Vodafone and Centrica to build ‘first’ 5G-ready private network for oil and gas sector
Vodafone is to build a private LTE network, upgradeable to 5G, for Centrica Storage Limited (CSL), the gas storage and processing unit of UK gas and electricity supplier Centrica. The new private cellular network, at Centrica’s Easington facility in County Durham, will use Ericsson radio and core networking gear.
It will be the first “5G ready” setup for the oil and gas industry, said Vodafone.
The Newbury-headquartered said the network will use “private and dedicated” spectrum, available to Centrica Storage only, to deliver “ubiquitous secure and localised outdoor and indoor coverage for mission-critical monitoring, control and communications”. Vodafone highlighted advancements in network performance, availability, reliability, and latency.
The setup will help CSL digitalise much of its critical maintenance and engineering operations, it said. The network will “enable the overlay of use cases” to support a digital maintenance ecosystem, so staff on site can connect to a new set of maintenance, operations, and safety applications via their handheld devices.
CSL will get real-time visibility of work at the plant, as well as the condition and status of the various elements of the facility, enabling it to streamline activities, reduce cost, and increase safety. Connected workers will be alerted of potential gas emissions, for example.
The new private network will be provided as a managed service by Vodafone, using Ericsson networking gear. It will not make use of either NB-IoT or LTE-M, as LTE-based low-power sensor options; instead, the network will focus on full-fat LTE, and later 5G, to cover use cases at the site. At the same time, Vodafone said it will supply its own LTE-based (‘Raptor’) gateways and integration as part of the managed service to access other networks, including third-party sensor networks.
Paul Stevens, information system and technology director at CSL, said “The mobile private network will help us address 1970s problems with a 21st century solution, taking our business to the future from the moment it’s live. Safety is critical at CSL and this solution will reduce risk for everyone on our site. By using this technology ahead of our peers, we will establish ourselves as leaders in the future of oil and gas processing.”
Greg McKenna, chief executive officer at CSL, said: “The mobile private network will provide Centrica with a conduit through which we can connect a myriad of internet-enabled devices which now range from handheld personal devices to augmented reality headsets. This will improve safety, verification, asset performance and remote monitoring which ultimately leads to a safer, more reliable and cost efficient plant.”
Vinod Kumar, chief executive officer at Vodafone Business, said: “Mobile private networks will revolutionise the way oil and gas plants are managed by increasing efficiency while also improving workers’ safety. Thanks to this powerful technology CSL can now start building the gas plant of the future and we are really excited to be with them on this journey”.