MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT
The Asia Pacific Satellite Communications Council was founded in 1995, so this year marks our 25th anniversary as a member-run organization, serving the satellite and space industry in the Asia Pacific region. Our annual Conference was supposed to be held in Manilla November 17-19, but like most things in our new pandemic world this will not be. Instead we will hold a virtual conference every Tuesday morning at 9am Hong Kong/Singapore time starting on August 18th and concluding on November 17th. And best of all it is free!
This month our magazine focuses on the issues of the Satcom Energy industry. Pacome Revillon, CEO of Euroconsult, estimates the offshore connectivity services totaled approximately $300 million in 2019 corresponding to about 9,500 VSATs on close to 600 oil rigs globally.
David Burr of ComtechEF Data explains that the offshore energy market is characterized by companies operating a small number of platforms with new exploration moving further offshore, resulting in fewer but larger platforms.
As Brad Grady of NSR puts it, in “2015, NSR found that $1 out of every $5 was generated from the Offshore sector, or roughly $390M out of a total pie of $1.9B. Move ahead to 2019, and that figure was about $1 out of every $10; or, a $330M slice out of a $2.9B pie. Simply, as the rest of the Maritime SATCOM Market was experiencing growth over those four years, Offshore Markets already had significant fundamental challenges – not only losing ‘share’ because other markets were growing faster but losing topline revenues as well.”
NSR projects that Asia and the POR will account for more than $600M in cumulative retail revenues for offshore markets from 2019 to 2029. That will be about 20% of a total $3.4B satcom maritime market but the only market projected to exceed double-digit retail revenue growth over the next decade.
Inmarsat’s Eric Griffin notes that for Offshore Support Vessels, NSR “predicts average data speeds for each vessel rising from 2.82Mbps in 2019 to 31.43Mbps in 2029…. ARPU in Asia is expected to rise from $5,000 a year in 2019 to around $12,000 in 2025 and $25,000 by 2029.“ Eric referred to a 2018 Inmarsat survey of 125 ship owners which found the majority saying that their inability to get data off of their ships in real-time was the biggest stumbling block to IoT adoption.
In short, despite some very real challenges, the Asia-Pacific region satcom energy business looks set to have great future growth.
Finally we have an interview with Ibnu Rusydi of PSN, Winner of the 2019 APSCC Young Talent Award. The APSCC Young Talent Award is the latest initiative of APSCC to ensure a healthy future for the satellite industry by attracting and retaining young talent to the satellite and space industries in the Asia-Pacific region.
To give the best of young staff encouragement and public recognition of their contributions, the award winner received a full scholarship sponsored by the International Space University and APSCC for the 2019 Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program.
Ibnu told us that “receiving award on that big stage [at our Bangkok conference last year] really boost my confidence on pursuing my career in the satellite industry.”
And his message to other young people in the satellite industry or considering careers in it?
“Find where your passion leads you to and go for it. Be connected to the satellite community.”
Words for us all to take to heart. In this time of pandemic let us all stay safe and healthy and find our passion while remaining connected to our satellite community!
The Energy Satellite Market at the Crossroads
Pacôme Révillon, Chief Executive Officer, Euroconsult
For decades, the energy sector has been a strategic segment for satellite connectivity, especially for its offshore operations. Offshore oil & gas activity can broadly be divided into the following three phases: exploration/development, production, and decommissioning.
Survey vessels, drilling rigs and supporting ships use maritime satellite communications throughout the exploration phase, which generally lasts two to three years. In the following phases, especially development and production, alternative terrestrial communication services (e.g. fiber-optic cables, Wimax) are also deployed in addition to VSAT and MSS communications.
In our annual research on maritime connectivity, we estimate that the offshore connectivity services totaled approximately $300 million in 2019. This corresponded to approximately 9,500 VSATs that we include in this segment, of which close to 600 rigs. Satellite connectivity has been critical to support both operational needs and crew welfare. Supported operations require maximum reliability, quality, and continuity in communications. The main applications fall into three categories:
- Secure real-time data collection and transmission for safe and efficient coordination of remote operations.
- Real-time data access to optimize performance.
- Transmission of real-time data management and access to key decision makers.
While VSAT connectivity used to be primarily onboard rigs, a large migration of connectivity onboard support vessels has taken place, with former MSS connectivity being replaced by VSAT.
One strong specificity of this connectivity market is its partial volatility and exposure to variations in oil and gas pricing. Considering the oil (Brent) pricing, it is worth having a look back at some previous cycles before considering the current dynamics.
- Brent pricing stood at approximately $25-30 per barrel between 2000-2004, before sharply increasing to over $100 in 2008.
- This was just before the global financial and economic crisis, which brought back the pricing to around $40 in 2009.
- Following a rebound to around $70 in 2010, pricing went back over $100 from 2011 to mid-2014.
- Then, the combination of increase in supply, largely from the US industry, and OPEC’s decision to not reduce production resulted in a price drop. Pricing stood at $40-50 in 2015-2017.
- In 2018-2019, pricing increased again, but remained in a $60-80 range.
And then the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a price drop to around $20 per barrel, corresponding to the lowest level in 15 years. While a partial rebound is currently taking place, pricing stands so far at around $40. Uncertainty on the demand dynamics, including for the transportation and industrial sectors, together with still high production and very high stocks, combine to maintain a strong pressure on oil pricing.
