Inmarsat – driving sustainability through connectivity
CSO hears from Inmarsat’s Director of Energy Innovation Gary Bray on how the global satellite communications giant is supporting energy companies with their sustainability goals.
Enjoying its 40th anniversary year, Inmarsat is the world’s leading global mobile satellite communication services provider. “We deliver reliable satellite, voice and high-speed data communications for governments and enterprises with a range of services that can be used on land, sea and in the air,” confirms Inmarsat’s Director of Energy Innovation Gary Bray.
With decades of experience to draw on, how can Inmarsat’s connectivity solutions help support the sustainability goals of enterprises on a global scale? Bray notes the energy sector is under a great deal of pressure from governments, consumers and activists to reduce non-renewable energy consumption and minimise any negative impact on our environment. This is putting significant pressure on organisations to comply with new regulatory guidelines, which in turn places revenues and profits under severe strain.
“Energy businesses are increasingly seeing Industrial IoT as a core element for improving both their sustainability and their environmental footprint,” says Bray. “Research from Inmarsat Enterprise, which surveyed 125 global energy businesses, revealed that 60% are aiming to use IoT to improve the efficiency of how they use resources, and over half (54%) are hoping to improve their monitoring of environmental changes.”
Bray believes an area where IoT can significantly improve the environmental footprint of the energy sector is pipeline monitoring. “There can be multiple reasons for pipeline leaks but corrosion of materials, construction defects and cracking have been cited as the leading causes of incidents,” he warns. “Connected Industrial IoT sensors can monitor pipelines in real-time by analysing structural integrity, pressure values and flow rates, alerting management if there are any anomalies or issues so they can be resolved much faster. Quicker resolution reduces the impact on profits of leaked oil and gas, as well as the cost of environmental rehabilitation.”
Industrial IoT will be essential for any energy company to truly improve sustainability and CSR whilst also bolstering health and safety of the entire workforce maintains Bray: “Collecting accurate, real-time data from pipelines, environments and workers, which often run through areas of limited mobile coverage, can be a real challenge for energy businesses if they do not have a reliable, global connectivity solution in place. To guarantee they have constant visibility over their infrastructure, energy businesses must ensure that they have integrated satellite connectivity into their IoT communications network.”
Inmarsat’s efforts have seen it honoured as a sustainability champion in the international cooperation category of the prestigious World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Prizes 2018. Under the UK Space Agency International Partnership Programme (IPP), Inmarsat is currently leading three project that use satellite connectivity to benefit communities in developing and emerging economies. In partnership with governments and regional organisations, the projects tackle challenges in healthcare, sustainable fishing, and disaster response.
In Nigeria, land-based telecoms are not only expensive to deploy, there are also difficulties with maintaining power to systems and security issues. Using satellite connectivity, Inmarsat is enabling eHealth data and telemedicine information to be available in clinics in the north and south of the country, where isolated and poor communities have little access to medical care and advice. Working in partnership with NGOs, its BGAN service is enabling the use of training videos and information systems, to improve healthcare management.
Inmarsat is also addressing the digital divide in within the fisheries community of Indonesia to keep workers connected. From a compliance standpoint, governments cannot track the catch and consumers don’t know if the fish they are buying are from a sustainable source and have been caught legally. Working with the Indonesian Ministry of Marine Affairs (KKP) Inmarsat is implementing smart satellite technology to reduce illegal and unsustainable fishing and improve the safety and livelihood of the seven-million strong fishing community.
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Meanwhile in the Philippines, Inmarsat is enabling connectivity to support communities hit by natural disasters, including hurricanes, typhoons and tsunamis. “It’s a core part of our business strategy,” pledges Bray. One of the most intense typhoons on record, Super Typhoon Yolanda, hit the Philippines in November 2013, severely damaging electricity and telco infrastructure, blocking access to critical information.
“Working with a consortium of partners, Inmarsat helped to deliver vital communications for emergency responders on the ground and the wider communities, by using advanced satellite communications technology,” recalls Bray. “This enabled us to provide the Philippine government with a step-change in capability, restoring normal life and business infrastructure as quickly as possible. Inmarsat’s LX service allows anyone on the ground to easily connect to a powerful, reliable global KA band network through any portable or mobile device with true broadband speeds. Even when all local networks have been disrupted or destroyed, this enables instant high bandwidth communication between responders, departments and anyone in need of assistance.”
Looking to the future, automation is a key Industry 4.0 trend across sectors further enabled by Inmarsat’s IoT solutions. “Our customers are demanding visibility over their entire operations, from exploration to extraction through to processing and distribution,” reveals Bray. “IoT-connected sensors can give energy businesses this visibility, providing mission-critical data to enable much more accurate decision-making in real-time.”
Bray highlights the exploration phase, where sensors embedded in the ground can provide drilling companies with detailed seismic data to help them build 3D maps of deposits with much greater speed, accelerating the decision-making cycle and helping energy businesses drill with improved accuracy. In turn, this use of IoT can reduce exploration costs which can be crucial to maintaining a competitive edge and keeping a business sustainable.
“A communications network that can reliably and consistently transmit data from anywhere on the planet is critical to the success of IoT solutions. Energy infrastructure and installations are often in remote regions not covered by terrestrial communication networks, so energy companies need to integrate global satellite connectivity,” advises Bray.
“We are working with some of the world’s largest energy companies to develop deployments of IoT technology that demonstrate the value that connected sensors and data analysis can bring,” concludes Bray. “Our managed IoT service will enable these companies to connect anything to anything, deploying sensors to monitor pipeline pressure or fluid levels in machinery, collecting data and transferring it through software-defined gateways across robust communication networks to cloud platforms for analysis. This approach to IoT gives our customers in the energy sector access to all the data they need to automate and optimise their operations, improve their sustainability and protect their profit margins.”
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere