This paper describes the Critical Drilling Facility (CDF) communications system design. Different field configurations for active and semi-active operations on the north slope of Alaska, in the Anschutz Ranch of Wyoming, and on semi-submersible drilling rigs in the Bering Sea will be discussed.

Historically, oil drilling has operated without any significant communications between the personnel at the rig and the experts and supervisors in regional headquarters. This is still standard practice in the drilling industry today. A drilling system based upon complete communications and team-work has been developed. It exploits the technologies of digital satellite communications, digital video bandwidth compression, drilling data sensor and computer systems, and real-time data transmission. Full-motion video of rig operations and personnel, facsimile, voice, forms entry and access, and drilling data transmissions are available. Also, real-time cementing and well-test data are available at CDF central for resident expert analysis.

The CDF not only supports real-time drilling decisions, but provides reproducible technology transfer for drilling future wells in the same field. Although the CDF was originally designed and implemented for drilling, it has become so successful that exploration geologists and managers are finding themselves right-there at the rig without leaving headquarters.

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