Consequences of an oil price drop are usually triple:
- Different operations are becoming non-profitable (temporarily or more structurally),
- A stacking of several rigs usually takes place. In the case of COVID-19, required measures have also included a reduction of the personnel present on the rigs that remain active,
- Capex reduction programs are implemented, reducing short term and middle term revenue opportunities,
- Opex optimization programs also started, with pressure being applied on the supply chain.
Taking the case of the 2014 pricing crisis, we estimate that offshore VSAT connectivity revenues decreased by approximately 30%, with a combination of a reduction in active rigs, and a pressure on the ARPU per site.
On a positive note when looking at capacity requirements, increasing demand for crew welfare, together with the increasing volume of data to manage on the cloud for the digital oil field, should contribute to a structural increase in data consumption.
As evidence of that trend, Rignet has extended its use of the O3b constellation onboard rigs where it provides services. The latest disclosed contract was for six FSPO installations in 2019, in addition to four in 2018. Petrobras, in a securities filing, stated that the service with lower latency helped by streamlining the use of real-time digital applications and transmitting data in higher quality. As an example, it could enable higher resolution videos of wells and pumps for remote analysis.
In parallel, Marlink reported in 2019 a double-digit growth in its energy revenue, coming from diverse customers among National Oil Companies and oil majors as well as rig operators and companies providing Exploration & Production (E&P) services. The company reported seeing high throughput capacity and potentially low latency as two key drivers to support again cloud-based applications and integrated SD-WAN networks.
Overall, in recent years, service providers have begun to provide fully integrated solutions including VSAT terminal, service, IT installation and management. They have started to move to a higher digitalization of services and are notably starting to integrate IT companies.
Despite the promises of the next stage in broadband connectivity, the year 2020 shall prove to be particularly challenging, with the impact potentially lasting for a longer time. The energy satellite connectivity sector is highly concentrated, especially for the offshore market. This is largely due to the high complexity of offshore operations with often multiple stakeholders involved (typically onboard a rig) and with the need for certified personnel and stringent procedures and quality of service.
The two leading organizations in this vertical, Speedcast and Rignet, manage a large part of the services and revenues. Speedcast, which had been facing a set of issues since 2019, filed voluntary chapter 11 petitions in the US bankruptcy court. While the latest indicators are not available, the year 2019 had been showing largely stable revenue, following a decrease in 2018.
Rignet reported largely stable revenues for its managed communication services in its latest quarterly report. It also highlighted the risks and impact that the COVID-19 outbreak and the drop in oil pricing should have on their activity.
Overall, and considering:
- the drop in activity of 2014-2015 and its limited rebound,
- the partially variable nature of the contracts with many clients (typically between active and stacked rigs), and
- the continuous need for connectivity to manage operations (with potentially less personnel but an increase in remote management)
In the latest edition of our report on maritime connectivity released in May 2020, we estimate that connectivity service revenues should decrease by approximately 16% (potentially spread over 2019 and 2020). This shall be followed by a rebound, which could nevertheless see revenues remaining around the $300M level for some time. The volume of capacity consumed could also rebound and triple between 2021 and 2028 based on our current forecasts.
An upside certainly exists. It will depend on the ability of the industry to demonstrate its capacity to contribute to the optimization of operations and costs in the coming years. In that respect, the availability of the upcoming GEO HTS and NGSO systems could be transformational and enable a new growth phase for the industry.
In parallel, a combination of factors could contribute to the design of new strategic partnerships and/or corporate transactions. On one side, the increasing flexibility of satellite infrastructure, with an increasing responsibility of traffic management in the hands of satellite operators, should progressively transform the relationships between service providers and operators. At the same time, the technicity of offshore service operations could prevent satellite operators from providing services directly to the end customers in the absence of an acquisition of an established service provider. Overall, we see a clear need for a new optimization of the economics of connectivity services to serve this strategic segment, and for a new alignment between service companies and operators. An intense phase of brainstorming and negotiations could contribute to reshaping the industry and its value creation in the post COVID-19 environment.
Pacôme Révillon is Chief Executive Officer of Euroconsult, based in Paris, France. In his 18 years working in the sector, Pacôme has led Euroconsult’s strategy and operations and consults with high-level clients, particularly in satellite broadcasting, communications and finance. Under his management, the company has experienced a continuous expansion internationally, and has strengthened its position as an international reference on the strategic, economic and financial aspects of space activities. His work experience includes positions with the DLR in Germany and Thales in France. He holds a graduate engineering degree in Telecommunications & Space from SUPAERO and a Master’s Degree in Economics from DESIA.
COVID-19: A Death Knell for Maritime Energy SATCOM Markets?
Brad Grady, Principal Analyst, NSR
There is no reason to be coy – today’s energy SATCOM market is facing nearly unprecedented challenges. According to the International Energy Agency’s Global Energy Review 2020, demand for crude oil is down 5% in Q1 2020 mostly due to lower ‘mobility demand’. With Land, Aeronautical, and Maritime vehicles accounting for nearly 60% of oil demand per the IEA, and offshore oil accounting for 30% of global oil production it is pretty easy to be pessimistic on the health of the Energy SATCOM sector.
A Fundamental Disruption to Offshore Energy?
