Recent leaps in cellular communications technology mean it can now be a cost-effective option for oil and gas applications that require a flexible network, but some organizations aren’t aware of all benefits and how to find a solution that meets their needs.
As an industry, oil and gas is highly regulated and requires exacting processes to meet those regulations. Because of this, the industry has always been fairly traditional in its approach to technology. Consistency and adherence to regulations was always more important than speed and convenience.
But recent volatility in the price of oil, along with significant improvements in cellular technology, has organizations rethinking that approach. This blog post outlines some factors you need to consider for cellular solutions that can grow with your application.
Cellular tech has been around since the 2000s. But when the technology came out, it didn't offer many advantages over the reliable solutions that everyone was already using. At that time, cellular networks were spotty (at best), slower, and less secure. There was no reason to even consider it as an option for sharing data.
The recent explosion in cellular tech innovation, particularly on the consumer side, has changed everything. Cell network coverage has become much more reliable while devices continue to get smaller and more robust. Suddenly all the reasons organizations in oil and gas industry used to avoid cellular technology are no longer an issue.
Meanwhile, an increasing desire to boost efficiency and drive down costs, while also maintaining high safety standards, is motivating many organizations to look into new solutions. Satellite and fiber options are prohibitively expensive, lease lines are somehow both expensive and unreliable, and circuit-switched telephone networks are simply outdated.
Cellular is now ubiquitous in coverage and highly reliable. It’s a part of the public utility infrastructure, so there are a variety of cellular networks available (including Belden Horizon). And it offers unique advantages to companies in the oil and gas vertical.
Oil production is divided into three sectors: Upstream, midstream, and downstream. The upstream sector includes the initial production — in other words, getting the oil out of the ground. Midstream is the storing and transportation process. And then, finally, you have downstream: The processing and distribution of the product.
Technologies that work for one sector don’t always work well for another. But cellular tech is applicable to all of these sectors, and oil and gas industry enterprises are starting to notice.
Since oil production peaked in the 1960s and then saw skyrocketing energy prices throughout the 1970s, prices for oil and gas have been getting more and more volatile. And now that cellular technology is capable of providing the security and consistency required, many enterprises that previously resisted adopting new technology are pushing forward, using it as a driver to increase efficiency.
But before diving into a cellular solution, there are a few factors worth considering.
∙ Reliability of coverage: Though cellular networks are much more reliable as a whole, not every network offers the same consistency. Be sure the network you’re considering has reliable coverage.
∙ Product support: Even the best products on the market are only as good as the customer support they come with. Be sure the product you’re considering has a real team ready to help you every step of the way.
∙ Certification and approvals: Ensure the device is certified for use on the network, and has PTCRB and carrier-specific certifications. Also, make sure the device is built for industrial use – there are many cheap modem options out there, but they aren’t built for industrial environments or with critical security features.
∙ Defense-in-depth security features: The solution should look at security as a multi-step process that considers everything from the actual product through the network and everything in between.
∙ A managed service: Opting for a managed service allows the organization to focus on core business issues, like production and safety, while the service provider manages the setup and upkeep.
∙ Cost: The purpose of making this change is to lower costs. Make sure the solution really fits the budget and has the power to provide everything it promises in terms of efficiency.
Oil and gas companies are increasing tech use to reduce their carbon footprint, and increase productivity, process efficiency, and production safety while reducing their costs, which allows them to compete in a volatile global market. But not all tech solutions are the same. Invest in cellular technology that offers the most important features while maintaining security and reliability, and reducing costs. Great providers of these products will offer top-notch product support, managed service, and a defense-in-depth approach to security that can greatly improve efficiency and monitoring, and impact the bottom line positively.