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Next Generation Subsea Fibre Optic Cable Solutions Delivering the Field of the Future‌ Today Fibre Optics – the Material of the Future Further and Faster: the Future of Communications in Oil and Gas Why Fibre Optics are Pioneering Developments in Well Monitoring How Fibre Optics are Overcoming Resistance to Empower Deep Water Exploration

Sponsored by

Published by Global Business Media



Next Generation Subsea Fibre Optic Cable Solutions Delivering the Field of the Future… Today Fibre Optics – the Material of the Future


Further and Faster: the Future of Communications in Oil and Gas Why Fibre Optics are Pioneering Developments in Well Monitoring How Fibre Optics are Overcoming Resistance to Empower Deep Water Exploration



Tom Cropper, Editor

Delivering the Field of the Future… Today


Global Marine Systems Limited

Sponsored by

Published by Global Business Media

Published by Global Business Media Global Business Media Limited 62 The Street Ashtead Surrey KT21 1AT United Kingdom Switchboard: +44 (0)1737 850 939 Fax: +44 (0)1737 851 952 Email: Website: Publisher Kevin Bell Business Development Director Marie-Anne Brooks Editor Tom Cropper Senior Project Manager Steve Banks Advertising Executives Michael McCarthy Abigail Coombes Production Manager Paul Davies For further information visit: The opinions and views expressed in the editorial content in this publication are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily represent the views of any organisation with which they may be associated. Material in advertisements and promotional features may be considered to represent the views of the advertisers and promoters. The views and opinions expressed in this publication do not necessarily express the views of the Publishers or the Editor. While every care has been taken in the preparation of this publication, neither the Publishers nor the Editor are responsible for such opinions and views or for any inaccuracies in the articles.

© 2014. The entire contents of this publication are protected by copyright. Full details are available from the Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

Offshore Field Technologies to Expand Revenue and Reduce Risk Fibre-Based Cables for Reservoir Monitoring Protect Your Investment with Well-Planned Installations Bigger, Better, Faster is the Future of the Field Global Marine Systems for Your Offshore Data and Digital Field Solutions

Fibre Optics – the Material of the Future


Tom Cropper, Editor

Development of Offshore Digital Oil Communication Monitoring Challenges of Installation Conclusion

Further and Faster: the Future of Communications in Oil and Gas


James Gooding, Staff Writer

About Communications The Oil Rig of the Future Going Deep A Robust Future

Why Fibre Optics are Pioneering Developments in Well Monitoring


Jo Roth, Staff Writer

Types of Fibre Optic Sensors Coping with Extreme Conditions Increasing Production Conclusion

How Fibre Optics are Overcoming Resistance to Empower Deep Water Exploration


Tom Cropper, Editor

Resistant to Change Going Deep Withstanding the Pressure Conclusion

References 15



Foreword I

N 1858 the first telegraph sent by a cable

market since the 1850s, now offers considerable

running across the Atlantic was sent by Queen

advances over those early technologies and, with its

Victoria to John Buchannan President of the USA.

core installation fleet and state-of-the-art engineering,

It was the world’s first subsea communication

offers critical capability for optimal network design and

system and, as it happens, not one of the longest

maintenance of all types of network installations.

lasting. Communications were difficult to read

However, the industry has been slow to embrace

and took a long time to decipher, and the cable

the concept of fibre optic technologies. This is partly

itself did not last long – within three weeks the

down to a natural distrust of innovations, entrenched

signal was dead.

working processes and the cost of installation as well

It’s all a long way from the modern high speed fibre

as the perception that regular fibre optic cables used

optic communications we now have. These subsea

in electronics are not strong enough to withstand the

cables have the ability to keep workers in touch with

particularly tough and hazardous conditions found in

the mainland and to drastically increase operational

offshore drilling.

efficiency. Work which once took days can now take

Nonetheless, the immense potential within the oil and

minutes, fewer staff are needed on the rig and working

gas industries has spurred fibre optic manufacturers

costs are reduced. Small wonder, therefore, that

to invest in new, more robust, materials including

so much is being invested into the development of

strengthened glass fibres and armoured coatings

these systems.

made from materials such as polyamide. These

This Special Report opens with an article that looks

new materials mean that the huge potential that

at the importance of field information and the part

undoubtedly exists for fibre optics is finally being

it plays in optimizing field operations. Broadband

realised. As we move forward into a new and more

data networks are becoming the most effective

adventurous era of oil and gas exploration, fibre optics

technology to support a wide variety of gains in oil

will play a key role in shaping its success or failure.

field management from operational efficiencies to optimized production and from improved safety to enhanced working conditions. Global Marine Systems Limited, which has been involved in the subsea cable

Tom Cropper Editor

Tom Cropper has produced articles and reports on various aspects of global business over the past 15 years. He has also worked as a copywriter for some of the largest corporations in the world, including ING, KPMG and the World Wildlife Fund.