First, it is best to look at core changes occurring in the energy sector itself. Then, look at how COVID-19 is magnifying what might be a fundamental change to how energy is consumed, explored, produced, and distributed on a global basis. Electrification of land-based vehicles is coming, California has put in place legislation that all new trucks sold in 2045 to be ‘zero-emission’ and China is one of the largest markets for Electrical Vehicles. A shift from coal and oil to gas-based non-renewable fuels is already here – and likely to accelerate as gas prices combined with emission control measures favor its expansion. Renewable sources such as wind and solar continue to grow as an overall percentage of electrical generation sources – and, that trend will only continue to grow. Overall, any oil-focused end-user market is likely to have long-term risks.
While it is hard to parse out just how much revenues within the maritime satellite sector is directly related to the extraction of ‘oil’ vs. ‘gas’, the combined market share of the Offshore sector vs. Total Maritime SATCOM Market continues to shrink.
In 2015, NSR found that $1 out of every $5 was generated from the Offshore sector, or roughly $390M out of a total pie of $1.9B. Move ahead to 2019, and that figure was about $1 out of every $10; or, a $330M slice out of a $2.9B pie. Simply, as the rest of the Maritime SATCOM Market was experiencing growth over those four years, Offshore Markets already had significant fundamental challenges – not only losing ‘share’ because other markets were growing faster but losing topline revenues as well.
Looking forward and the Offshore Energy market share looks ‘consistent.’ Meaning, by 2029 NSR estimates in its Maritime SATCOM Markets, 8th Edition report that Offshore Maritime will account for 11% of the total market, roughly in-line with 2019 figures. Why? Disruption has become business as usual for Energy SATCOM players. Unlike other maritime segments which might be experiencing significant ‘contractions’ for the first time, ‘boom-and-bust’ has become fairly typical for Offshore.
End-users are also not sitting still in the face of changing energy consumption trends. Instead, while offshore oil production has remained consistent since 2000, natural gas production has increased significantly. These companies are shifting resources towards a natural gas (and perhaps wind) focused future, with offshore oil likely to play a smaller role. These developments take time to find, develop, and commission – sometimes decades. It also means infrastructure designed for oil-focused resources needs to pivot, different ships to transport and maintain resources, different equipment to extract and process natural gas, and different analytical processes to ensure safe and efficient operations. All said, COVID-19 only builds and accelerates a fundamental transformation occurring within the Offshore Energy sector.
The COVID-19 Factor
Unstable oil prices, record low demand, and travel restrictions are all putting pressures throughout the Offshore Energy sector value chain. The result is a drawdown of active sites, a pause on future technology upgrades, and ultimately a different market in 2020/2021 than it was in 2019. Yet, unlike other mobility markets which have been on a steady ‘growth path’, Energy Markets are used to these ‘boom and bust’ cycles – perhaps enabling it to better weather the COVID-19 impacts.
As we saw on the revenue side, 2015 into 2019 was a challenging period for the Offshore market. According to NSR’s Maritime SATCOM Markets, 8th Edition published in mid-2020, the Offshore Oil & Gas Markets will be one of the hardest hit addressable maritime markets – largely due to oil price instability and COVID-19 knock-down impacts on crude demand. However, this is not the first macro-economic crisis facing the Oil & Gas sector.
While passenger maritime markets such as ocean-cruise are only starting to see their vessel counts decrease due to market ‘over supply’, the Oil & Gas sector was able to quickly reinstate cold stacking and other reduction techniques it leveraged in previous market downturns. With a 19% reduction in the number of addressable sites, primarily in the Offshore Support Vessel segment, the offshore energy segment could hope to ‘right size’ itself early by leveraging all of the past experience from the last crude pricing collapse.
More than just cold-stacking of underutilized assets, the entire value-chain already has developed the flexibility to deal with end-user challenges. While the aeronautical SATCOM sector is only now having to work with its supply chain to get contractual flexibility, oil and gas players have already have dealt with those challenges – and built processes in place to enable that much-needed flexibility to keep and retain their customers.
This past experience should not be under-estimated for the ability of the Energy SATCOM markets to weather current market conditions. Unlike other ‘high-end’ maritime markets such as Passenger Maritime, dynamically changing market conditions are not a ‘new thing’ for energy end-users.
An Asia-Pacific Angle
What do all of these global or macro-level trends mean for the Asia-Pacific Region? Already the region is shifting towards offshore wind, from coal to natural gas, and engaged in all of the macro-level trends shaping the energy markets elsewhere. For the satellite sector, that means enabling a data-first digitalization strategy.
Accordingly, NSR projects that Asia and the Pacific Ocean Region (POR) will account for more than $600M in cumulative retail revenues for offshore markets from 2019 to 2029. Together, that accounts for about 20% of a total $3.4B opportunity. At first, that appears to be a fairly small opportunity for a set of countries which consumes an ever-increasing amount of energy – upwards of 40% by some estimates. (Note: These figures exclude the USA, which is associated in “Rest of World.”) However, onshore and nearshore developments significantly cut into the role of offshore resources in the region. Additionally, ‘new projects’ are facing significant financing hurdles across the globe and must be profitable at an ever-decreasing resource price. Yet, without the burden of legacy installations and a significant number of ‘greenfield locations’ in Asia + POR, these areas lead the pack for growth opportunities.
