Offshore drilling is reaching for targets further from shore, at greater depths and in more hazardous geological settings such as in proximity to salt. All these factors heighten the risk of poorly managed mishaps evolving into a major emergency. Onshore monitoring centers observe numerous data feeds from the rig, analyzing the information for indicators of potentially dangerous situations. Such centers provide a broad cross-section of expertise to assist in understanding a problem and suggesting remedies. As MWD / LWD took hold in the 1990s, automatic data transfer protocols were used to interrogate servers on the rig and collect data waiting to be transmitted. This would deliver bursts of data 10 to 15 seconds after being acquired on the rig. To offer proper support in emergency situations, data needed to be lag-free. More data channels were needed to get a full picture. A complete re-think of the process to move data from rig to shore was needed. A new standard was developed and published that addressed the specific needs for 2-way data connections for offshore oil & gas, supporting streaming with 1-second lag times, and using one tenth of the bandwidth. This was achieved by defining a compact binary transfer with practically no overhead in the transmission process. A full-scale test was conducted to compare legacy data transmittal processes with the new standard, running both systems in parallel from the same drilling rig to the same onshore facility. The test confirmed the expected 10 to 15 second lag to retrieve data using the legacy approach. The new protocol delivered constant data flows with a lag time as little as 1 to 1.2 seconds after being acquired on the rig. Staff monitoring the data onshore could discuss observations contemporaneously with the rig crew since both were looking at the same data at the same time. In the event of a developing emergency affecting a deep-water drilling operation, the ability to share critical data readings in true real time among a broad constituency of shore-based actors together with the rig crew dramatically improves the ability to reach a fact-based conclusion among all parties in a timely manner. The standard transfer protocol will continue to evolve to better serve the needs of drillers and operators, and their effective management of emergencies.

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