Offshore Oil & Gas Digitisation: LEO Connectivity

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Until now, there has been no one connectivity solution for offshore oil and gas operations that is completely reliable in all streams of the industry (Up/ Mid/ Down). Leading the way in satcoms innovation, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites can offer full global coverage, meaning low latency, high speed, reliable wireless connectivity for oil rigs and exploration, including those in the previously unconnected polar regions.

In this article, we explore how LEO and mobile technologies will revolutionise the oil and gas industry, leveraging data to transform all aspects of operations by improving health and safety, reducing production costs, and lowering carbon emissions.

The Industry

The oil and gas industry is now facing its third financial collapse in just 12 years. Throughout these years the industry has encountered numerous challenges including plunging prices which have reached a 30-year low, geographical and political ambiguity, and an ever-growing demand to reduce emissions to protect the environment. Despite recovering and making some improvements to digitisation efforts, the lack of reliable connectivity has stalled innovation and further progression.

It is becoming clear that there has been a significant turn in attitude towards climate action, with environmental concerns at the forefront. The industry may not bounce back as simply as it did before – currently, carbon taxes are increasing, investors are looking for eco-friendly solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and struggles surrounding delayed operations, unplanned downtime and manual inspections are very costly.

For the industry to stand a chance against the current collapse, which has resulted in supply shock and reduced demand, it must begin using connectivity to its full potential. As mentioned, the current struggles faced can be improved by digital solutions, which will help with reducing costs, improving safety, and driving operational efficiencies – thanks to better connectivity, we are already seeing drastic improvements in onshore and offshore wind operations. These solutions include:

  • Predictive maintenance
  • Real-time data-based control and monitoring
  • Real-time video communication and inspections
  • IIoT enabled devices / sensors
  • Automation of previously manual processes

Optimising connectivity to innovate and improve the oil and gas industry’s upstream operations could add £190 billion in value by the year 2030. However, options for connectivity are dependent on the type of company and its location within the supply chain. Companies are primarily split into three sectors, and until of late there has been no individual connectivity solution that works for all sectors. These oil and gas sectors are known as:

Upstream: Exploration and extraction of raw materials (crude oil and natural gases)

Midstream: Links upstream to downstream, by carrying the oil and gas to facilities

Downstream: facilities that refine crude petroleum oil and/or purify raw natural gases (postproduction, selling, and distribution)

There needs to be communication across all three streams, in order to maximise operational efficiencies.

Current Networking Solutions

As mentioned, central to the digitisation of the oil and gas industry is fast, reliable connectivity. Traditionally, this has come from hybrid models consisting of a range of wired and wireless connections.

Wired solutions are available in the form of copper and fibre cables. Fibre cabling can offer consistent and dependable connectivity that has high data throughput over long distances. This, alongside its high bandwidth, is why 40% of offshore production utilises a wired fibre connection.

Wireless solutions such as 5G and 4G LTE offer secure, easily scalable, high speed, and low latency connections. One key benefit is that these wireless solutions can be deployed much, much quicker than a wired solution, as significantly fewer groundworks are required – this is a saving of months, even years of construction, compared to fibre.

However, due to the remoteness of many assets in the oil and gas industry, with rigs and vessels located further offshore, reliable connectivity, whether wired or wireless, has not been viable for all three sectors…until now. Low Earth Orbit satellites are now available and offer full coverage to even the most remote locations worldwide. Satellite, connectivity, in the form of Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), is already being utilised for offshore communication. However, due to limitations in reach, speed, bandwidth, and latency, it has not been suitable for many aspects of operations and has not been able to reach the most remote locations. You can see a comparison between these satellite technologies here.  


LEO satellites, which orbit at an altitude of just 1200km, provide the scalability and sustainability required to not only meet the needs of but transform offshore oil and gas operations – connectivity speeds are up to 10 times faster than current market solutions. Due to the reduced construction costs and greater capacity to use this solution in all three streams, it is thought that LEO will cut costs in operations and capital expenditure by at least 20% from extraction to final distribution. This is due to the higher speeds and lower latency offered by LEO, enabling the implementation of automation in the form of predictive maintenance, IIoT devices/sensors, and real-time video communication from offshore to onshore.

These digitisation efforts reduce production costs, improve health and safety, and lower carbon emissions. It is also predicted that £52.5 billion in value could be added with the use of LEO satellites and 5G technologies.

Benefits of LEO Satellite Communications:

High Speed & Low Latency20 times more responsive, ensuring employees and IIoT devices and sensors stay connected
Can be monitored remotely, improving health and safety
Real-time communication and decision making, meaning any issues can be addressed much more quickly
Committed information rate (CIR) offers stability
Resilient & Quick DeploymentGround nodes ensure your site is always connected
Very sturdy network with interconnected satellites
Little construction required
Remote assets can go live immediately
Global with easy scalability Complete world-wide coverage
Large capacity within the network
Connectivity can be focused where it is needed most
EconomicalMaterials are low in cost
Increased usage of the network
Simplifies processes and reduces timely/ costly errors  

To find out more, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team on 0330 1244 805, or fill in our enquiry form.

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