Delivering the Field of the Future… Today Global Marine Systems Limited


Not just oil is flowing at your fields. An everincreasing amount of information is being created, tracked and analysed, and all of it is designed to optimize your field operations in one way or another. Field information is critical intelligence; subsurface analysis and production data can lead directly to enhanced recovery, and broadband capability is crucial to ensuring the success of your operations. Broadband data networks are rapidly emerging as the single most effective technology to support a wide variety of gains in oil field management, from operational efficiencies to optimized production, and from improved safety to enhanced working conditions. In today’s field, intelligent devices comprise the vast majority of field information, but a significant portion of the data captured is stranded in the field and never used. Management teams are seeing the immediate need to form a vision of intelligent fields in order to lead the way to safer and more efficient operations.

Offshore Field Technologies to Expand Revenue and Reduce Risk In offshore field operations the distribution of critical data takes on an added complexity,

but can result in faster and improved decision making, increased efficiency and major cost savings. Fibre-based high capacity networks are increasingly cited as the most efficient method of communications, and are today being operated with amazingly positive outcomes at offshore platforms, at floating production units, and at exploration rigs. Companies that have installed data communications networks at their offshore fields have reported a 25% reduction in offshore staff, coupled with a significant reduction in operational costs. The networks provide a high-speed connection and allow remote equipment monitoring and control, off-site maintenance and diagnostics, and live video monitoring and surveillance. The networks enable on-shore experts to better support offshore operations, allow for better precision in drilling operations, reduce the cost of transportation and accelerate decision making in addition to contributing to the welfare of offshore personnel. Global Marine, a company that engineers and installs fibre-based communications networks, has worked with customers to improve their field data connectivity and to experience the unique benefits of high-speed data networks WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 3


In offshore field operations the distribution of critical data takes on an added complexity, but can result in faster and improved decision making, increased efficiency and CABLE WORKING ONBOARD A GLOBAL MARINE SYSTEMS’ VESSEL

major cost savings at their offshore fields. “Having a reliable telecommunications network to an offshore field is becoming very much the standard in oil and gas production. High speed data cables have resulted in significantly reduced field risks by both minimising the amount of staff required and allowing for remote supervision of field operations,” stated Ian Douglas, CEO of Global Marine. Global Marine has an interesting and unique history, having been involved in the subsea cable market since the very first subsea telegraph cable installations in the 1850s. Technology has evolved, and today more than 95% of the worlds’ data and voice communication travels through a network of nearly a million miles of fibre optic cables crossing every stretch of water. The global network is not a new phenomenon, but it is a crucial one to the world’s financial, political and social makeup, and fibrebased networks are credited with significant benefits in education, healthcare, productivity, and economic growth. Today, Global Marine’s cable installation fleet offers considerable engineering advances from the technology they introduced in the 1850s. The company owns state-of-the-art ROVs, cable ploughs and even has a rocksaw trencher capable of burying cable in rock to a depth of four metres. Global Marine offers critical engineering capability for optimal network design and works with its customers from network inception through to delivery and also provides long-term maintenance services for your network installations. 4 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM

Fibre-Based Cables for Reservoir Monitoring In addition to their focus on data network design and installation at offshore fields, Global Marine offers fibre cable installation services for reservoir monitoring. “The newest data trend we’re seeing in offshore fields is permanent reservoir monitoring,” stated Nicci Broom, Director Sales and Commercial for the company. Also known as PRM, or sometimes as 4D Seismic, these systems have been installed by BP, Conoco Phillips, Petrobras, Shell and Statoil already, and more are in the pipeline, according to Broom. “It’s a significant investment to install PRM, and the technology is still relatively new, but so far reports of PRM systems enhancing oil recovery rates and improving operational costs are extremely positive. We anticipate this technology to have a major impact on offshore fields globally.” “Many of the existing PRM systems have been installed using traditional oil and gas vessels, but we feel our ships are a better option as they are specifically designed for small diameter cables, such as those used in telecom networks,” stated Ian Douglas. “There are a number of operational challenges for any vessel undertaking PRM installation including dynamic positioning, cable management, cable deployment, cable burial and water depth. We want to ensure those challenges are handled as efficiently as possible, which is why we like to see vessels that specialize in small diameter cable work used in the installation process,” Ian Douglas explained.



