Oil & Gas Vertical Markets

A renewed energy in MENA Oil & Gas

Based on an NSR September 2019 report and ADIPEC just having concluded, we asked Nabil Soussia of IEC Telecom Group about the future of satcom within Oil & Gas.
Nabil Soussia with other industry professionals at ADIPEC.

With oil prices having forced a lot of energy companies to optimise and retool their internal operations, is there less need for satcom services?

No, this is quite the opposite; there is an increased need for satcom services. The oil & gas industry is facing intense pressure to improve operational efficiencies as lower oil prices continue to crimp margins. One critical capability to accelerate operational efficiency and drive margins is digitisation. It has the potential to create around $1 trillion of value for oil & gas companies, and could create benefits worth about $640bn for the wider society.

Satellite solutions enable digitisation even in the most remote areas, and provide reliable back-up for GSM-connected inland sites. The digital oil field is no longer a concept but a reality, opening new horizons for businesses. As demand for data increases exponentially, satellite communication is the only realistic option for ship-to-shore and inter-ship communication.

What are the emerging trends in this market (also based on your visit to ADIPEC), and how do you propose to address them with new solutions?

Some of the emerging trends that we will continue to see in this market include the demand for digitisation, the need for comprehensive cybersecurity, staff welfare and back-up solutions.

The demand for digitisation and digital services is one. With renewable energy uptake accelerating and innovations like electric vehicles gaining mainstream attention, the oil & gas business will be compelled to change its operations to stay sustainable and competitive. Digitisation is the only way forward. New applications allow businesses to digitise, optimise and automate processes that save time and money, and increase safety.

Secondly, there is a need for comprehensive cybersecurity. The fragmented approach to digitisation may potentially leave companies exposed to a greater risk of cyber-attack. According to a 2018 survey conducted by Siemens and the Ponemon Institute, half of all cyber-attacks in the Middle East target the oil & gas sector. To mitigate this, companies need to align their digital and cyber strategies.

Staff welfare is also a priority. The new generation of specialists expect to have connectivity onboard when working in remote areas, and businesses are reporting having issues attracting new members when they do not provide connectivity. In terms of crew welfare, specialists are able to maintain social lives via video/audio calls, messenger programmes and social media. They can also continue to carry out routine activities such as keeping up with news and viewing bank statements.

Back-up solutions need to be made available for operations. Unstable geopolitical situations may cause disruption of connectivity, which will have its consequences for the enterprise operations.

In this backdrop, and to meet changing customer needs at ADIPEC 2019, IEC Telcom demonstrated its latest OneGate Energy, designed as a land-deployed variation of its unique solution OneGate, to meet the requirements of remote units. OneGate provides access to a virtual platform to store critical applications. The solution also enables technical teams to maintain, update and upgrade on-site infrastructure remotely, saving time and money on logistics.

OneGate also separates the corporate environment from the staff network. Such segregation ensures that e-operations and classified data remain safe, eliminating cyber threats. OneGate addresses all major challenges of the oil & gas industry, including logistics, cybersecurity and optimising connectivity.

When do you see this market picking up, and what kind of new connectivity solutions will help it in the future?

The market will pick up pace when new projects launch and companies begin investing again. Connectivity solutions that will be critical to support this growth will include high-throughput satellites to handle big data and L-band for IoT.

Will it be GEO, LEO, MEO or a hybrid solution?

It can be anything, and more likely it will be a combination of everything. At the end of the day, consumers want to have a secure, reliable and sustainable internet connection. In some cases, the size of the antennas will matter, or the area coverage, but those are details that can be easily managed at our level, as we focus on bespoke solutions that help customers address their various business needs.

What about ground infrastructure? How can this be optimised to better address this market?

Ground infrastructure is an important part of the solution and can always be enhanced with better firewalls and comprehensive cybersecurity solutions. Optimisation and QoS are also key services that can always be enhanced by investing in ground infrastructure.

What challenges do you foresee in this market? Having just come out of ADIPEC, what are your thoughts on how to move forward?

When is the right time to invest? This is one of the most commonly asked questions. It is important to invest in the right technology and sustainable projects to continue to remain competitive and more sustainable. The MENA region, especially GCC countries, is at the forefront of nationwide digital transformation agendas, placing MENA seventh out of the 11 regions tracked by Gartner in 2019. The spending on IT is projected to reach $160bn in 2019, a 1.8% increase from 2018.

And yet the oil & gas sector still operates more in a traditional way, and more needs to be done, so all companies in the sector enjoy digitisation in full. Digital technologies are helping almost every industry rewrite its operating landscape, and the oil & gas industry can no longer remain behind. According to Wood Mackenzie, the industry can save up to $73bn within five years in exploration and production by adopting the latest technologies.