While Europe and the Atlantic Ocean Region (AOR) will account for 60% of the opportunity, those markets also are growth-challenged. Asia+POR are the only markets to exceed double-digit growth retail revenue growth projections over the next ten years. AOR will see negative growth for satellite services, and EU/NAM will be towards the bottom-end of growth. Simply, the transition towards lower-priced commodities encourages production consolidation around existing sites and infrastructure. As activity consolidates, the benefits of terrestrial connectivity increases (and in most mature fields in AOR or NAM, already exists) – and thus the revenue opportunity for satellite-based services decreases. On the end-user side, the consolidation also means a smaller support vessel fleet is required (another key consumer of satellite services), and other knock-down impacts across the value-chain.
In short, the opportunity for Offshore Energy SATCOM services in Asia and Pacific Oceans are ideally timed for growth. Neither will be ‘the biggest’ topline market (that remains in the Atlantic), but as the Atlantic Ocean market consolidates around a few significant sites in the Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, Brazil and West Africa the threats from terrestrial and consolidation of power shifts significant towards end-users. Instead, competing geographic locations in Asia and Pacific Oceans favor more and smaller sites – balancing end-user and service providers. Locations tend to be greenfield, meaning lower terrestrial competition. Advanced analytics and other digitalization efforts are ‘baked in’, so demand for connectivity is high. All combined, solid opportunities continue to emerge throughout these regions even as macro and microeconomic challenges abound.
COVID-19 is accelerating transition in the Offshore Energy Markets. Changing energy demand profiles were already underway, but lower requirements for Oil from planes, trains, trucks, and ships challenges oil-centric projects. Natural Gas demand is lower as global economic activity remains low. Commodity pricing remains low at best, but largely unstable which challenges longer-term planning. On top of all that, the satellite sector continues to remain in transition from widebeam FSS to geostationary HTS to emerging Non-GEO HTS options which adds another layer of complexity into network designs and purchasing decisions. Yet, the Offshore markets were uniquely prepared for this sort of instability – unlike other mobility SATCOM markets.
Bottom line, the hard-earned experience of previous market instabilities will likely enable the Offshore SATCOM market to weather the COVID-19 storm better than other sectors.
Brad Grady has been involved in the Satellite Communications industry since 2005, joining NSR in 2010. Through his 10 years at NSR, he has risen from a Junior Analyst to NSR’s Principal Analyst for Mobility Markets, focusing on Commercial and Government SATCOM Markets. In that role, he leads NSR’s research on “anything that moves.” He leads a group of NSR Analysts focused on Aeronautical and Land-Mobile opportunities, and authors NSR’s Maritime SATCOM Markets, Energy SATCOM Markets, and Government and Military Satellite Communications. He regularly provides his insights and analysis to NSR’s single-client consulting practice and is also a regular contributor to leading industry publications and forums.
Offshore Support Vessels Find Cost Benefits in Bandwidth
Eric Griffin, Vice President, Offshore Energy & Fishing – Maritime Division, Inmarsat.
Buffeted by Covid-19, low oil prices and swollen inventories, 2020 has brought lasting challenges for offshore support vessels. Greater bandwidth is proving critical in squeezing the costs out of operations.
While Brent climbed back to $40 per barrel in early June, the price level was far from sufficient to encourage an offshore sector accounting for 30% of global oil production and for some offshore support vessel owners, charter earnings are insufficient even to service debt.
With a portion of the Offshore Support Vessel (OSV) fleet once more heading for lay-up, there have been direct consequences for the offshore connectivity outlook. Published in May, the latest report from Northern Sky Research foresees the OSV market challenged until 2027, with the number of vessels using Broadband in 2029 projected as being 764 below its 2019 figure, to stand at 2,165 vessels.
However, for active OSVs, NSR sees the same period as transformative in terms of data use. Forecasting a continuing migration of ship-to-shore connectivity to high throughput systems, the consultant predicts average data speeds for each vessel rising from 2.82Mbps in 2019 to 31.43Mbps in 2029.
NSR sees some stabilization in the offshore satcomms market after 2025. In particular: “Growing requirements out of South China/South/East Pacific region will drive retail average revenues per user as higher bandwidth provisioning in region demands ARPU growth,” the consultant says. ARPU in Asia is expected to rise from $5,000 a year in 2019 to around $12,000 in 2025 and $25,000 by 2029.
An artist’s impression of the 3 new Inmarsat GX7, 8 and 9 satellites (credit: Airbus 2019)
The cost of Covid-19
Understandably, the spread of coronavirus has made crew welfare the dominant ship-to-shore connectivity issue through the first half of 2020. However, as with other industries, the pandemic has found the offshore sector making use of collaborative online platforms for operational as well as social purposes. Exemplary has been the accelerated emergence of the ‘remote survey’ using live streaming, with class bodies referring to previous safety reports to guide crew to locations onboard to make ‘virtual inspections’.
The developments embed IoT-based techniques further in ship operations, building on steps already taken by operators to use solutions such as remote equipment diagnostics, fuel consumption monitoring or route planning based on weather conditions for efficiency gains.
Having launched its hybrid Ka-band/L-band maritime broadband Fleet Xpress in 2016, by 2019 Inmarsat established that average monthly data consumption by offshore vessels had reached 250 GB, compared to 5 GB five years earlier. In the run up to Covid-19, Inmarsat was counting a doubling of data traffic every eight months in the majority of sectors, with the growth in data use in the OSV segment substantially ahead of the curve.
