West Africa oil and gas operations
require more reliable communications
Over the past fve years, nearly 50 new deep offshore plays have been discovered off the coast of West Africa, cementing the region’s reputation as a vast resource of untapped potential. 1 In fact, about one-third of new discoveries worldwide since 2001 have occurred in West Africa, most of these offshore. 2
This boom in activity has drawn dozens of E&P operators, including
supermajors and large independents, and has created thousands of
new jobs and a growing need for service providers and infrastructure.
As offshore activity in West Africa continues to increase, so does the
demand for reliable communications, and a critical element of operational performance is an unfailing real-time connection. Companies in
the region, both on maritime and fxed assets, require communications
providers who can install, maintain, and repair services quickly.
Oil and gas service providers that offer expertise in offshore (typically
remote) services depend on specialized satellite-based communications
providers to ensure optimal reliability, with no lags or breakdowns. If a
communications disconnect does occur, they immediately turn to satellite-based providers to fx the problem as rapidly as possible.
An international oil and gas service provider of more than 40 maritime support vessels, with operations offshore West Africa, leveraged
Emerging Markets Communication (EMC), a satellite network provider to deliver communication services.
Threat of remote breakdown
Traditional communications networks in West Africa –
both conventional and remote – have proven troublesome
and more prone than usual to interruptions and breakdowns, due mainly to vulnerable hardware, unstable infrastructure, and insuffcient backup capabilities. 3 For these
reasons, satellite-based communication is sought-after as
a viable alternative and is considered essential in maritime operations in remote locations.
The service provider deploys and maintains dozens of vessels along the West Africa coast, with a
concentration in Nigeria, and provides offshore
support for various deepwater platforms. The company found itself in a constant struggle to maintain
consistent network services, not uncommon for
companies in the region.
Furthermore, it sustained repeated hardware damage to its communications equipment due to harsh weather and wear and
tear, seriously compromising uptime and
connectivity between operations centers
Because real-time operations are criti-
cal, when service goes down, it must be
repaired quickly and effectively. This is
a standard request, and applies to every
communications network in play across the
globe. Often however, companies
in emerging markets deploy an
ad hoc approach, using heuris-
tic techniques and hardware/
software patches to resolve
issues and maintain business
In some regions this is standard
protocol, as no alternative exists.
While this provides short-term relief,
it does not address long-term requirements and sustainability. The service
company recognized that a permanent
network backbone – built to sustain service
and deliver optimal uptime – was crucial,
from both a business and operational standpoint.
West Africa presents a range of emerging market issues, not least of which is network reliability and business continuity in the face of environmental and geopolitical challenges. Remote communications, an essential commodity
in most cases, presents a continuous challenge in many areas of
the continent, extending to offshore engagement for most, if not all,
Emerging Markets Communications Steps necessary for communication success offshore West Africa
The inclusive rapid-response approach – an approach that
addresses both immediate fixes and longer-term solutions – is
becoming the industry standard, despite the obstacles inherent in emerging markets in particular. The following protocols
and deployments represent current “best practice” implementation for communications network providers in West Africa:
• Localized support in African countries
• Established field support locations with rapid response
capabilities ( 12-48 hours)
• Direct engineering expertise
• State-of-the-art hardware and equipment
• Establish and maintain communications (VSAT) licensing
in all required countries/regions
• Maintain licensed, direct-buy environments for hardware
• Maintain expert knowledge of customs and regulations in
all operating countries
• Deliver both VSAT and terrestrial service and support
• Maintain proprietary Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS)
• Provide reliable teleports between fixed satellite relays and
• Maintain reliable satellite-based network roaming for
Emerging Markets Communications’ local presence in Nigeria provides support for network sustainability for offshore assets in West Africa.