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Tue 15 Apr 2008 04:54 PM

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Cisco improves real-time information sharing on rigs

Petrobel uses Cisco Unified Communications to bridge digital divide between rigs and HQ.

Cisco, worldwide networking company recently announced that the first phase of building a Unified Communications infrastructure for the Belayim Petroleum Company - Petrobel, has now been completed.

The new infrastructure will help bridge the digital divide between the headquarters and the rigs facilitating transparent communication and exchange of information, even video, between the drilling crews and the headquarters' team.

In the first phase of Petrobel's i-Rig project the objective was to create a converged IP network on the Endurer Rig some 60 kilometers offshore. Cisco Aironet Access Points formed the heart of a converged wireless local area network. In addition, Cisco installed Wireless IP Phones to ensure that all staff were within easy contact across most of the rig, while Cisco Unified IP Phones 7960G, enabled voice and video communications.

"Our vision is to create a digital oilfield, where all of our assets and people - both onshore and offshore - can be linked using the network as a platform to create a secure, converged IP infrastructure," said Massimo Insulla, Petrobel's Drilling and work over deputy general manager.

"By bridging the digital divide, we aim to enable the paradigm of taking the problem to the expert, rather than the expert having to travel to fix the problem," he added.

Cisco Aironet mesh access points can operate without a direct connection to a wired network. Designed to deliver mission-critical wireless access the system enables performance, reliability, security, scalability, and unified policy management across indoor and outdoor networks.

"Industry figures estimate that typically 15 to 25 % of drilling time is lost due to some kind of trouble encountered during the drilling process," said Hani Abdel Aziz, Cisco Egypt country manager.

Petrobel estimates that improved and faster decision making could avoid ten or more hours of delays each month on one rig alone - a potential saving of some US $125 000. "With six rigs operating offshore, the potential saving to Petrobel could reach US $9 million each year," said Insulla.

"When presented with the opportunity to run a pilot of the new application, Petrobel not only jumped at the chance, but also decided to test it in the most demanding environment available to it - the Adriatic X exploration rig operating 75 kilometers offshore," said Hani Abdel Aziz.

The pilot established a local area network throughout the Adriatic X rig operating at 48 Mbps, using three Aironet Access Points within Zone 1 and 2 certified enclosures. It took Petrobel just two days to set up the wireless mesh network on Adriatic X - one day for a site survey, and one day for the installation of the equipment and commissioning. The result has transformed the sharing of real-time information and decision making on the rig.

"This technology does not replace the employee or diminish his importance," Insulla explains. "What it does is enable the wider team to share some of the burden with him. It gives us the opportunity to more effectively assist the production team to reach the right decision quickly. I expect to see it in place on all rigs within the next five years," she added.

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