What is Broadband Offshore Communication?

What is Broadband Offshore Communication?

A remote operated network of transmission and optical / electronic devises, connected to users offshore and onshore. OONE has experience with all here below aspects of offshore communication.

The above picture is a typical configuration of a Broadband Offshore Network (not the actual GOM design).

 

Fiber Optical Cable (FOC) Rings

Introduction FOC systems

The word ring, in fiber optical ring, refers to the need for ring structures to keep communication safe. Correctly configured the information from any point can go one or the other direction. This is good in case a cable is damaged for reason, so that the communication can go unabated. FOC rings can be a combination of Offshore Cables Systems and Onshore back-up systems, or a combination of several Offshore Ring Systems. In both cases, the regularity of communication remains at over 99.9% typically.

Speed of communication for Broadband Offshore Communication (BOC) is essential. Communication in FOC systems go with the speed of light between repeater stations, which are required as the light energy attenuates over distance. Repeaters are typically placed on platforms or otherwise on the seabed, normally 250 to 300 km apart. The communication is sent as small “packages” or Bits, and when a package arrives at a repeater it will be ‘checked through’ the repeater in nano seconds.  The determining factors for the speed is then fibre distance between the control point and the controller / monitor, usually a number of microseconds. Ring solutions are often configured so that the information will only take a few microseconds for remote control to be reactive enough, which above all is a safety issue.

A fiber pair can transmit all requirements of communication for any until now developed platform. Usually the required capacity is much lower than that, in the order of 1-STM (155 MBit/s) or a multiple of that. In order to keep cost within reasonable levels, fiber optical cables are often passing by a number of field centers that share the development cost.

FOC systems is the  first choice for Integrated Operations (IO), without comparison.

FOC Safety rating

Because of the very high regularity, FOC cables can replace direct human interaction on oil and gas platforms also for critical systems.

FOC System Security

For many users security of information transmitted in BOC systems is imperative, mostly from a business competitive / ethical point of view. A concern that has been expressed many times is that BOC cable systems have dry repeater points where information conceivably could be ‘tapped’. So, who will be able to see the actual information and metadata of transmissions? The practical answer is that only the relevant owner of the information “YOU”, and national security organizations, will see “YOUR” information.  The system is usually configured this way, and anyone that will tamper with the system will be seen doing it by the BOC network control organization. Light cannot be tapped the way electrical communication could, it is substantially more complicated to do so with fibers. Security is therefore much better containable with FOC systems compared to other means.

FOC Ring Main Components

Control Station

Landfall Stations

Fiber Optical Cables

Repeaters

Branching Units

Fiber Tails and Meet Me Points

Riser Cables with Hang-offs

Topside Communications Equipment

 

Radio Links

Radio link in mast

Introduction Radio Link

Radio Links are typically used point to point between adjacent offshore platforms and rarely also across obstacles onshore. Attenuation of radio links is much greater than in FOCs, and very environmentally dependent. For this reason radio links can for practical reasons be used over shorter distances, for instance between adjacent fields or within fields where no other direct communication means exist between field facilities.

The cost of radio link between adjacent platforms is simpler to implement and cost less than FOC, as the equipment configuration is entirely above the sea, but limitations exist mainly due to distance and other types of interference.

Radio signals are mainly directional. This means that the radio communication typically is beamed between more or less advanced parabola antennas.

Other types of radio communication used offshore, for intra field operations purposes, are Wide Area Local Area Networks (WLAN), Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF).

VHF links and Micro Wave Links are sometimes hosted on platforms, but mainly used for ship to land radio and mobile phone communication use.

Typical radio capacity is limited to 1-STM (155 MBit/s) and down to 10 MBit/s, depending on the use.

 

Radio Security and Safety

A radio link can by definition not be made secure except under very specific circumstance.

For safety reasons, external radio equipment must be designed intrinsically safe for the condition it will operate in.

If used for Integrated IO purposes of critical oil and gas processes, very special arrangements of communication are in place. Operating parameters are set differently than for directly connected FOC systems for safety reasons. A single radio link cannot replace human interaction for critical systems or safety systems. Dual or radio ring structures may improve redundancy and thereby also be used to control / monitor critical systems as long as atmospheric conditions allow uninterrupted communication.

 

Radio Main Components

Radio Equipment

Cabling and Antennas

 

Satellite Links

Sat link picture

Introduction of Satellite Communication

Satellite communication is widely used for voice and data (mainly small size file transfer) communication, as well as messaging, between oil and gas platforms and other facilities worldwide. Satellite communication is also used remote control and monitor of non-critical systems, such as LoFS, but never for critical systems.

Satellite communication is expensive in the long run and especially if high capacity bandwidth is required. Typical band width by satellite is in the order of 1 to 2 MBit/s, but most are limited to 256 KBit/s.

Satellite Security and Safety

As with a radio link, Satellite communication can by definition not be made secure except under very specific circumstance.

For safety reasons, external Satellite equipment must be designed intrinsically safe for the condition it will operate in.

If used for Integrated IO purposes of critical oil and gas processes, very special arrangements of communication are in place. Operating parameters are set differently than for directly connected FOC systems for safety reasons. Satellite links can encounter atmospheric disturbances at any time, and are typically interrupted about 2% of the time, which render it unsafe for critical system operations.