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Oil and Gas Demand for Video Brings With it New Questions

By | November 6, 2014
      Pacific Bora

      Pacific Drilling’s Pacific Bora drillship. Photo: Pacific Drilling.

      Via Satellite is reporting from the OilComm 2014 event.

      [Houston, Texas 11-06-2014] As the oil and gas industry continues to see greater digitization, video is gradually transforming from something that is nice to have to an imperative necessity for a growing number of applications. During the “Present and Future Video / Operational Awareness Requirements” panel at OilComm, experts confirmed video is becoming an expectation in the field and discussed how the resources to enable it are starting to get highly prioritized.

      “The highest critical thing is voice, second is applications and things [employees need] to do their job everyday,” said Coy Wright, VP of Pacific Drilling, which specializes in offshore, deep-water drilling services. “Video fell into second, third, or fourth behind those. But with video more into the day-to-day stream, it pushes the criticality up closer to voice.”

      The number of applications that require video continues to climb and now even customers demand it. Wright said more clients want to see real time rig operations through Closed Circuit Television (CCTV).

      Ken Murphy, manager of network and telecom at EQT Corporation, said his company finds value in video as a way to prevent theft, as well as to protect employees when, for example, only one individual is on a site. It is essentially guaranteed that operations and security will want video, he said, but there are still questions about how this will change the business.

      “How do you guarantee it and ensure deliverability back to headquarters or a central point?” asked Murphy.

      “Is someone monitoring this video at all times?” asked Roland Sauermann, president of SGV International.

      Other concerns centered around privacy and who owns the video, and how to prevent all that content from falling into the wrong hands. Storage also presents a new challenge. Murphy said EQT Corporation cameras are always on and activated by motion. Storage is a top priority for the company so, if there is a safety incident, they can go back at look at the data. Wright said Pacific Drilling video is mainly point-to-point, which makes it difficult to get saved content back from a site to a central location.

      “[The question is] how do you capture all those streams off the rig and how do we capture that only temporarily in the event there is an accident or an investigation to try and see what happened?” he said. “Today, [videos] are captured and on the rig but, if there is an accident, they go down with the rig. We are looking at ways to get that off.”

      “Storage is often not thought of as part of the transmission problem, but the application has to work in tandem to get the data. It becomes an end-to-end problem, seen pervasively in the cloud,” added Michelle Munson, CEO of Aspera.

      Mobile devices also add to the complexity. Site employees what to embrace the concept of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), taking smartphones and other devices to sites. However, the bandwidth typically allocated for site employees to use video is set at an overhead amount around 150 Kbps, Jereme Pitts, COO of Librestream Technologies, said. Trying to support real time video, especially HD, is “ridiculous” and something that “you just can’t do” within those parameters, he said.

      Judy LeStrange, senior product manager at GE Digital Energy, said the need for Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritize data streams is something the company has focused on for industrial customers. For a leak or an accident, prioritized streaming would focus on the most important sensor data, rather than trying to pull multiple streams.

      Wright said the challenge is often trying to keep pace with the technology. Both the rules around intellectual property rights and the building out of the entire video infrastructure need to happen before the oil and gas industry can make the best use of video. “By the time you get the infrastructure and hardware built, someone’s already built a new widget,” he said. Pacific Drilling has not made the jump to IP streaming, and is still using legacy technology, Wright said. EQT Corporation is using single streams.

      Overall there was enthusiasm among the panel for the new ways video can optimize the operational awareness as well as bring other benefits. Pitts said video has become a way to simplify day-to-day operations and make sure sites are running smoothly — a process he has seen accelerate rapidly over the past six to seven years.

      LeStrange said GE Digital Energy is looking at ways to incorporate new sensors for preemptive solutions to problems, such as identifying if a drill is getting too hot so it can be addressed before it breaks.

      Murphy said there is a lot of interest in using offshore video to supplement on site expertise. Often it is difficult to get experts on every rig; video enables centers of excellence on shore to share knowledge remotely and even provide training.

      Wright said bandwidth availability is less of an issue, though latency remains a concern, thanks to lower costs of satellite providers. Since the goal of adding video is to reduce costs, bringing in extra bandwidth is becoming easier, leaving room to focus on other parts of the video ecosystem.