Oil and gas exploration and recovery are rapidly advancing into challenging geographic areas. These new oil and gas fields can be as deep as 3000 meters or more. Such depths necessitate fixed or ‘free floating’ platforms. To date, communications to and from the platforms have generally been via microwave or satellite which are limited by distance and not always reliable in bad weather conditions. Oil and gas companies are now starting to see the advantages of using subsea fiber-optic technology, which delivers high quality, high reliability and low latency communication systems.
This is where Alcatel-Lucent has stepped in. A world leader in the design, manufacture and installation of submarine networks, we have experience and expertise in submarine optical fiber systems, which can be adapted to address the needs of the oil and gas sector.
Let’s look at the example of a recent industrial project developed by Alcatel-Lucent. We are talking about eleven fixed platforms, located in Asia, several hundred kilometers off the coast at water depths of more than a hundred meters. Using this project as a first step to penetrate this new business segment, we are now ready to go further and deeper!
Several challenges were faced to make this project a success. For instance, the cable and associated products have to resist severe mechanical and environmental constraints for the working life of the communication system – 30 years.
To anticipate efficient platform connections and operations, simulations of installation were performed on all of the developed products. As you can imagine, the actual deployment was done in a confined marine environment that leaves no space for errors or mistakes. This is why the project combined innovations in the design of the products with rigorous engineering.
The development project was completed in eight months, a very short timeframe compared to our normal telecom projects, which are generally two or three times longer.
Last but not least, the regulations and standards for work in the oil and gas sector are even more complex than our standard submarine environment. Our strict submarine procedures were reinforced with specific requirements demanded by the sector. For this project the subsea cable had to cross 25 pipelines, so concrete ‘mattresses’ were laid on top of the cable for protection at these areas. Also, bringing a ship to lay cable in close proximity to a gas platform had to be very tightly controlled.
The eleven platforms are now connected and testing of the system is in progress – a good Christmas present for us and a Happy New Year for our customer!
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