Business Continuity, Connectivity

Ensuring Pipeline Safety with Satellite-Connected SCADA

May 2022
Sagenet Blog Scada And Satellite

In the pre-dawn hours of March 4, 1965, a natural gas pipeline exploded in a residential area north of Natchitoches, La., killing 17 people, including nine children. Investigators later determined that undetected cracks in the underground pipeline likely caused the blast.

The disaster led Congress to pass the 1968 Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, the nation’s first federal pipeline safety law. It also provided the impetus for widespread adoption of Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems in the 1970s.

SCADA systems leverage networked communications technologies to help oil and gas firms monitor pipelines and other infrastructure across broad geographic areas to detect leaks, pressure changes or other performance issues. SCADA sensors collect data on a variety of metrics and link that data with back-office applications for rapid analysis. Based on that analysis, the system can trigger specific actions and alerts — a significant improvement over old monitoring processes that required someone to travel to remote sites for infrequent manual inspections.

Connectivity is Key

Of course, such a system depends on the quick and efficient transmission of data from remote locations to control centers. Satellite technology is often the most efficient communication choice.

Cellular may be a popular choice for SCADA connectivity, but it presents operators with some significant challenges. Cellular transmissions are relayed through a network of fixed-location cell towers and the quality of the signal is often determined by proximity to a tower. Pipelines often traverse harsh environments where there are no nearby towers. Even if a tower is nearby, geographic features such as trees and mountains can cause signal interference. In addition, extreme weather events, cable cuts and power outages can put towers out of commission.

Satellite communications resolve those issues. Sensors send radio signals to a satellite, which then relays the signal to a land-based control center. This approach bypasses all the physical barriers to cellular signals and offers far more reliable service for remote oil and gas sites.

The two most common satellite connectivity options are VSAT (very small aperture terminal) and BGAN (broadband global area network). Either can be effective, depending on your performance requirements and the amount of data being transmitted. Generally speaking, VSAT solutions are faster and move more data, but BGAN solutions are more portable and easier to set up.

Satellite Options

SageNet has deployment expertise with both VSAT and BGAN, as well as a hybrid solution. All can be deployed rapidly to provide SCADA connectivity.

Our VSAT service with fixed antennas provides peak upload speeds of 5Mbps and download speeds of up to 25Mbps for organizations that need to move lots of data to a large number of users. We also have a more mobile VSAT solution with “quick deploy” antennas that can be mounted on a vehicle or shipped in travel cases for assembly onsite.

Although our BGAN service has slower data rates, it has the advantage of being portable and easy to set up. It is designed for nontechnical users, and the setup and connection to the satellite terminal can be completed in a few minutes.

Our hybrid solution offers some of the best features of VSAT and BGAN, and can even incorporate cellular connectivity. These technologies are often manufactured in their own outdoor form factors. We can integrate all three technologies in a weatherproofed housing, along with a remotely managed router.

Using SCADA systems to monitor pipelines in remote locations ensures that oil and gas companies can get timely information about the status of their critical infrastructure. Instead of relying upon periodic manual inspections, companies can receive near-immediate alerts if something needs attention. Contact us to learn how satellite connectivity offered through our SageCONNECT service portfolio can help you boost the safety and efficiency of your operations.

John Brader

John Brader

Vice President and General Manager of Satellite Services

Satellite takes your network reliability from three 9’s (99.97% to four 9s (99.99%). The added availability can be quantified down to the minute and translates to some serious savings and revenue for your organization. Newer satellite technologies are also coming with faster speeds and lower latencies. It’s a game changer for an industry that had once been relegated to history books. Now, satellite can compete on speed as well as cost.

Get to know John

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