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Tackling the Challenges of Industrial Wireless for Digital Oil Fields

With modern sensor technologies, centralized wellhead monitoring alerts operators to device failures, so they can take immediate action to bypass, replace or repair faulty equipment before it affects production. There are several ways to collect the monitoring data—but wireless technologies offer the lowest cost and the fastest deployment. System integrators would love to use wireless, but their energy industry customers have serious doubts about it, particularly in the most critical areas of production. The two most common objections you will hear when upgrading an oil or gas field with industrial wireless technologies are: (1) Wireless communication is unreliable, and (2) Wireless communication is insecure.

Tackling the challenges of building reliable wireless communication

This is achieved with wireless redundancy. There are several different types of redundancy that can be used:

1) Frequency-level redundancy with concurrent radio redundancy:

The basic principle of frequency-level redundancy is to use two or more radio frequencies to transmit the same data. So, if one frequency is blocked or jammed by radio interference—such as another WiFi device’s transmission—the data can be sent over the other frequency instead.

2) Network level redundancy with AeroLink Protection

Moxa’s AeroLink Protection creates a reliable wireless bridge between two networks to provide network-level redundancy. The technology guards against numerous issues that could prove fatal for an unprotected wireless network:

1.Communication Failover:
AeroLink Protection devices negotiate with each other to automatically elect an active node for data communication—other nodes serve as backups. Later, if the active node is no longer capable of sending data to its access point, the other nodes will quickly re-negotiate to resume the communication via another path.

2. Frequency-Interference Failover:
This concept works similarly to Frequency-level redundancy, above. If there is interference on the active communication frequency and data can no longer be transmitted. The network swiftly and automatically restores the connection via a backup frequency.

3.Device Failover:
A critical wireless network should never be disabled by a single-point-of-failure. AeroLink Protection continually monitors each device’s status. If the active node is disabled by a local power failure or hardware fault, the backup nodes will automatically take over to keep the data moving.

4. Scalable:
AeroLink Protection is designed to allow almost unlimited backup paths. Therefore users can create a completely redundant wireless network, safe from all the above failures.

5. Fast Recovery:
Maintaining a redundant wireless network is important, but it’s just as important to avoid seriously interrupting communications when a failure occurs. AeroLink Protection is designed to restore the communications within 300ms from any failure.

Tackling the challenges of building secure wireless communication

Oil and gas companies are increasingly aware of the mounting threats posed to their business from online attacks. There are threats to their sensitive business information, and perhaps of even greater concern, to their operating control infrastructure. A “defense-in-depth” approach should be applied to industrial control systems for protection of critical equipment. Security coverage should extend to the entire automation network. Choosing the right industrial network security equipment could be the key to avoiding serious—and costly—issues in future.

Choosing the best cyber-security hardware for oil and gas applications is not easy—consumer-grade devices are very unlikely to be adequate. Here are some considerations for choosing a suitable industrial firewall:

  1. A firewall which offers routed mode and transparent mode provides flexibility which helps to make deployment easier and less disruptive to the existing network.
  2. High-performance filtering and low latency allow seamless network traffic inspection, and avoid disruption.
  3. In particular, the ability to perform deep packet inspection of specialized industrial and automation protocols, such as Modbus/TCP, is important for seamlessly filtering out unwanted or harmful data.
  4. Tough, industrial-grade physical design helps protect devices and keeps them running reliably. This is important in oil and gas applications, as maintenance can be difficult due to hazardous environments or long distances.
  5. A well-designed web interface allows faster setup and easier firewall rule maintenance. This saves staff time and energy, making it easier to create and maintain a secure network, with no security loopholes overlooked.
  6. Denial of Service protection is important to keep the network available. A broadcast storm can easily crash an unprotected network.
    1. For more information, please download our latest white paper, Tackling the Challenges of Industrial Wireless for Smart Oil Fields.

      For more about Moxa wireless solutions for digital oil fields, please visit the micro site.

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