CommsMEA: What services are operators offering to the oil and gas sector in the region?
Fahmy Aly: Machine-to-machine (M2M) has the ability to transform the oil and gas industry. It is a key enabler for smart cities and the internet of things. Machine to Machine will transform data into information connecting buildings and cars and especially oil fields.
M2M solutions can be found in applications such as monitoring and control of drills, wells and pipelines. Other solutions that have proven to be a great fit is remote monitoring of storage tanks as well.
Another aspect for M2M solution is to provide security and safety aspect for the industry by providing a mechanism to monitor in near real time fire alarm systems, thermal fire, radiation, and hazardous chemical detection solutions.
Wireless M2M solutions can be retrofitted to existing infrastructure as well as incorporated in new pipeline projects across the world for real time pipeline monitoring.
Salpeas: Services on offer to the oil and gas sector vary from operator to operator, and from region to region but most have focused their offers on connectivity. Some offer only MPLS whilst others focus on SIM cards for M2M. Orange offers all services globally, including Vsat and Subsea cable layout, but we don’t stop there; we have a clear differentiator that is based on our focus on innovation and the resources we dedicated to it which allows us to design specific solutions like Asset Tracking for this and several other sectors.
CommsMEA: How is telecom sector providing more safety to the working environment in this specific sector?
Salpeas: It costs $60,000-$70,000 a day to operate a drilling rig, therefore it is essential to make the right decisions quickly. Any downtime in this sector can quickly lead to multimillion dollar losses as well as creating safety issues.
Information and communications technology can help with plant safety. Most accidents in the oil and gas industry are caused by human error and can have an enormous environmental, reputational and financial impact. Proper training delivered online to the latest standards and operating procedures can go a long way to help to prevent these mistakes. In addition, ICT allows onsite staff to call on extra help from offsite experts to ensure that even the most difficult situations are dealt with correctly.
Human error is exacerbated by staff fatigue, and with long shifts common in the industry, it is essential that staff are not suffering from overwork and lack of sleep. Short-range radio technology, such as RFID, can track employee working patterns and help enforce adequate rest.
GPS-based tracking technology can also track vehicles in remote locations and alert the company if the vehicle stops or takes an unexpected route. This may be a sign that the driver is injured or in distress. Getting help to them immediately can make the difference between life and death in hostile environments.
Fahmy Aly: There are inherent risks involved in the extraction, transportation, and management of resources such as oil and gas – Telecom sector with advent of M2M solutions can provide solution to monitor in near real time basis fire alarm systems, thermal fire, radiation, and hazardous chemical detection solutions.
CommsMEA: Remoteness of locations coupled with mission critical operations - what are you doing to enable quality and consistency of service for the oil and gas sector in the Middle East and Africa region?
Oteifa: We work closely with our customers to understand the oil and gas industry and are aware that the oil and gas exploratory services today are taking the industry into deeper waters, colder frontiers and more remote locations. What this means is that constant connectivity is needed to minimise downtime, monitor unmanned platforms or maintain health, safety and environment standards at various sites, among others. Satellites, being high up in the skies, are literally untouchable, hence providing a great amount of reliability. In addition, SES satellites are monitored 24/7 around the clock to ensure the provision of uninterrupted service.
Fahmy Aly: Remoteness of location always bring challenges to provide connectivity to the places where du footprint is not extended, however du have various access mechanism that can be provided for M2M such as Satellite and Managed Wi-Fi to support M2M services.
We can provide a M2M service with the combination of Satellite and Managed Wi-Fi in remote locations for larger sites where a greater number of devices are connected to provide the solution or we can provide a standalone Satellite based access for M2M solution where only few devices are providing the solution.
CommsMEA: Importance of connectivity in this sector - crew welfare, efficiency, on the job training, safety, HQ communications etc to help companies save cost and retain skilled staff in a niche industry. What is the role for satellite operators here?
Oteifa: We all know there is an upward trend for bandwidth demand but the industry’s desire to have lean operations means there is a need for them to utilise bandwidth cost effectively. The role of satellite operators is therefore to make sure we optimise capacity for different applications. SES is building more powerful hybrid satellites that are optimised for mobility services, including the offshore oil rigs, and has also invested in O3b networks’ MEO satellites. The integrated unique offering of GEO and MEO satellites means that customers can choose what kind of capacity is best suited for each application. For example, an oil and gas customer who needs to transfer data from an oil rig back to the head office may choose to utilise capacity on SES’ high throughput payload while O3b satellites are ideal for supporting latency-sensitive applications such as video conferencing and remote control.
CommsMEA: Which vertical in the oil and gas sector is bringing more opportunities to the telecoms sector?
Salpeas: Clearly Upstream-Exploration, Production and Development are the areas that present the most interesting challenges and there is a lot of room for innovation and collaboration.
CommsMEA: Which countries in the Middle East and Africa region are leading the M2M offering in the oil and gas sector?
Salpeas: MEA is an area that sees significant upstream activity, as a consequence M2M solutions in industrial process control or asset tracking are quite relevant. That said, it is private companies rather than countries that drive the adoption of such technologies in the field, hence we do not see any particular country spearheading such activities at the moment. Saudi Arabia can be considered as a notable exception; as the main oil producer, Saudi Aramco, is largely state owned. Saudi Aramco has been well known to be quick to integrate technological innovation in their operations.
Fahmy Aly: The UAE is leading the MENA region with M2M technologies along with other key countries that are equally participating in this transformation.
Reman: We believe that the UAE is very important. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman and Kuwait will be the main markets for us in the region. Egypt will be also important in the energy sector. The country is now going through a transformation because they want to increase the areas of investment to create more jobs. We want to see how we can help the government to roll out these services to develop the country.
CommsMEA: How is the telecoms sector solving the sound issues?
Salpeas: This is a very important topic to tackle as each industrial environment might suffer from different types of noise that can be interfering with wireless sensors deployed in the context of a M2M solution.
Usually a proper site survey identifies such issues so proper mitigation can be planned accordingly. For wireless communications some types of signal modulation have proven to be more effective than others.
Hussein Oteifa, general manager in the Middle East at SES
Spyros Salpeas, head of Global Services MENA and country manager UAE at Orange Business Services
Rutger Reman, head of Industry and Society for Ericsson in ME
Hany Fahmy Aly, executive vice president, Enterprise Business at du