Digital transformation in the energy industry is radically changing how oil and gas companies manage, monitor, and maintain distributed assets. The ability to remotely access SCADA data from a centralized platform in the cloud is a gamechanger, which allows these companies to optimize the performance of pumps and wells out in the field without employing an army of maintenance workers.
But all the digitalization in the world is rendered moot unless administrators have reliable, fast, and secure connectivity to these assets.
Consider Cradlepoint customer Sabinal Energy Operating , a privately held exploration and production company with thousands of operated, producing wells situated across approximately 200,000 acres in the Permian Basin of West Texas and Southeast New Mexico. Optimizing each of these wells requires constant monitoring and maintenance, creating a logistical nightmare according to Ben Kokenge, the company’s Vice President of Infrastructure. Any disruption due to a spill or other problem takes that well out of production, but keeping an engineer on-site at each of the company’s 12 remote offices is cost prohibitive.
Legacy Connectivity Solutions Fall Short of Today’s High Bandwidth, Low Latency Requirements
Turning each well into a smart device that could relay critical SCADA data to a field office was the easy part, but getting that information to a central location in a reliable, secure manner proved much more difficult. The company’s T1 line between remote offices was not as reliable as their needs, providing only 95 percent availability in an industry that relies on uninterrupted production from each well. In addition, the pandemic dramatically increased bandwidth requirements due to additional use of remote collaboration apps such as Microsoft Teams and video conferencing, an increase that the T1 line was unable to meet.
Kokenge considered satellite technology could not deliver a static IP and would be disrupted every time a connection hopped to a new satellite in orbit. He needed a solution that enabled reliable, fast, and secure connectivity between remote offices that could meet the company’s growing bandwidth requirements.
Wireless WAN to the Rescue
Sabinal Energy was saved by twin connectivity technologies: the cloud and 5G. Wireless WAN solutions, powered by wireless edge routers with 5G adapters, give the company reliable connections that support both the bandwidth needs of collaboration applications and the reliability needed for fast and secure access to SCADA data from its distributed assets.
This allows an engineer to remotely monitor and manage his or her assigned wells . Rather than keeping a maintenance team on call at each site in case of a production issue, an alert automatically goes to the assigned engineer, who can then deploy a maintenance team where it is needed.
“Wireless WAN solutions give companies like Sabinal Energy the agility they need to keep assets in the field working optimally without adding IT complexity or increasing headcount.”
Sabinal Energy is showing us how digital transformation is making it easier for oil and gas companies to monitor and control remote assets, but getting critical SCADA data to a central location requires next-gen connectivity technology. Powered by 5G and delivered through the cloud, wireless WAN solutions enable the agility that these companies need to optimize production while creating operational efficiencies.
But not all wireless WAN solutions are created equal. Here are three things you need to consider when connecting remote assets:
1. Low Latency, High Bandwidth
Cellular wireless has always been ideal for failover and connecting critical assets in places wires can’t go, such as in vehicles, field forces, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices in industrial environments. However, today’s cellular networks are getting faster with the deployment of Gigabit-Class LTE and 5G, providing the low latency and high bandwidth that today’s oil and gas companies need. Make sure your solution is able to leverage these new connectivity technologies to enable fast, reliable connections.
2. Fast Time to Value
No one has time for complex setups and configurations. Routers need to deployed as quickly and efficiently as possible to deliver value as fast as possible. It’s preferable if you can simply ship a router to a remote office and have someone (anyone!) take it out of the box, plug it in, and flip a switch to automatically connect to the network. From there, the remote administrator can set the right configuration with just a few clicks, thus ensuring a fast, easy setup. When assets move or are no longer needed, routers should be able to be picked up and moved with them.
3. Built-in Management and Security
Oil and gas companies often have to deploy wireless WAN routers in remote, dusty areas, making it critical that they are weather hardened and easy to remotely manage through a single pane of glass in the cloud. Remote management helps to maintain service levels in the field without having to deploy additional local personnel. Just as important, the routers must include built-in security functionality, such as a next-gen firewall, intrusion detection and protection services, content filtering, and a robust VPN to prevent malicious actors from gaining access and controlling the wells.
Enabling Digital Transformation
The future of asset management in the oil and gas industry is wireless, fast, and secure. Wireless WAN solutions give companies like Sabinal Energy the agility they need to keep assets in the field working optimally without adding IT complexity or increasing headcount. Just make sure you choose a solution that provides fast performance, is flexible and easy to deploy, and has built-in management and security.
James Weaver is Director of Product Marketing at Cradlepoint, a standalone subsidiary within Ericsson’s Business Area Enterprise Wireless Solutions. Cradlepoint is a global leader in cloud-delivered 4G and 5G wireless network edge solutions.