Between 2016 and 2019, Inmarsat established some other significant maritime industries connectivity trends. While more aggressive roll out of Fleet Xpress to the offshore market brought a string of OSV contract wins through 2018-2019, for example, it also confirmed growing demand for 4G and LTE networks close to shore. In late 2019, Inmarsat launched Fleet LTE, initially through an agreement with Tampnet in the North Sea. The service expansion allows OSV clients to access 4G or Fleet Xpress maritime VSAT as required, in a banded service offering data speeds of up to 40 Mbps. Transition between LTE and VSAT is automated.
A 2018 Inmarsat survey of 125 ship owners found 51% of respondents saying that an inability to get data off ships in real-time was their largest stumbling block to IoT adoption. This is to say that they needed ‘digital enablement’: rather than data being for single use or trapped on board, solutions should be able to reap data generated by onboard sensors, upload it to a secure database in the cloud and interface with third party applications. In Inmarsat’s case, the solution has been Fleet Data, launched in 2019 and already deployed with OSV clients.
Inmarsat’s Network Operations Centre at the company’s HQ in London (credit: Inmarsat)
Immediately before Covid-19 took hold, an Inmarsat round table of offshore customers held in London brought home how leading OSV interests now see always-on connectivity as an operational and cost-efficiency necessity.
Shell global marine manager Bo Jardine told the workshop that some aspects of vessel performance were monitored every 15 minutes. To achieve operational optimisation, Shell expected to work with fully digitised fleets equipped for remote monitoring of engines and other systems, and the tracking of deck cargo. With a growing need for data, tracking and monitoring, Shell saw itself as “pushing the boundaries” in technology and communications. “We will take what we can get,” said Mr Jardine.
Ejvind Olldag, Total marine superintendent said the French oil company was also looking for vessel systems data every 10-15 minutes. Where bandwidth was concerned, “We take what we get and if we need more, we can look to 4G,” said Mr Olldag.
Probing the vessel operators present on the motivations for greater bandwidth use, round table moderator Martyn Wingrove, of Riviera Maritime Media, received some straightforward answers.
“We are getting data to support business and using tools to be less labour intensive,” Seacor Marine Holdings president and chief executive John Gellert told round table participants. “We will need to work more intelligently to reduce manning on and offshore.”
Seacor Marine International senior vice president and managing director Anthony Weller gave additional insights. “We prioritise certain data – fuel consumption, condition and performance anomalies – with high priority data sent to our offices over VSAT,” he said. “When engines are not running correctly there is a warning for the technical department, so it can address and avoid catastrophic events.” He added that solutions providers would be best served if higher data volumes for the same revenue. “We need more cost-effective communications.”
Inmarsat’s evolving portfolio of connectivity services for the OSV sector ensure operators stay connected in the harshest conditions, enhancing operational efficiency and crew welfare.
P&O Maritime Logistics head of IT Kris Vedat indicated that the offshore ports and logistics specialist needed bandwidth for crew welfare and operational reasons. “Vessel operators are taking various data streams to optimise routeing between rigs. We are monitoring efficiencies of operations, looking at IoT and building predictive maintenance models,” he said.
“Balancing cost-effective speed is key,” added Mr Vedat, with dynamic solutions with that could scale up and down quickly and offer alternatives in case of VSAT issues the preferred option. “We are looking to deploy 4G/LTE, segregating data and having more of this going over these connections.”
Also participating in the user group workshop was Swire Pacific Offshore. Managing director Peter Langslow focused on the reliability in connectivity and prioritising data to optimise fuel consumption, performance and condition monitoring. “This is about creating efficiency and meeting charterer needs,” he said. “It is not just a data dump. It is about what is reliable and will make a difference. We need to ensure vessels are fit for purpose and using data to make better decisions.”
Bourbon group, which operates one of the largest fleets of OSVs worldwide, is currently investing in Inmarsat Fleet Xpress satellite communications for more than 100 of its vessels, in a migration to Ka-band connectivity continuously backed up by L-band (FleetBroadband) services.
“We have to adapt and use technology to connect our fleet so we can transfer more offshore functions to shore,” Bourbon chief executive Gaël Bodénès told the Inmarsat user group, adding that VSAT will help optimise operations and reduce costs by supporting predictive maintenance, enabling automation onboard operations and improving crew welfare. “The time has come for operational intelligence and connected vessels,” he said.
In fact, Bourbon has a developed smart shipping action plan, which includes vessels themselves but also its own remote monitoring centre to leverage digital tools for fleet operating cost reductions. Some data is expected to be sent in real time, with other data packets sent hourly periods and some once a day.
“We are building big data and implementing this on our vessels,” said Bourbon Marine & Logistics chief executive Victor Chevallier. “There is more automation, more control and a need for data. We need to target more useful data and prioritise its transfer over VSAT and FleetBroadband.”
For Inmarsat, these are welcome ambitions, highlighting how forthcoming plans to extend its network of satellites remain necessary and timely. It is only four years since Fleet Xpress services were launched into the maritime and offshore markets, as a hybrid solution based on Ka-band via Global Xpress and L-band using Fleet Broadband. In a further response to the flexibility and adaptability offshore support vessels demand of their connectivity provider with LTE capability.
In November 2019, Inmarsat launched GX5, the fifth satellite in the Global Xpress (GX) fleet supporting Fleet Xpress. Delivering additional high-speed broadband services to customers in Europe and the Middle East, GX5 is the launch was the first of eight planned by Inmarsat in the period up to the end of 2023 to meet rapidly-expanding demand worldwide, including two Arctic GX payloads. The goal remains to be in position to offer solutions wherever opportunities emerge.