Companies that have installed permanent monitoring systems are expecting to increase their oil production by an estimated 10% at fields where the technology is installed. Statoil recently reported that their seismic systems will expand recovery by 30 million barrels at Snorre and Grane fields. “We’re working with customers and the wider industry to ensure that there is an appreciation of the challenges involved in installing sensitive, small diameter cables. We can add most value by bringing our specific expertise at the vital system engineering phase where key decisions are made that affect the lifetime cost of the system and its viability,” added Ian Douglas. Global Marine also brings extensive experience installing cables in deep water and in difficult conditions. The company has recently signed a contract with Uninett, a company that supports Arctic Circle research institutions with high-speed networks. The new networks will link to the Ny-Ålesund research station, which is the world’s most northerly research community. “We’ve had an excellent track record with Arctic cable installations, which certainly add a dimension of complexity even for us, with our many years of installation experience,” Ian Douglas told us. “We offered a distinct advantage for Uninett because of our extensive track record, but also because we have equally extensive experience in cable routing and engineering services, which are important when planning cable installations even in the most straight forward conditions.”

Protect Your Investment with Well-Planned Installations Global Marine’s route engineers provide important engineering capabilities to minimise risks associated with subsea cable installation work. By identifying the most ideal cable routing, defining potential seabed concerns, and evaluating all aspects of a subsea cable installation, the company works closely with its customers to promote sound economics and long-term system security. Global Marine also has unique capabilities in hardware integration for subsea cable networks, much of which can be done onboard its specialized cable laying and cable repair vessels. The company uses a test bed facility at its headquarters in Chelmsford, UK, for continuous research and development on its state-of-the-art cable jointing technology and other technology advances designed to help its customers to reduce marine costs and manage risks of offshore cable deployment.

Bigger, Better, Faster is the Future of the Field It is important to ensure field communications that are secure, fast, and capable of carrying the huge amounts of capacity needed for data requirements, which is why field operators have turned to fibre optic networks for their communications needs. Fibre-based networks are not only fast and secure, but also unaffected by weather and present an excellent WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 5


Fibre-based networks are not only fast and secure, but also unaffected by weather and present an excellent solution for video conferencing and other real-time communication solutions





solution for video conferencing and other realtime communication solutions. Companies like yours are using fibre-based communications to manage risk, monitor fields and supervise remote drilling operations. Companies like yours are increasing efficiency, optimizing production and improving safety through high-capacity offshore networks. Is it time for you to future-proof your operations with Global Marine’s intelligent field capabilities?

and burial requirements of customers around the world. With a fleet of vessels and specialized subsea trenching and burial equipment, Global Marine brings a 160 year legacy in deep and shallow water cable operations. Global Marine has main offices in the UK and Singapore, with cable depots in Asia, Canada, United States and the UK. The company has a fully equipped R&D and cable/joint testing facility. Global Marine is seriously committed to achieving the highest risk, quality, health, safety and environmental standards, and has recently been awarded the RoSPA ‘Order of Distinction’ in recognition of the company’s 15th consecutive year of outstanding occupational health and safety results.

Global Marine for Your Offshore Data and Digital Field Solutions Global Marine Systems is a leading provider of engineering and underwater services, responding to the subsea cable installation, maintenance

Contact Global Marine Systems Limited New Saxon House 1 Winsford Way Boreham Interchange Chelmsford Essex, CM2 5PD, England Tel: +44 (0)1245 702000 Fax: +44 (0)1245 702100 E-mail:



Fibre Optics – the Material of the Future Tom Cropper, Editor

The market for fibre optics is set for considerable growth, spurred by the huge potential on offer in the oil and gas industries.



HE FLOW of information is a critical issue in oil and gas exploration. Interest in the potential of digital communication, sensing and information systems has been growing for some time and now, despite some industry reluctance, most firms have realised that the upfront costs of installation are worth it for the operational improvements, cost savings and enhanced communication capabilities that these fibre optic technologies can bring.

