Case study: Using satellite for remote drilling in Algeria

The challenge

Like many organisations across the oil and gas industry, Berkine’s operations are characterised by far-flung drilling sites, adverse environments and demanding operating conditions, in order to respond to the growing global demand for energy. As potential drilling sites become harder to find, exploratory teams are being sent to ever more remote and hostile locations in the Berkine Basin, Algeria, where cellular connectivity is non-existent.

However; reliable connectivity is critical to these teams as they sink exploratory wells and share high volumes of data back to central drilling management teams to update them on progress, helping them reduce find time and improve operational efficiency. Further, working on remote exploratory and production sites for extended periods can not only be an isolating experience, but it also presents Berkine with several health and safety challenges.

To ensure that communication and real-time data transfer between their drilling sites and central management teams is possible, Berkine had an existing VSAT (very-small-aperture terminal) satellite solution in place. However, due to the nature and remoteness of its operations, Berkine encountered situations where coverage was intermittent or even non-existent at various drilling sites. As such, they needed a more reliable, highly portable satellite connectivity solution that would ensure field teams could get connected within minutes of arriving on-site or in an emergency.

The solution

Berkine set about finding the right partners who could provide a reliable back-up to its existing VSAT service. Berkine chose a local leading provider of satellite communications and equipment. They quickly saw the potential to harness the benefits of the local company’s  international Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) services, which are delivered via the partners network, with 99.9 per cent satellite and ground network availability.

In particular, due to Berkine’s need send high volumes of data, from test reports to images and video, to drilling management teams on a daily basis, the local company recommended it’s BGAN HDR (High Data Rate) service, which offers the fastest L-band speeds on the market, and supplied Berkine with Cobham SATCOM EXPLORER 710 terminals. The EXPLORER 710 is an ultra-portable BGAN terminal, which is suitable for live broadcasting and other IP based industry applications. The terminal provides streaming rates over 650 kbps, as well as enabling users to connect their own smart devices for voice calling and connectivity.

A key requirement for Berkine was the need to have a portable, reliable and easy-to-use back-up connectivity solution. As the smallest Class 1 BGAN terminal in the world – weighing just 3.5 kg and the size of a laptop – the EXPLORER 710 met this requirement with ease. It can be packed-up easily and set-up quickly with no technical expertise needed, as well as being light enough for crews to rapidly establish a connection in unfamiliar terrain, unstable situations, or crisis scenarios. This rapid availability of robust and extensive communications ensures the real-time transfer of critical, detailed data direct from drilling sites, enabling exploration teams to evaluate a prospective site rapidly, supporting more efficient decision-making and safer operations.

The results

Berkine has been delighted with the results it has seen since reaching out to ATS. Before the implementation of the solution, the unreliability of the existing VSAT service meant that remote drilling teams often found themselves in situations where they had no means to communicate with central management’s teams, posing a safety and efficiency risk.

However, since ATS has provided Berkine with EXPLORER 710 terminals, remote teams sinking exploratory wells can now send high volumes of data to central drilling management teams, from test reports to images and video, no matter where they are located. This has helped Berkine ensure that it has a reliable back-up form of connectivity, improving the speed of its decision-making and making a significant contribution to the reduction of exploration costs and the improved safety of its remote crews.