SIMOCO: Critical Communications in the Field

rig_image-300x209Oil and gas environments present some of the most inaccessible and harsh operating conditions for workforce communications. In the remote and potentally hazardous locations that oil and gas companies operate in, communication systems are not just about ensuring that things run smoothly; they are central to the safety of the workplace and those working in it.

There are three main elements that need to be addressed in meeting the particular challenges of maintaining critical communications in this sector: reliability and resilience, system design and integration with mission critical business processes.

Whether it’s offshore or isolated and remote onshore pipelines, there is no such thing as routine maintenance in these types of locations and this needs to be factored into the system specification and network design. Communication systems must be inherently reliable to minimise maintenance and the risk of operational downtime.

It’s also important to consider the location of base stations. In a PMR system, radio base stations are deployed to provide coverage, and whilst the Radio Frequency (RF) from radio base stations does not in itself present a major hazard, the proximity to large amounts of steel work could produce an arc to ground, which does have the potential to cause a spark. With this in mind, radio base stations should be installed in ‘low risk’ areas.

The oil and gas market is a melting pot of different multinational organisations and this is where communications systems operating to open standards come to the fore. Radio system solutions available include conventional analogue PMR, analogue trunked systems (MPT1327), along with digital technologies such as DMR and TETRA, all of which operate to open European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards. Employing radio systems that adhere to global standards addresses the need to integrate a wide range of systems into a unified communications network.

Communications play a central role in any emergency situation, and this is particularly true within the oil and gas sector. Business as usual communications need to be effective and not compromised by systems that also take hazardous environments into account. In an emergency situation, the radio system cannot be simply shut down. Maintaining communication during an incident can minimise risk as well as help to address and resolve the situation. Therefore, in an emergency shut-down (ESD) situation, the radio system should remain in operation, however actions are taken to reduce any risk that may be presented by radio transmission. As with many technologies designed for potentially dangerous environments, there is a requirement that radio equipment is designed to minimise risk.

Combining the safe design of radio infrastructure and hardware with a communications system that can cope with the demands of remote working in inhospitable locations and conditions requires specialist knowledge and experience from the system integrator and radio manufacturer. The right systems design will not only enhance the quality and coverage of radio communications but can be the determining factor in ensuring safer working conditions in critical situations and a high performing unified communications architecture.

January 12, 2015 11:42 pm Published by

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This post was written by aa radio