Development of Offshore Digital Oil The dream of a submarine cable allowing communication between nations was first mooted towards the end of the 18th century, but it was not until the 1850s that it first became a reality and even then it didn’t last very long. In 1850 a single wire was laid between England and France which for the first time enabled communication via a telegraph under the sea. However, within 24 hours the cable had been destroyed when it

was caught – and subsequently cut – by a French fisherman. Further cables were created, this time reinforced and armoured, culminating in the almighty engineering feat of laying a cable across the Atlantic and the first transatlantic telegraph communication between Queen Victoria and President Buchannan of the US. Although the condition of this cable soon deteriorated, new cables were springing up all over the world and it remained the most reliable form of international communication available – reducing the time taken for news to spread to minutes rather than months. However, it was not until 1956 that speech became possible. Today fibre optic communications deliver instant communication across the world. Their use was pioneered in the aviation and maritime industries, but the oil and gas market has lagged considerably behind – until now. Based on the latest market data, the development of fibre optic technologies within oil and gas is driving renewed growth in demand WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 7


This increases the realtime data available from the well, allowing companies to build a much clearer view of pipeline conditions, measuring corrosion rates, and to spot potential leaks early

for fibre optics. According to an IGIG report, fibre optics grew by 10% in the last 12 months1 with the market size totalling $622 million by the end of 2013. However, the report predicts growth over the next three years to explode to $1.5bn spurred by the huge potential it foresees in the oil and gas market. According to the report, 73% of this total fibre optics growth will be in oil and gas segments – pipelines, in-well and seismic.

Communication The most visible benefits are in communication. Previously, oil rigs were enclosed little communities, with limited communication possible only through two way radios. However, the introduction of fibre cables created capabilities such as instant two way speech, video conferencing and the real-time sharing of data, which has improved the ability of the team on the rig to communicate with teams on shore. It can also increase the degree to which rigs can be operated and run remotely, which in turn, decreases the number of staff required to exist day to day on the rig. Global Marine, meanwhile, estimates that these new technologies have the potential to reduce the level of on-rig staff by 25%. BP’s oil field of the future programme envisages a digital oil field in which multiple rigs can be controlled remotely with only a minimal crew maintaining a permanent on-rig presence2. Aside from the operational benefits of faster communication, this also increases worker welfare. Previously, workers had not only to put up with sparse and cramped conditions, but they would have little contact with family and loved ones for weeks on end. Now, thanks to the development of fibre optic communications strategies, they can maintain daily contact with family, which includes communication through video calls. It is now possible to stream live coverage of on-shore events such as sporting occasions, which provide valuable relaxation for workers. This not only has benefits to the general happiness, job satisfaction and mental health of workers, but can also lead to improvements in productivity and general work performance.

Monitoring Fibre technologies also provide improved capabilities in Oil Reserves Monitoring. Fibre optic sensors can be more robust than electrical counterparts because they lack the moving parts. Fibre cables can transmit information much faster


and from greater depths back to the surface and on to teams monitoring the information in realtime from the shore. This increases the current data available from the well, allowing companies to build a much clearer view of pipeline conditions, measuring corrosion rates, and to spot potential leaks early. A sudden drop in temperature or pressure, for example, could indicate a leak, allowing teams to organise prompt repair and minimise the damage. Once again the costs of replacing existing sensing equipment with fibre optic technology might be considerable, but given the risk management and efficiency improvements, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Challenges of Installation While the benefits and potential of fibre optics are now widely recognised, the challenge of delivering speciality fibres for the oil and gas industry has so far held development back. Normal electronic fibres used in the aviation industry, for example, would not be able to withstand the uniquely harsh and challenging conditions of an oil field. In order to function in some of the more remote and challenging areas, they will have to withstand temperatures of several hundred degrees centigrade and pressures up to 10,000psi. To meet this challenge, manufacturers are producing specially reinforced glass fibre materials and coatings made from materials such as polyamide in order to increase cable durability. Research teams, such as the one led by Professor John Canning3 at the University of Sydney are also investigating new ways in which the existing fibre technology can be further improved. The team, which has levied experience from the National Fibre Facility in New South Wales and at Brazil’s Petrobras Research Centre, believes it is developing fibres which can detect elements such as hydrocarbons, ammonia and hydrogen with unprecedented levels of accuracy.

