At a recent meeting of the International Energy Forum, a network of 89 member countries involved in oil production and transportation, the topic of discussion was the “unconventionals revolution,” a reference to the major breakthroughs in oil and gas production technology that are taking place in the United States, making it possible to extract oil and gas from shale in ways quite different from conventional drilling practices. Indeed, western U.S. shale formations – the Bakken in Montana and North Dakota; the Eagle Ford in Texas; and the Niobrara in Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, and Kansas – are part of a national conversation given their potential for satisfying U.S. energy demand for decades.
What’s a key factor in the “unconventionals revolution”? Technological solutions based on real-time data. Known collectively as the digital oil field, these solutions are essential for the monitoring and analysis of data from the activity thousands of feet below the surface – where horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking take place. Not only are the digital oil field’s engineering tools more sophisticated – such as down-hole multiphase sensors, and measurement-while-drilling (MWD) applications – but the volumes of data produced must be analyzed in real time or as quickly as possible.
This need for monitoring, analyzing, and sharing digital oil field data has also turned attention on the satellite communications systems needed at remote oil field exploration sites. A true broadband solution is needed in order to share and store the data, and make sure it reaches the most relevant person, who may be hundreds of miles away. The exploration companies operating digital oil fields often use data vans, outfitted with satellite communications antenna hardware on top of the van, and banks of computer screens inside the van, where field technicians and geologists monitor data 24/7.
Installing a fully stabilized SATCOM antenna system on a van or outfitting it in an easily deployable case provides much-needed mobility that suits the “rig up, rig down” nature of oil and gas exploration, where drill cycles can be anywhere from two weeks to two months. While on site, field personnel typically send data-intensive morning reports to off-site supervisors, engineers, or geologists, so the SATCOM system needs to have data speeds that can support the flow of information in a timely way. A gyro-stabilized, auto-acquiring antenna system is crucial so that the signal remains locked on whether the vehicle is in motion or whether people are getting in and out of the van while it is on site.
Harsh conditions are found at many oil field exploration sites, so the SATCOM system also needs an antenna dish that is protected from the elements – dust, dirt, debris, high winds, snow – to ensure reliability.
With the positive results that digital oil field technologies are having in producing oil and gas in the western U.S., industry experts expect the “unconventionals revolution” will spread around the world. As noted by the IEF: “Output of unconventional oil and gas outside North America is more likely to expand faster in Asia than it will in Europe or South America. North Africa and the Middle East are also promising areas…The unconventionals revolution may spread beyond the US faster than many currently assume.”
Read about KVH’s TracPhone V3 and TracPhone V7-IP satellite communications systems to learn about gyro-stabilized, fully enclosed, reliable SATCOM systems that meet the needs of the digital oil field.