CAIRO, Egypt, April 16, 2008 - Cisco announced today that Petrobel (The Belayim Petroleum Company), has implemented a Cisco ® Unified Communications solution to link its headquarters and the oil rigs, facilitating video and other communications channels between the drilling crews and the headquarters' team. This collaborative technology has resulted in cost savings by increasing productivity, decreasing travel and improving teamwork.
In the first phase of Petrobel's i-Rig project the objective was to create a converged IP network on the Adriatic X Rig some 60 kilometers (37 miles) offshore. Cisco Aironet® access points formed the heart of a converged wireless local area network. In addition, Cisco installed wireless IP phones to help ensure that all staff were within easy contact across most of the rig, while Cisco Unified IP Phones 7960G, equipped with Cisco Unified Video Advantage, enabled voice and video communications with the Onshore experts in Cairo.
Cisco Aironet mesh access points can operate without a direct connection to a wired network. They have been designed to deliver mission-critical wireless access with a rugged platform that is designed for high performance, ease of deployment, reliability, security, scalability, mobility, and unified policy management across indoor and outdoor networks.
"Industry figures estimate that typically 15 to 25 percent of drilling time is lost due to some kind of trouble encountered during the drilling process," said Hani Abdel Aziz, Cisco General Manager for Egypt. Petrobel conservatively estimates that better and faster decision making could avoid 10 hours or more of delays each month on one rig alone - a potential saving of some US$125,000 per month per rig.
"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 just three Cisco 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. Employees and technicians can take calsl and share video images in real time - even on the drilling area - with colleagues at headquarters and beyond. The value of real-time communications between the drilling area and headquarters was dramatically proven in early 2007, within just weeks of the Aironet equipment being installed, when the drill hit a high-pressure, high-temperature zone while working on the target to reach a record depth of 5500 meters (18,000 feet).
"This technology does not replace the employee or diminish his importance," commented Rechchad, Enterprise Lead for Cisco Africa and Levant. "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."
Rechchad pointed out that improved communications will not only reduce costs, but will also greatly assist in safeguarding mature assets, because the wrong decisions can cause a well to close forever. In addition, there will be significant health, safety, and environment bottom-line improvements.
Cisco First Mile Wireless, is one of the most important building blocks of the network platform that together with Cisco Unified Communications will enable the implementation of the vision of the digital oil field, with rig and field operations moving - albeit virtually - from the headquarters' backyard.
The Belayim Petroleum Company - better known as Petrobel - is jointly owned by the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation and IEOC Production B.V., the Egyptian subsidiary of the Italian Oil & Gas giant ENI.