Conclusion Fibre optics have already made their way into the oil and gas industry, but the huge potential for their use has only just begun to be explored. Between now and 2020, fibre optic technology promises to greatly enhance capabilities in communication and sensing. These enhancements will improve production and safety, as well as allowing exploration to reach sources of oil which were previously thought to be beyond our reach.


Further and Faster: the Future of Communications in Oil and Gas James Gooding, Staff Writer Fibre optics technology has spurred considerable developments in communication allowing real-time reporting and collaboration between teams based all over the world.



N PREVIOUS decades, an offshore oil rig became its own little enclosed environment – shut off from the world for weeks at a time. The only communications came through twowave radio while on-shore teams had to put up with slow, daily reports about production rates and conditions in the well. Now, though, that is changing. Thanks to the increasing use of fibre optic communications, rigs can become part of a well-run global network, sharing information and relaying data back to teams on the shore instantly.

About Communications Increased distances between rigs and monitoring centres create challenges which existing communications systems are ill equipped to manage. Traditional copper wiring struggles to maintain the necessary bandwidth over

these greater distances, while radio communications are slow and susceptible to weather disruption. To meet these challenges, considerable research and investment is being dedicated to advanced next generation communications methods. There has been significant development both in radio and satellite connectivity, but the most aggressive developments are coming in the realm of fibre optics. These include instant visual and audio communication between rigs and back to shore; real-time sharing of information and data and video monitoring and surveillance of conditions on the rig. Reports which once had to be conducted once a day over the radio can now be delivered instantly and crew on the rigs can communicate with staff based anywhere in the world. WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 9


Rigs can become part of a well-run global network, sharing information and relaying data back to teams on the shore instantly

This creates a number of efficiency and cost benefits for the rigs. Previously, analysis and interpretation of data would have been restricted to the crew in place on the rig, and this meant that so too were the resolutions of any problems. The ability to transmit data instantly and globally opens up a much greater reservoir of skills and expertise to the team on the front line. The benefits go beyond cost and operational considerations and extend into the wellbeing and comfort of crew. Once upon a time, life on board a rig could be particularly unpleasant. Cramped conditions, confined living and working conditions with the same people over several weeks and months led to many moral and mental health issues among oil rig workers. Today, quarters are more pleasant, and fibre optic and satellite communications enable workers to conduct video calls with friends and family. The resultant increase in well-being and job satisfaction translates to improved production and performance.

The Oil Rig of the Future For energy giant BP, fibre optics are integral to its programme to create what it describes as the oil field of the future, as it plans new and more sophisticated rigs in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea and the Australian Bight.4 1,242 miles of fibre optic cable links BP’s operations with 35 so called Advanced Operating Environments based across the globe. An ACE is a monitoring centre based on-shore where experts can monitor conditions in the well and communicate instantaneously with staff no matter what the weather conditions might be. This, they say, facilitates collaboration, enabling teams to make better decisions, avoid mistakes and generally increase the yield of oil and gas reserves. This includes monitoring of wells through the development of software known as an Integrated Surveillance Monitoring System, which provides information on well conditions, fluid rates, reservoir pressure and sand monitoring. It also includes a faster Data 2 Desktop application which removes data bottlenecks from the facility and allows certain operational controls to be taken remotely, such as shutting down any valve functions.


The whole suite of ‘Field of the Future’ technologies are already in operation at BP’s Scarv and Valhall operations in the North Sea which possess the technology to be controlled remotely from the shore. This is a major development which has enabled BP to take considerable strides forward as Albino Castro, head of Engineering Process Safety in the Gulf of Mexico states. “There’s not an onshore team and an offshore team,” he states, “it’s one team sharing the same problems, the same issues and celebrating the same successes.” As a result of this, BP states that some of the wells on Valhall have increased production by the equivalent of 1.5 million barrels per year.

Going Deep Advances in fibre optical communications are also permitting energy companies to explore further from shore and deeper beneath the ocean. Shell’s new Olympus platform5 now operating in the Gulf of Mexico is a perfect case in point. This is Shell’s largest platform to date measuring a towering 406 feet from the base of the hull to the top of the derrick. It was designed to drill depths of 3,000 to 5,000 feet and is expected to extend the life of the Mars oil and gas drilling project, which Shell operates, until at least 2050. As well as being twice the size of Shell’s existing Mars A platform, Olympus is also considerably more sophisticated. It is among the first of Shell’s deep water rigs to use fibre optic technology to communicate with the team on shore – a huge step forward from the microwave transmissions used by the Mars A rig. This new capability will enable the team on shore to monitor reservoir and drilling data in real-time, which, in turn, will significantly enhance the overall efficiency and production rates of the rig.

