Geospatial data is information about a physical object that can be represented by numerical values in a geographic coordinate system of large geographical areas, but it can just as easily be used for mapping and locating inside of more minute structures like buildings or drilling rigs.

“Our industry is trying to operate with as much automation and speed as we can,” says Cata Sola Dirdal, IT director for Songa Offshore, an international drilling contractor with a strong presence in the North Atlantic basin. “The drilling industry is new to digitalization, but health, safety and environment are top priorities and there is zero tolerance for an incident.”

Of paramount concern are the nearly 62,000 maintenance points that can be found at all levels of a drilling rig. These range from pumps and valves to engines, pipes and screws.

“It is highly complicated to monitor a system with these many components and coordinates at so many different levels of the rig, with some submerged and some not,” Dirdal explains. “We measure machine-to-machine communications and person-to-machine communications. These are superimposed on a geospatial grid. What we look for are potential instances or issues that we can address before the issues develop.”

This is where geospatial systems, remote sensor monitoring and locational coordinates come in.

“We have both electrical- and diesel-mounted motors,” Derdal says. “So we count the number of hours that they are working and feed the information into an asset management system that gives us weekly updates.” In this way, rig technicians can know when maintenance of a particular engine or component is needed — and also the precise location of that component in the highly complex architecture of the rig.

“We have a combination of physical and software-based sensors that we connect together in these systems,” Dirdal says. “What the goal is, is to speed this reporting system so we can get status reports every half hour and also so we have lock-in coordinates for any part that needs servicing.”

Songa uses cloud-based storage so it can upload all of the data it is collecting and keep its onboard computing payload relatively small.

“By linking in our business partners and suppliers through the cloud, we can determine a cost associated with a filter or the hydraulics and immediately send word to a supplier as needed,” Dirdal says.

Songa applies geospatial mapping and tracking technology such as a BIM system would within the confines of its rig. It also uses geospatial technology to check the locations of rigs in the water and to ensure that the rigs are located in areas that are approved with work permits.

“We have different layers on our maps that overlay permit authorization zones with water locations and the rig’s location,” Dirdal says.

Regardless of which geospatial application Songa is using to assist with, rig maintenance and in-water operations, at-sea monitoring and communications require satellite support because you are out of range of high-speed Internet.

“Onboard, we have sensors, cameras and other types of devices that give us status reporting location points on the rig,” Dirdal says. “But since we often operate on satellite communications, we also must execute many communications in a low bandwidth environment.”

To assist the process, rigs are outfitted with onboard servers that are used as distributed data collections and processing edge devices. This enables some data to be stored locally without having to be immediately uploaded to the cloud, although there is an IoT hop at the edges of the onboard network that can stream data to the cloud and back.

“Since you can have up to 30,000 sensors on a single rig, performance with bandwidth constraints is always a point of discussion,” says Vardans Saribekjans, senior technician. “Yet even with these constraints, we find that we are still able to stream the data that we need.”

Songa's work with both inside and outwardly positioned geospatial data and sensors reflects the importance of leveraging geospatial and other technologies to a variety of different business use cases so assets are totally optimized.

“This is all about harvesting data and making the use of it as immediate as you can make it,” Dirdal says. “Our responsiveness in operations and our ability to perform preventive maintenance before an issue arises are directly correlated to how effective our projects are going to be.”