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Hughes Satellite Services Meet the Needs of Energy Producers
The drilling rig rises up from the center of a densely forested mountain property in West Virginia. For mile in any direction, there are only trees. Such rigs are often located in remote areas—be it the backwoods of the Ohio Valley region, the oil patch of northern Alberta, or the barrens and fields of west Texas. As a result, exploration drilling rigs are typically in areas with no established information technology or communications infrastructure.
Yet at these sites and throughout the organizations that own and operate them, all aspects of their operations must be closely monitored. Above and beyond the drilling company who owns the rig itself, today’s rig features multiple “well service” companies, each with a particular specialty and each of which may utilize its own communications solution. The various players contribute a wealth of advanced technologies, such as electronic sensors that measure drilling rates, vibration, pres- sure, rock type, mud properties, and other drilling parameters. Computers actively collect an abundance of data in real-time from inside these wells. Drilling personnel share and review this data with engineers and geologists located thousands of miles away. If a problem occurs, health and safety are paramount, so a rig must be able to be safely and quickly shut down. All of this depends upon robust communications capabilities.
Most of our customers’ field operations are in hard-to-reachs areas where there is little or no infrastructure of any kind, let alone broadband connectivity, which is essential,” said Sam Baumel, vice president of Commercial Sales & Marketing, Hughes North American Division. “However, through modern satellite services, which are now available virtually everywhere, Hughes is able to provide them with access to broadband connectivity. And because it’s their only option, it has to work.
Limited or nonexistent infrastructure and austere conditions are not the only challenges facing oil and energy producers. Well service providers demand broadband connectivity, reliable voice, and ruggedized solutions for both their mission-critical fixed and mobile environments. Even advanced geology cannot provide the drill operators with the exact path to a viable, productive oil or natural gas reservoir thousands of feet below the surface. Constantly in search of the next large reservoir or shale forma- tion, a typical exploration rig will operate at a given location for just two to four weeks, at which point the entire rig will be picked up and moved to the next location, perhaps just a few miles away.
Before operations can begin at a new rig site, mobile offices with dozens of personnel require communications to be established as quickly as possible. The rig manager and others rely on voice communications to update corporate offices with the status of these multi-million dollar assets. Once the rig is in operation, oil and energy companies use a diverse mix of machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions to support the ongoing un-manned data collection and transmission that occurs down the well hole and on the rig floor. This data is vital and confidential, and information security is a top concern.
“Network security is a critical issue,” added Baumel. “Not only do our customers need to protect the integrity of their corporate and customer data, but they need to monitor rigs ‘round the clock to minimize any risk to the environment. And equally important is the growing concern over the potential of coordinated terrorist attacks on the oil and gas industry through these networks.”
To meet the varied broadband needs of oil and energy companies of all sizes, Hughes offers a comprehensive suite of satellite services and solutions. The robust Hughes portfolio delivers turnkey Managed Network Solutions, including program management, training, maintenance, and support— for rapid deployment to distributed enterprises anywhere, worldwide. At the Hughes Network Operations Centers, experienced engineers monitor customer networks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And this is backed by an extensive field operations organization that provides reliable, responsive service to all customers. Hughes provides these types of solutions for major industry players such as National Oilwell Varco and Halliburton—connecting their field offices and oil rigs, reducing administrative costs, maximizing reliability, and enhancing rig operations.
For oil and energy producers who choose to operate and manage their own satellite broadband networks, Hughes offers a host of services, solutions, and technologies. The company’s flagship HX platform supports a range of bandwidth-intensive services. That means workers in the field or offshore can access broadband Internet service from any device, be it a laptop, PC, cellphone, or tablet. They can place phone calls from the farthest corners of any territory through Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony. They can attend interactive distance learning sessions or participate in videoconferences through shared intelligence with multicast data delivery. And, they can gain complete situational awareness via multimedia capabilities, including MPEG video and digital video record capabilities.
“The modern day remote exploration rig operates as a mini-city, where people live in remote areas for months at a time,” explained Baumel. “In addition to business communications needs, the resident workers have personal connectivity needs. They want to be able to Skype with their families back home or watch streaming movies on their days off. Enabling them to do so is a priority for our customers, and for us.”
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