A Robust Future The increased speed fibre brings to communications means companies now see them as being well worth the costs of installation and implementation. Research continues into new systems, but increasingly even the most remote oil rigs are now as connected to the world as the rest of us.


Why Fibre Optics are Pioneering Developments in Well Monitoring Jo Roth, Staff Writer New developments in fibre optic sensing promise an increase in yield and a reduction in risk


T THE best of times, monitoring conditions inside the well and in pipelines can be difficult, but in some conditions it is virtually impossible. However, a new generation of fibre optic sensing technologies provide security teams with vast reserves of information which is crucial in preventing accidents and maximising oil recovery. For all the pre-testing and overdesign of equipment drilling companies perform, the dayto-day realities of oil and gas exploration bring with it a number of unknowns. Shell’s Shearwater platform6 was recently forced to evacuate after concerns were raised about the possible corrosive effects of drilling fluid. Furthermore, with a significant and growing proportion of oil rigs in operation today now classed as mature – having lived well beyond their originally designed shelf life – uncertainty exists surrounding the condition of aging infrastructure. With infrastructure spanning thousands of miles around the world, and often plunging depths of several thousand metres, monitoring conditions is labour intensive and often boils down to visual on-the-spot checks. Fibre optics however offer the promise of realtime monitoring which is accurate, long range and cost effective. They can use light and acoustics to identify cracks in pipeline walls, while measuring temperature and fluid pressure and facilitate the prompt identification and location of leaks at the earliest possible stages.

Types of Fibre Optic Sensors There are two main types of fibre optic sensors. Single point sensors are durable high strength units which can be placed in the well and pipeline wall to measure conditions around it. The unit is attached to a fibre optic cable which transmits this information back to the surface. Distributed fibre optic cable, on the other hand, transforms the cable itself into one long

monitoring system, monitoring conditions along its length. It is useful for detecting conditions along the entire length of a pipeline and can be used to simultaneously measure thousands of miles of pipeline. A good example of distributed fibre optic sensing is produced by Omnisens7 which can use fibre optic strings embedded within the pipe to detect deformation and alert teams on the ground. These can monitor thousands of miles of pipeline, detecting faults and transmitting data back to a centralised control room, dramatically increasing the accuracy of fault detection and also reducing the man hours spent in monitoring infrastructure. Another leading name is Hifi Engineering8 who have developed sophisticated fibre optic well monitoring solutions. In 2012 they received over $1million investment from Canadian based Cenovus to develop their technologies. “This is a great example of how technology can help us continuously improve the way we produce energy,” said Judy Fairburn, Executive Vice-President of Environment & Strategic Planning at Cenovus. “Leaks affect production, emit greenhouse gases and are expensive to repair. Hifi’s technology allows us to fix these leaks quickly and cost effectively.” Hifi has developed technologies that use fibre-optic line as acoustic sensors to accurately pinpoint the source of leaks and results in faster and more costeffective repairs. Using a technology known as MiQro, it uses high fidelity acoustic technology to identify leaks and flaws in steel concrete casings. To do this it uses a fibre optic sensing array which has been specifically developed to identify flow characteristics through multiple casing materials. This enables it to improve source identification and to pinpoint leaks to within centimetres, even at depth. It can be used in a variety of situations such as surface casing vent flow identification, WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 11


Fibre optics however offer the promise of realtime monitoring which is accurate, long range and cost effective


Modern fibre sensors show themselves to be much better suited to harsh environments than traditional sensing technologies. Fibre sensors contain no electronic components and are less prone to failure. They can function in a wider variety of temperatures and pressures of up to and beyond 1000psi and transmit information more rapidly and over larger distances. Cables, meanwhile, have been modified with special glass and coatings which make it resistant to withstand down hole conditions. One of the leading names in the production of harsh environment optical fibres is Verillon9. Their coatings come with a range of polymeric coatings and are also available with a hermetic coating that resists hydrogen, water and acid corrosion. This enables them to cope in harsh conditions up to temperatures of 300 degrees.