Eric Griffin started his career at Inmarsat in 2012 where he progressed from Director of Solutions Engineering, to an Account Manager before he was promoted to Director of Business Development for the Aid/NGO, alternative energy, oil and gas, media, mining, and utilities sectors. Eric has over 17 years of telecommunications experience with 11 of those years involved in satellite communications. Eric received a B.S. in Engineering Technology from Texas A&M University in 1999 and an MBA from University of Houston, Victoria in 2005.
Efficiently Enabling Better Outcomes Offshore
David Burr, Vice President, Business Development, Comtech EF Data
Figure 1: Offshore Satellite-Based Connectivity (credit: Shutterstock)
Over the last several years we’ve seen the energy industry undergoing significant changes brought on by the adoption of new digital technologies. Known variously as the Digital Oilfield, Field of the Future, Connected Oilfield, these are representative of the broader trend of digital transformation projects sweeping through a wide spectrum of industries. Digital transformation is about more than simply increasing the amount of data that is collected. The key benefits are derived from changing the underlying business approach, processes and culture. How can data help make better decisions? How can data enable more desirable outcomes? How can data help avoid bad outcomes? At the same time, digital tech has increased relevancy in the working environment, it has also become more important to the crew off-watch.
Perhaps one of the most exciting applications for digital technologies in energy is predictive maintenance or condition-based maintenance. Traditionally, equipment maintenance has been done according to well-defined schedules, precisely carried out and documented. But, the majority of failures do not correlate with age, so time is probably not the best indicator that maintenance is needed. Predictive maintenance relies on a combination of Industrial IoT plus analytics and machine learning to identify issues before they become serious.
Figure 2: Monitoring & Trend Analysis
The stakes are high since a rig or platform shutdown can last for days with costs measured in millions of dollars. It is important to recognize the early warning signs and address small issues before they become big ones. This isn’t always easy to do since the root cause is often different from how it presents itself. Many companies have been able to reduce downtime by 50% or more, saving millions of dollars and often providing a positive return on investment by avoiding a single outage.
The key concept is that instead of just monitoring for equipment failure, supporting data is collected and analyzed to identify trends that point to issues. The ancillary data to be collected might include vibration, temperature, flow rate, pressure, tank level, fuel consumption, power consumption and exhaust emissions. Changes in these parameters could be early signs of a problem and indicate that a maintenance intervention is needed. An example timeline is shown below in Table 1.
By collecting the supporting data and using analytics to identify trends, the early warning signs can be identified, and a maintenance crew dispatched well in advance of the actual failure. This approach provides several benefits:
- Reducing costs by avoiding unnecessary maintenance of systems that are operating well
- Reducing downtime by deploying resources before the equipment failure actually happens
- Improving worker safety by providing a wider time window to allow time to avoid bad weather or awkward crew shift changes
In one example, a company was able to provide an annual saving of $20M in reduced outages by monitoring 1716 data points, requiring 1.1 Mbps of satellite capacity. In this case, like the vast majority of cases, the business value far exceeds the cost to implement these solutions.
Figure 3: Crew Welfare Connectivity (Credit: Fotolia)
More sophisticated technologies like predictive maintenance being deployed offshore require more sophisticated employees to operate them. Offshore crew are now expected to have not only their “old school” skills of maintaining and repairing the machinery and systems, but also have the digital skills to work comfortably as the technology advances. These advanced skill levels mean that it is more important and more challenging than ever for companies to attract and retain employees to work offshore.
Crew who are used to working in a digital world are also used to living in a digital world in their personal life when they go off shift. Applications such as social media, YouTube and Facetime are important in keeping offshore workers connected to their friends, family and the outside world. Employee satisfaction surveys regularly show that Internet connectivity is playing an increasingly more important factor in choosing employers and assignments. Employers who hope to attract the best employees for today’s high-tech environment are becoming used to the need to include off-watch Internet connectivity to support personal devices.
In certain national jurisdictions, regulations are even being put in place as governments adopt the idea that the Internet is a fundamental right that should apply to everyone, even offshore. Brazilian Labor Regulators are in the process of implementing a new regulations policy called NR 37 for Oil and Gas companies operating within its territory. This new policy establishes minimum requirements for safety, health and working conditions on board oil platforms. Under one of the provisions of NR 37, it is mandating Wi-Fi service for recreational and interpersonal communication, with reserved access to electronic mail and social medias for all workers.
Faced with this new regulation, Service Providers are working to comply and are looking for cost-effective ways of improving existing services to meet the demand. Along with the rapid digitalization of the energy sector, including increasing use of IoT and Cloud services, crew access to high-quality Internet has become a necessity.
Brazilian Use Case
One of Comtech EF Data’s customers is a key service provider to the energy sector in Brazil and developed a plan for upgrading their network to support the new crew Internet requirements of NR 37. They considered two choices 1) adding more bandwidth to their existing TDMA platform or 2) transitioning to Comtech EF Data’s more efficient SCPC technology.
The service provider conducted side-by-side tests over the air to compare the spectral efficiency – a measure of how much data is carried in a fixed amount of satellite bandwidth – of their existing TDMA platform and Comtech EF Data’s CDM-625A high-performance SCPC modems. Their testing showed that they were able to more than quadruple the link efficiency from 1.75 bits/Hz to 7.7 bits/Hz without having to change out any of the stabilized antennas or amplifiers offshore while at the same time improving the link availability significantly. Over a 1.5 meter stabilized antenna, an impressive throughput of 25/25 Mbps was achieved over Ku-band with a link availability of 99.7% a year even considering the regions notoriously challenging tropical storms.
