites and streaming video capabilities enable remote surveillance and monitoring of job sites for improved safety, security and environmental protection.
As the energy sector begins to recover, attention to employee welfare will be paramount as companies compete to entice the most talented and experienced workers to return to the industry. Today, one-in-three American workers are millennials born between the years 1981 to 1997. Millennials will readily admit that they need connectivity the way older generations need air. Attracting and keeping talent will require companies to consider how to fulfill their demand for constant connectivity. Advances in global satellite technologies will address millennials needs, and significantly enhance working and living conditions for all employees.
Maintaining continuous communications with remote operations helps businesses ensure the health and safety of their employees. When companies receive real-time information from a job site, they can respond faster to an on-site accident, an employee health crisis, or a weather emergency. Employees’ ability to stay productive and engaged can also play a tremendous role in their morale, job satisfaction, and overall wellbeing. In addition, high-speed bandwidth allows employees to easily log on to email or the company’s Intranet, connect with colleagues and teams back at the main office, and continue professional development by accessing company training programs.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, global satellite communications and the reliable connectivity it provides can contribute to satisfied employees. Sailors on a commercial tanker or workers on an offshore drilling rig are typically isolated from family, friends and Internet. In fact, these workers often have access to fewer modern conveniences than military troops stationed overseas. However, with seamless broadband connectivity, employees will be able to Skype with loved ones, keep up with news from home, and even stream entertainment from wherever they are on the globe.
Seamless Global Connectivity
In today’s modern business environment, companies that succeed are those that share and leverage information effectively. The millions of mobile devices, applications, and smart technologies that communicate will push bandwidth demands. Energy companies that can seize the advantages of a global satellite network and retain employees who understand how to leverage the information with seamless connectivity will win in the new global mobility ecosystem.