Connectivity in the wild: taking oil fields to the cloud

Pumping data from wells to a safe and secure location

By Eric Troyer September 10, 2021
Courtesy: Megaport

The oil and gas industry already lives on the edge when it comes to the remote and often harsh geographic locations that the industry operates in. When you imagine an oil field, images of drilling wells and extracting oil in remote locations both on land and by sea often come to mind. However, today, extracting oil is much more than a mechanical process.

The oil and gas industry is expected to significantly increase spending on cloud computing solutions and advanced analytics. Companies within the sector are forecast to spend over $15.7 billion dollars by 2030.

More than ever, oil and gas companies are finding ways to use technology to innovate and grow by moving its computing to the cloud, relying on robust connectivity and cloud services to become centers of digital innovation and data powerhouses.

Future oil field connectivity

Any energy company involved in extracting oil has several pressing items at the top of the agenda. For oil and gas, some of these challenges are evergreen, such as the need to lower costs, improve time to market, and meet safety and sustainability targets. On top of these challenges, the need for smarter and faster connectivity has become a prominent priority for these companies to operate with flexible, on-demand connections between multiple remote locations.

To face the ongoing pressures to move faster and more efficiently, energy companies are turning isolated mechanical instruments into connected sensors in onshore oil fields and offshore oil platforms. A typical offshore site, for example, can have between 350,000 to 500,000 sensors onboard, all of which help platform operators make smarter decisions around equipment utilization and enable predictive maintenance from a distanced onshore location. These sensors must send data over long distances either into an on-premises data center or a public cloud.

Leave it to the experts

Previously, moving data to the cloud may have been impractical for the majority of energy companies as it meant they would have to move data from the offshore platform to a cloud provider through a data center and back, all of which requires know-how and infrastructure investments in servers and other networking equipment. Now, there’s a smarter way to send data directly between oil platform and cloud platform.

Infrastructure Networks, Inc. (“iNet”), an advanced connectivity provider to critical infrastructure industries in the Continental U.S., for example, has turned toward dedicated software-defined networking (“SDN”) solutions to offer flexible, on-demand connections between any of the locations in a point-and-click manner.  As part of iNet’s remote connectivity managed service offerings to oil and gas companies, iNet’s customers can now not only connect directly to cloud service providers, they can also connect from the cloud back to their on-premises infrastructure or to their leased data center Points of Presence (PoPs).  Outsourcing cloud networking to an SDN provider such as Megaport made more sense to iNet than building their own team of experts.

“We really want to put our people out in the field. That’s where we’re the specialists, instead of having a massive networking team that knows everything about tying into Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, and AWS,” said Morten Hagland Hansen, senior vice president, engineering & operations at iNet. “We don’t need to be the experts on that. With Megaport’s SDN solution, we can just point and click and make it happen.”

Courtesy: Megaport

Courtesy: Megaport

High-speed and highly secure

Many oil companies are rightly very conscious about the security of their data and the connectivity it relies on; a cyberattack on an offshore oil rig or a pipeline can have catastrophic consequences, as the world witnessed when the Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack crippled oil production on the East Coast, leading to long lines at gas stations. More companies are hosting sensitive workloads in the cloud, such as data from sensors on production valves on a wind or solar farm. Exposing those sensors over the internet creates a variety of cybersecurity risks such as hacks, malware, and BGP route hijacks.

The benefit of a private, scalable, and dedicated SDN will significantly reduce these risks, allowing companies to keep sensitive data secure in transit to the cloud through bypassing conventional public internet lines.

Embrace the cloud

As oil and gas companies continue embracing new technologies and becoming more data-driven, they need to ensure they have the optimal network infrastructure to do so. To make the most of these technologies and the cloud, companies need to validate they have easily accessible, scalable, and secure connectivity to overcome the IT resource issues they’ll inevitably face as they become more intelligent centers of digital innovation.

Original content can be found at Oil and Gas Engineering.

Author Bio: Eric Troyer, chief marketing officer, Megaport