Figure 4: CDM-625A Advanced Satellite Modem
The key to supporting increasing bandwidth needs – whether from digital transformation projects or better crew welfare – in a cost-effective way is efficiency. For small networks, the advantage of bandwidth sharing and gains from statistical multiplexing is usually negligible, so it is often more effective to use SCPC point-to-point links with DoubleTalk® Carrier-in-Carrier® to maximize spectral efficiency. TDMA platforms are optimized to support sharing and over subscription, which is not a key driver in offshore applications where the number of sites is usually small and bandwidth needs are relatively steady.
In the Brazilian case above, Comtech’s SCPC approach was able to provide 4.4 times the throughput per MHz compared to TDMA. SCPC will provide the more efficient solution for networks where the traffic oversubscription is less than 4.4x. In most offshore applications, the opportunity for oversubscription is quite limited because the bandwidth needs to support applications like the collection of sensor data for predictive maintenance are relatively constant and minimum bandwidth regulations for crew welfare are fairly high.
The SCPC approach using CDM-625A modems also helps minimize up-front CapEx investment by avoiding the complexity of an NMS and chassis designed for large networks.
The CDM-625A is the workhorse of the offshore oil and gas industry precisely because it is so efficient for small networks:
- VersaFEC®-2 – Comtech EF Data’s CDM-625A Advanced Satellite Modem uses a high-performance LDPC forward error correction (FEC) specifically designed to optimize performance at low and mid-tier symbol rates. VersaFEC-2 long-block provides performance generally better than DVB-S2 at significantly lower. All higher order constellations are quasi-circular for optimal peak-to-average performance. Both CCM and ACM operation is supported for long block and short block.
- Doubletalk Carrier-in-Carrier –patented “Adaptive Cancellation” technology, allows transmit and receive carriers of a duplex link to share the same transponder bandwidth. DoubleTalk Carrier-in-Carrier is complementary to all advances in modem technology, including advanced FEC and modulation techniques. As these technologies approach theoretical limits of power and bandwidth efficiencies, DoubleTalk Carrier-in-Carrier utilizing advanced signal processing techniques provides a new dimension in bandwidth efficiency.
Regulations play an important role in the energy sector and have a significant influence on network design. Compliance with government mandated connectivity requirements can be difficult to prove in an oversubscribed TDMA environment where capacity might not always be available depending on traffic demands from other sites. Dedicated SCPC links provide guaranteed bandwidth for these requirements, and sophisticated Quality of Service (QoS) support of the CDM-625A allows service providers to support a mixture of traffic types and still meet Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) on important traffic.
The offshore energy market is characterized by companies operating a small number of platforms with the traffic mandated to land in-country. With new exploration moving further and further offshore, this is continuing and will result in fewer, larger platforms. The use of digital technologies such as preventative maintenance and increasing bandwidth for crew welfare are combining to drive increasing bandwidth consumption. In this environment Comtech EF Data’s high-performance SCPC technology provides a number of advantages for offshore service providers:
Efficiency Reduces OpEx – SCPC links support the highest performance coding and modulation and allow the use of Doubletalk Carrier-in-Carrier technology to maximize the efficient use of space segment, which reduces the OpEx spend on expensive satellite capacity.
Simplicity Minimizes CapEx – Up-front investment is minimized by avoiding the cost and complexity of a hub and NMS for small networks.
SLAs and regulatory compliance – Provisioning dedicated links ensures that capacity is available to meet regulatory requirements. Integrated QoS ensures that high priority traffic is protected, and the requirements of SLAs are complied with.
It is easy to understand why Comtech EF Data’s solutions have earned the trust of energy partners globally for enabling better outcomes offshore.
David Burr is Vice President, Business Development for Comtech EF Data where he develops strategies and applications to address the maritime and satellite operator market verticals. Burr is passionate about the role of efficiency and its application to satellite communications technology and business models. As a 30-year veteran of the satellite communications industry, he previously served in various Product Management, Sales Engineering and Project Management roles at SES, O3b, New Skies, Polarsat, Comstream and GTE. Burr holds a degree in Electrical Engineering from Boston University.
Q&A with Ibnu Rusydi, Winner of 2019 APSCC Young Talent Award
Ibnu Rusydi, PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN)
The APSCC Young Talent Award is the latest initiative of APSCC to ensure a healthy future for the satellite industry and to attract and retain young talent to the satellite and space industries in Asia-Pacific region.
Ibnu Rusydi, PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) was selected as the winner of 2019 APSCC Young Talent Award at APSCC 2019 Satellite Conference & Exhibition, November 19-21, Bangkok, Thailand.
To give the best of the young staff encouragement and public recognition of their contributions, the winner received full scholarship sponsored by the International Space University and APSCC for the 2019 Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program (SH-SSP). The Southern Hemisphere Space Studies Program from 13 January to 14 February 2020 is an intensive, five week, live-in experience in the southern hemisphere summer, involving the international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary educational philosophy for which the International Space University (ISU) is renowned.
Q&A with Ibnu Rusydi takes an opportunity to share his experience with potential award winners and young professionals in the satellite industry.
Photo Session with Astronaut Paolo Nespoli after winning Rube Goldberg Machine Competition at SHSSP 2020
Q1 – Can you tell us about your professional background?
