Gullfaks A, Photo Øyvind Hagen - Statoil ASA. Statoil started process monitoring at the Gullfaks field with WirelessHART in 2007; later the Company has also tested the ISA100.
Gullfaks A, Photo Øyvind Hagen - Statoil ASA. Statoil started process monitoring at the Gullfaks field with WirelessHART in 2007; later the Company has also tested the ISA100.

Lack of beds drives wireless systems

– When performing cabling operations, many men are needed offshore on the platforms over several days. Bed capacity becomes a challenge.

Written by Andreas Høy Knudsen

This is stated by Ole Henrik Olsbu, Graduate Engineer and Project Manager in Origo Solutions. The discussion over number of beds on a platform can be the final droplets to make management elect to go wireless, when older platforms need new systems.

He believes there is a clear trend towards wireless systems, but it will still take some time before they fully take over. Certain conservatism is evident. He thinks this to a certain degree is a secure and correct way.
But can the living quarter capacity be a driving factor?

Not by itself, but it does matter, according to Olsbu. Weight saving is also a driver for wireless solutions.

Money can be saved, and the savings are mainly in the procurement and installation phase. There is not much of a saving in the production phase. But space limitations on oil installations represent a challenge when many men go offshore to lay cables.

Ole Henrik Olsbu
Ole Henrik Olsbu from Origo Solutions expects increased use of wireless systems, but he believes it calls for a large actor to give the go-ahead.

Wireless systems

Olsbu sees three steps on the road towards wireless systems.

The first phase is to use wireless for improved monitoring of existing cabled systems and condensed gas detection. Such use is amply accepted today, and is mainly used during extension of existing cabling.
Olsbu believes phase two is initiated when wireless is selected for larger upgrading. In his opinion we still haven´t entered phase two. The third and final phase is when completely wireless systems are selected.

I believe it will take some time to reach this stage. There is a stronger drive for wireless monitoring/surveillance systems, which are not too critical. For process control and safety systems, there is more reluctance.
Olsbu explains that tests indicate that the wireless gas detector from GasSecure gives equal or better measurement readings than conventional detectors. He refers to tests performed with wireless detectors at Gullfaks, where savings are assessed to be 60-80 % in comparison with cabled systems. The savings are predominantly due to installation costs.

There is some healthy scepticism but also some unhealthy scepticism. My impression is that most people are waiting for a large player. When for instance Statoil has tried and approved it, the systems become good enough for everybody.

Olsbu refers to interference, like radio noise and jamming, as some of the larger concerns. Boats nearby can also use corresponding frequencies and equipment, and thereby cause problems. Another market concern is that wireless signals don´t reach their destination. Hacking is another concern.


The protection against hacking and what we consider normal disturbances today is well taken care of, as we see it, and the systems are robust. However, we recognize that wireless technology represents new challenges. Uncritical and aimless implementation of different wireless solutions will create problems. It is therefore important that new wireless solutions are implemented for solutions already in operation, and that also the wireless systems are actively monitored during the operational phase.

Olsbu is confident that wireless is in the coming. To mitigate new challenges, Origo has defined wireless technology as one of the most important focus areas for the Company. This shows both through own concept development for wireless instrumentation, as well as through employment of personnel with relevant experience and competence.

A number of platforms have been in operation long enough to approach the time limit for exchange of detection equipment, like gas detectors.

It is difficult to replace a cabled system when a platform is in operation. A wireless system can however be installed in parallel, while the old system still operates. When everything is ready, the change-over is easy to do. Herein lay extensive savings for the petroleum industry. Wireless systems also allow a much simpler and less costly development of temporary detection during construction / modification of platforms.

WirelessHART and ISA100

  • WirelessHART wireless standard builds on the wired standard HART. The work was initiated in early 2004, and well known companies like ABB, Emerson, Endress+Hauser, Pepperl+Fuchs and Siemens participated in the initiative, writes Wikipedia. The work was completed in 2007.
  • ISA100 is a standard developed by International Society of Automation (ISA). A committee to develop ISA100 was established in 2005, with more than 400 members from over 250 companies around the world. The result was ISA100 Wireless which is an open 1Pv6 wireless network protocol. The organization behind it claims it is the only industrial network protocol compatible with Internet of Things.

Testing equipment – wireless

Origo Solutions has performed a test for a large customer. Here the two wireless protocols, Wireless HART and ISA 100, have been applied against a range of instruments. The final report is not available, and the customer does not want to publish the results before the report has been reviewed internally.

Our job is not to compare these two protocols, but to review how different equipment can be integrated. Technically speaking, both standards cover the same, but represent two different schools.
Olsbu states that most suppliers promise that their equipment can be integrated with different systems. According to him, it is however not always that easy. Origo Solutions is independent of the system supplier, and can thus bring onboard equipment from several suppliers, and test out the integration and functionality of these.

We have borrowed and rented equipment and hooked it up against both WirelessHART and ISA 100. Today there is a lot more users of WirelessHART. ISA 100 has become stable in the market only over the last two to three years.
The results of the tests performed by Origo Solutions are still confidential. The client hopes to be able to exploit wireless networks to improve the maintenance.