Increasing Production


identifying the source of gas migration and pressure testing bridge plugs. The work done by Cenovus and Hifi illustrates some of the research being undertaken by organisations around the world. The benefits on offer include improved accuracy in surface monitoring and leak detection which reduces the risk of environmental damage through spillages and also the cost of repair. These are functionalities which only fibre optic technologies are equipped to deliver.

Coping with Extreme Conditions Optical fibres have long been popular in industries such as the marine, space and military, but the unique demands of oil and gas drilling initially restricted their use. Equipment here faces harsh conditions such as high pressure, extreme temperature variations and highly corrosive chemicals. Early fibre technologies struggled to convince the doubters that they could operate in these conditions. However, such was the potential they offered that considerable research was invested into making them more resistant and durable, with remarkable results. 12 | WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM

Aside from the safety benefits, the ability to accurately and quickly monitor oil reserve status, is enabling companies to increase significantly the amount of oil or gas they extract. With demand for hydrocarbons outpacing the rate of discovery, Enhanced Oil Recovery techniques to maximise extraction from existing sources are as important as the discovery of new fields. The most rapidly growing EOR technique is known as Steam Assisted Gravity Drainage (SEGD). For this to work properly, fibre optic distributed temperature sensors are needed to monitor the input of energy without a breakthrough of steam from the injector well to the recovery well. Halliburton’s Fibre Watch10 service, meanwhile, installs fibre optic sensors inside the well to provide operators with a complete real-time view of what is happening within the well. As well as detecting faults in the pipelines, the sensors can see where stimulation fluids are flowing from the wellbore into the formation, which in turn allows them to identify which areas of the reservoir are being under-stimulated and transmit that information in real-time to the surface. The effect is to increase yield and maximise the extraction of oil from existing reserves.

Conclusion As Halliburton itself says in its sales material, “fibre optic technologies represent the future of well monitoring”. They enable risk assessment across thousands of miles of pipeline; they provide real-time measurement of corrosion plus conditions within the well. Their ability to maximise production and minimise risk means they produce production and cost reduction benefits, which make them indispensable to the future of oil recovery.


How Fibre Optics are Overcoming Resistance to Empower Deep Water Exploration Tom Cropper, Editor The oil and gas industry has long lagged behind other industries in the implementation of fibre optics, but as these new technologies prove their worth, they increasingly represent the future of oil and gas exploration.


HE OFFSHORE oil and gas industries have traditionally been notoriously reluctant to embrace new technologies. However, the need to drill further away from the shore and in deeper waters is driving the demand for more robust and sophisticated communication and sensing equipment. This means that, if the future of oil and gas is deep water, so too is it fibre optic.

Resistant to Change In any industry, innovations and new technologies are often initially treated with suspicion. Heavy duty industries such as offshore oil and gas tend to be more resistant than most. The reasoning behind this is not hard to understand. The risks of replacing tried and tested infrastructure with innovative, but unproven technology, leads to a natural caution. This means that, although the idea of fibre optics and its uses have been around for decades, it is only comparatively recently that its uses are being fully embraced. Part of the reluctance stems from the upfront cost of installing fibre optic equipment. Many of the offshore rigs currently in operation are several decades old. It would take a major overhaul to replace existing copper cabling with fibre optic equipment. In order to justify the expense, the cost and operational benefits have to be demonstrable. Equally, the nature of oil exploration presents numerous challenges for which previous fibre optical solutions were ill prepared. Sub-sea equipment is routinely exposed to uniquely hazardous conditions such as high pressure, extreme temperature, salt water and corrosive chemicals. Any technology needs to be able to operate in these conditions, for prolonged

periods of time and be extremely fault-tolerant and durable. Until now the suspicion has held that the solutions available were not guaranteed to stand up to the job. Despite these concerns, two factors combine to sway the doubters. The need to explore harder to reach oil reserves located further from shore and at extreme depths, and the fact that technologies have evolved which are robust enough to operate in these areas.