In 2012, I finished my degree majoring Aerospace engineering with the thesis topic of structural and thermal analysis of CubeSat. In my university period, I was one of the selected participants by JAXA to attend Sokendai Asian Winter School 2010 at Sagamihara Campus where I presented small satellite thermal control system topic. This was one of the early interactions of myself with the satellite community. This was also the time when I realized what my passion really was. After graduating, I joined the satellite industry in 2013 as an Orbit Analyst at one of the largest carriers of DTH services in Indonesia. In 2014, I joined PSN as a satellite systems engineer and was fully involved in the Nusantara Satu satellite project. I also involved in two other satellite projects, the Nusantara Dua and the SMF project. Currently I am one of the senior engineers that responsible for Nusantara Satu satellite operation. As an outside activity, I also participate in the activities of the Indonesia Satellite Association, where I am responsible for the organization’s partnership and innovation.
Launch day of rocket workshop with teammates from China and Thailand at SHSSP 2020 (credit: ISU/UniSA)
Q2 – What was the highlight of your careers in the satellite industry?
I was selected as one of the engineers directly involved in the Nusantara Satu project, which oversees the manufacturing phase of a spacecraft focused on buses, structures and propulsion subsystems and ensures that satellite performance meets requirements. At that time, it was my first time working in foreign country with different type of interaction to accomplish the goal. I learned how to communicate clearly and effectively and learned many technical terms that will help me in the future. During this period, I was fascinated by the electric propulsion system because it was the first PSN satellite to use EPS. It leads me to initiate collaboration back in Indonesia with Institut Teknologi Bandung to develop electrical orbit raising analysis. Being able to provide key analysis for launch vehicle selection also makes me one of the key engineers in the program. However, the biggest achievement in my career was when I received the APSCC Young Talent Award 2019 and got the privilege to attend the 2020 South Hemisphere Space Studies Program organized by International Space University and University of South Australia in Adelaide.
Michael Davis, Co-Director, SHSSP, ISU and Ibnu Rushdy at 2019 APSCC Young Talent Award (Credit: APSCC)
Q3 – What is the greatest advantage you feel you gained through your Young Talent Award winning? What does it bring to your professional career?
The industry’s expanded network and recognition by other experts in the industry comes to mind first. It really is one of the biggest gathering in satellite industry in Asia Pacific, so receiving award on that big stage really boost my confidence on pursuing my career in the satellite industry. It is also come with perk of being acknowledged by the engineering peers and higher management back in the company and followed by new responsibilities assigned for me. Attending SHSSP 2020 is also very beneficial to my skill development. But for me, the greatest advantage of benefit for me is that the award itself is functioned as reassurance for me that I can excel in what I am doing and being appreciated by the professionals in the industry. Sometime, along the way of my career, I might think that I am not performing enough on my job by my own standard, even though I am passionate about it, and being appreciated by receiving the award might seal the deal for me to committed to my career in the industry for the rest of my life.
Q4 – What have you learned from your winning prize – the SHSSP?
The most obvious one is the expanded skill after finishing the course. Not only I learned about new knowledge on my core engineering topics, I really grateful that I was being able to learn space related science, law and economy knowledge from high profile persons in space community, including astronaut Paolo Nespoli and NASA chief Scientist James L. Green. The space law and economy are excited for me because even though it is a new knowledge for me, it gives me a lot of insight to understand the complexity on doing the satellite business. This knowledge really gives me the upper hand to excel in my career path and inspire me to contribute more to the space industry in general. More than that, with the participant coming from all over the world with different professional background, it creates international, intercultural, and interdisciplinary environment in every activity done in the program, which in my opinion really well in simulating real condition in the satellite industry. It helps me to learn to communicate effectively and understand other point of view, and in the end helps me to understand the topic in a comprehensive manner. Plus, building your own solid propellant rocket and launch it 200m up to the sky is really satisfying.
Photo of NASA Chief Scientist James L. Green and Ibnu Rusydi at SHSSP 2020
Q5 – What advice would you give young people in the satellite industry or considering careers in it?
Find where your passion leads you to and go for it. Be connected to the satellite community. As “small” as it seems, the satellite industry might provide you with a lot of opportunity to be explored. Be it in the satellite communication application, remote sensing, satellite manufacturing business or even rocket engineering, the satellite industry might be able the answer for your passion. Find a good mentor to speed up your learning curve to understand the complexity in the satellite industry. Plus, the satellite industry is as cool as you think (or even more!). Also, there is no word of “too late” in this industry. In my own experience, I must wait for 15 months from my university graduation until I landed my first job in 2013. In summary, follow your passion and never give up, because the result of your effort and hard work that fueled with passion will never betray yourself.
Ibnu Rusydi currently working at PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara (PSN) as Bus and TTC engineer and is responsible for Nusantara Satu satellite operation. From 2014 to 2020, he was involved in three different satellite programs initiated by the company he works for. He graduated with degree in Aerospace Engineering from Institut Teknologi Bandung in 2012 and started working in the satellite industry in 2013 as Orbit Analyst at PT Media Citra Indostar (Indovision). In 2010, he was one of the selected participants to attend JAXA Sokendai Asian Winter School 2010. In 2019, he won the APSCC Young Talent Award 2019 and received the scholarship to attend Southern Hemisphere Satellite Studies Program 2020.