Communications 2.0 in oil & gas sector

Unified Critical Communications in O&G Sector: The era of Communications 2.0

15 March 2022, Chemical Weekly, Mr. Shriprakash R. Pandey, CMD, Commtel Networks: 

To begin with, some facts about the growth of the oil and gas (O&G) industry in India from the Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH): by 2045, oil demand in the country to register a 200% growth to reach 11 million barrels; diesel demand is also expected to double by 2030; and by 2024 natural gas consumption is expected to grow by 25 billion cubic meters. Indian refining capacity is also projected to expand by 30% to 6.9-mbpd (million barrels per day) by 2030, compared to a global refining capacity increase of only 3%.

These projections clearly show the significance of the O&G sector in India’s economy for the next three decades. The policy of Department for Promotion of Industry and International Trade (DPIIT) in July 2021 that allows 100% Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) through an automatic route for O&G public sector undertakings (PSUs), and the 100% FDI in upstream and private sector refineries are clear steps to meet the expanding energy demand to take India’s economy to $5 trillion by 2025 and to $10 trillion by 2030.

The O&G industry always had stringent regulatory, design, operational, monitoring, and safety requirements, primarily arising from the presence of hazardous elements. We have supported the industry for over two decades through integrated multi-system solutions comprising numerous telecommunications, security, and safety systems.

Significant investments:

O&G infrastructure in all three segments – viz., upstream, midstream, and downstream – will see significant new investments, modernisation and capacity-augmentation of the existing infrastructure, to support increasing demand. The modern rigs, processing plants, and pipelines are becoming highly automated and increasingly complex systems. In the same period, sustainability and cybersecurity have emerged as the key issues for the O&G sector. The energy industry, worldwide, is looking for and investing in innovative data-driven intelligent solutions in every area to leverage the advances in the field of sensorization, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI), to ensure safe, secure, and sustainable operations.

Leveraging technology:

Traditionally, disparate and siloed communication technologies have often been deployed, operated, and managed individually in the O&G industry.  Although the industry has been historically hesitant to adapt to the latest technology, we need to leverage the advances in both AI and telecommunications while still supporting the proven legacy elements to fulfil the requirements of our modern O&G infrastructure. With the advent of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and the inherent intelligence of the edge components, mission-critical communications are no longer simply a collection of data, voice, and video transport technologies. It is now evolving as a ‘network-of-networks’ unifying the underlying communication systems and not only transporting the data, but leveraging it to enable and provide smarter, efficient, fault-tolerant, and real-time collaboration among machines and humans. This is the ‘Unified Critical Communications’ or ‘Communications 2.0’.

What is UCC?

Unified Critical Communications (UCC) is a system that utilizes different communication technologies seamlessly to accomplish the task of improving surveillance, security, safety, and operations efficiency. The objective of UCC is to optimize and automate operations by establishing a node-to-node connection between thousands of data generation points, all of which exchange data in real-time. UCC integrates disparate communication systems, automatically selects the best path for every task set, understands various options, and resultantly, it provides deep insights into its operations, facilitating better and faster decision making. UCC binds the high-speed, scalable, and deterministic data backbone with the underlying user communication to create harmony among various technologies and time-critical control protocols.

Stringent standards:

Due to the crucial nature of the O&G industry, the networks and systems for O&G are designed to extremely stringent standards, ensuring high levels of safety, security, reliability, and resiliency. These standards cover every aspect of the system, beginning from the network architecture and performance requirements, to stringent electrical, environmental, material, and equipment specifications. UCC, with deep insights and in-built compliance tools, ensures compliance to these rigorous standards and regulations. UCC has evolved into an era of Communications 2.0 and is helping to digitally empower the O&G industry by providing real-time data across systems, enabling instant, informed, and accurate decision-making. UCC utilizes the recent developments of universal data interfaces, APIs, protocol converters, cross-platform plug-ins, and advanced analytics platforms to make this synergy possible.

Requirements of UCC systems:

Despite their complex and intricate underlying nature, UCC systems must be simple, secure, and flexible to operate. UCC needs to be fail-safe, minimizing data outages, and also be future-proof, working seamlessly even when newer technologies are introduced years later into the same system. UCC increases the reliability of shared information, reduces overheads, creates better response time, and makes the operators feel more secure with trusted information in their hands. It helps them react more confidently to situations they face in the critical environment of the O&G industry.

Future of UCC:

The future of UCC blends communications and AI technologies, providing next-level data insights, deep automation, and predictions to avoid costly mishaps, ensuring the preservation of mission-critical systems. It is imperative to have an AI solution that will unify all communication assets, monitor, assess data, and implement 360-degree protection, faster and cohesively. New-age solutions will provide novel ways to deal with new threats in cyber-physical systems. Customers get the power to collect data from myriad devices and systems on a single data processing platform. Some may call this future of UCC, Communications 3.0. But for us, it is only a normal evolution of UCC.

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