Oil and Gas: Information and Communications Challenges 08 Sep 2015

Oil and Gas: Information and Communications Challenges

Six Ongoing Challenges

Digital technology has given businesses the power to overcome barriers previously viewed as insurmountable. However, impressive technological progress is often accompanied by new and severe challenges. This dilemma is aptly illustrated by the intersection of the energy industry (especially oil and gas) and challenges involving communications and information services.

As just one example, ultra-broadband and all-IP (Internet Protocol) networks now enable oil and gas operations to become more efficient – allowing environmental, safety and health risks to be managed more effectively. But since oil and gas facilities are routinely located in undersea and remote locations, new infrastructure challenges appear regularly on the horizon.

To better understand the potential barriers to smooth operations, Research Optimus presents a sampling of six communications and information challenges – most are routinely impacting companies operating in the oil and gas industries:

  • Government Interference – Most oil and gas activity involves multiple political jurisdictions. If this was not already challenging enough, government regulations can often change rapidly.
  • Network Security – The “normal” challenges involving network security morph into a league of their own with the unique infrastructure and geography that underlay oil and gas success in today’s connected world.
  • A Real-Time Mentality – Expectations of 24/7 activity and data are constantly operating in the background of oil and gas industry clients. This has a domino effect on information and communications providers.
  • New Technology – Advancements in areas such as low-orbit satellite technology and fiber optics are ongoing and must be accommodated and integrated into existing operations.
  • Collaboration -Collaborating is rarely easy, especially with oil and gas operations sprinkled throughout the globe.
  • Data Management – SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) integration has the potential to impact everything else since remote equipment plays such an instrumental role in oil and gas operations.

Some of these challenges will be expanded upon in the following paragraphs. In the final section (“Where Are the Solutions?”), we will reflect upon how to solve these ever-present challenges.

The Impact of Government Regulations

In the United States as well as other locations, the difference between a friendly and unfriendly regulatory environment can quickly alter the “bottom line” for industries of all shapes and sizes — but rules, guidelines and laws governing the oil and gas industry as well as communications and information providers provide a particularly stark example of how challenging it can be for businesses to operate in a maze of often-conflicting government regulations.

For example, when AT&T sought regulatory approval for retiring traditional telephone networks about three years ago, it highlighted a common occurrence — companies cannot always act as swiftly as they would like even in a rapidly changing technological climate. In this case, AT&T was attempting to accelerate its transition to an all-IP telephone company. Even the U.S. Federal Communications Commission seemingly agreed by forecasting the “death” of a Public Switched Telephone Network by 2018.

Nevertheless, government entities rarely move at the “speed of business.” As a result, modern companies often need to make complex decisions that are not always clearly defined by existing regulations. As noted by Jon Bodkin, “When everything is IP, the telecom industries and IT industries will basically become one and the same.”

One Consumer Electronics Show panel was appropriately called “Introducing the All-IP Telco.” The panel ultimately agreed that “Telecom is a regulated industry while the Internet essentially is not — and they want to keep it that way.”

Dealing with Multiple Challenges Simultaneously

The information and communications challenges represented by the oil and gas industry rarely present themselves on a “one-at-a-time” basis. Perhaps the biggest challenge of all is how to simultaneously tackle several imposing challenges. For example, tackling technology, data management, real-time and security challenges at the same time might seem “impossible” at first glance — but it’s actually the “smart choice” for companies doing their best to juggle several balls at the same time.

One of the challenges noted above — the need to collaborate — can also serve as an effective pathway to simultaneous problem-solving. In fact, the “failure to collaborate” is frequently noted as a problem in itself. Morten Hansen is a recognized expert on how and when to emphasize collaborative efforts. He wrote a definitive book about what to do and the mistakes to avoid — “Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Build Common Ground and Reap Big Results.”

In the attempt to collaborate, executives and managers need to achieve the right dose of collaborative skills – the “right-sizing of collaboration” – and also decide when not to collaborate. The judicious use of outsourcing is one effective way to achieve this delicate balance. When organizations decide to outsource to experienced partners such as Research Optimus, collaboration is often an unexpected benefit of the decision.

Where Are the Solutions?

Industry participants are actively searching for new solutions to both old and new challenges. Regular symposiums such as the Oil & Gas Communication Technology Summit held in Houston, Texas during February 2015 provide the opportunity to share experiences and case studies in a public forum. However, even when practical solutions emerge in these problem-solving conferences, an ongoing struggle still persists — how to implement the solutions?

Research Optimus is proud to serve as a cost-effective answer to this difficult question. We offer a rich combination of advanced skills and experience that will always be handy when you are trying to strike the right balance of costs, schedules, security, technology, data management and flexibility as you tackle a seemingly insurmountable problem. Please don’t hesitate to save your most difficult challenges for Research Optimus — our success in doing the “impossible” is what sets us apart from our competitors.

What are your biggest challenges involving communications and information — in both the energy field as well as other industries? In addition to contacting us, please share your comments below as well as via social media using the provided icons.

– Research Optimus

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