Going Deep The age of easy to reach oil is coming to an end, but demand shows no sign of slowing down. Growing middle classes in emerging economies such as China, Brazil and India will fuel a continuing growth of enthusiasm for energy well into the 2020s. While renewable energies present an option, they will not – in the short term at least – be able to plug the gap which means, for the time being, the past, present and future is oil. The trouble is we’re running out. Existing oil reservoirs are finite and as these run dry, firms are exploring harder to reach sources in deeper areas of the ocean. Here the combination of water depth and the distance from shore mean new, more sophisticated, technologies will be necessary. Existing copper cabling lacks the necessary bandwidth to carry effective communications far enough back to off-site bases. Only fibre optics can provide the necessary capacity. Equally, deep water exploration brings with it a range of environmental risk factors. Previous years have demonstrated the huge environmental impact of a major catastrophe on board a deep water rig. Many of the areas now being explored bring companies into contact with valuable and fragile areas of natural conservation. WWW.OFFSHORETECHNOLOGYREPORTS.COM | 13


It would take a major

presented. Such is the amount of information that can be detected and transmitted from these sensors in real-time that security teams on the surface are at risk of data overload. They simply do not have the time to monitor the data they receive in detail. What they require is presentable usable information which can alert them to potential problems. This means the development of automated alert systems may prove crucial in future development.

overhaul to replace existing copper cabling with fibre optic equipment. In order

Withstanding the Pressure

to justify the expense, the cost and operational benefits have to be demonstrable A BUSY DECK DURING CABLE REPAIR PROJECT

BP’s exploration in the Great Australian Bight is a case in point where concern about the impact on nearby whaling grounds were a key feature in negotiations over the contract. In order to allay concerns, deep water exploration needs to demonstrate that safety standards are better than ever before. Key to this is deploying high quality sensing equipment to increase the amount of real-time data available for monitoring in-well conditions and identifying potential problems before they arise and this is where fibre optic technologies are key. They can go further and deeper than other equipment, delivering big data to teams on the surface and the shore. One of the key areas of development is in digital acoustic sensing technology. Using sound waves, sensors can detect anything from flow rates, to the condition of pipeline walls, allowing teams to analyse the condition of walls, measure corrosion levels and spot any crack. This means teams can chart degeneration of equipment, scheduling maintenance and repairs before leaks arise. In addition to the supply of data, however, thought needs to be given to how this data is


The biggest challenge presenting fibre optic technology for application in the oil and gas industry lies in withstanding the unprecedentedly tough conditions experienced at depth. Normal fibre optic cables used in other industries are not strong enough to withstand high heat, pressure or corrosive elements encountered during drilling. This is why the oil and gas industry has traditionally lagged significantly behind the marine, aviation and military industries, which remain decades ahead in terms of adoption. To meet these standards, firms such as Fibrecore11 which was one of the first organisations to pioneer fibre optic technology, have developed specially designed fibres which provide longer lifetime and robustness than previous technologies. By using an Acrylate coated fibre they were able to create a cable that could withstand temperatures as high as 150 degrees centigrade But even that is not enough, so they have also developed a polyamide coated fibre which can withstand extreme temperatures as high as 400 degrees for the short term and 300 degrees over a longer period. Pure silica fibres, meanwhile, provide greater resistance to hydrogen making them ideal for severe environments.

Conclusion The strain of increasing global production to meet demand has facilitated the uptake of fibre optic technologies within a traditionally change-resistant industry. Rigs in easy to reach conventional fields have functioned well on existing technology for decades; it is only the need to maximise yield from existing sources, coupled with the expansion into deep water, which have placed increased demands on communication and monitoring equipment. As such, previous technologies are rapidly becoming defunct, which means fibre optics now play a central role in the future health of the industry.


References: IGIG Report Forecasts Positive Growth for Fibre Markets:

1 BP Oil Field of the Future:



Fibre optic communications:


Oil Field of the Future: 5

Shell’s Olympus Platform Prepares for Gulf Journey:


Elgin Platform Gas leak caused Shell Shearwater evacuation:


Omnisens fibre optic sensors:


Cenovus invests in $1.1million:


Verillon downhole fibre optic sensors:


Halliburton Fibre Optic Sensors:


Fibrecore Speciality Fibers for the oil and gas industries:





Profile for Global Business Media

Special Report – Next Generation Subsea Fibre Optic Cable Solutions Global Marine Systems  

Defence Industry – Special Report on Next Generation Subsea Fibre Optic Cable Solutions

Special Report – Next Generation Subsea Fibre Optic Cable Solutions Global Marine Systems  

Defence Industry – Special Report on Next Generation Subsea Fibre Optic Cable Solutions