Prefabricated Data Center Enables Oil Company to Tackle Time, Budget Constraints and Regulatory Issues

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Customers use prefabricated data center modules for a number of reasons, including time to market, predicable cost and performance, and to help them meet stringent environmental conditions. And sometimes, customers use prefab modules for all of those reasons.

Such was the case with a recent project that Schneider Electric won with a client in the oil and gas industry.

The client is a global oil company and the project was for a large oil field in central California. The field is one of the oldest producing oil fields the company has and is responsible for several billion dollars of profit every year. Thanks to continually evolving oil extraction technologies, it has been producing oil for far longer than it was expected to.

As a result, the field has also outgrown the data center that supports all the equipment and systems used for oil production. The company needed additional data center capacity quickly, in less than a year, and the data center had to meet the stringent regulatory requirements with respect to safety and environmental issues under which all oil companies live. The company also had to live within yearly budget caps that made the project even more challenging. And it had to ensure the data center had room for growth, as the company expects to double its capacity in two years. Oh, and the data center has to be able to withstand the rather harsh environment, with average temperatures of 90 degrees F or higher for four months of the year and the threat of earthquakes.

A modular data center fit the bill on all fronts. The company signed on for a two-phase modular data center deployment. The first phase includes five modules in all, two for IT equipment, two for power and a vestibule that connects the four modules while protecting them from outside air. It will initially have a total capacity of 500kW, but will double in size after the second phase.

Cooling units are attached to the racks, making for an efficient system that will easily be able to withstand the harsh, sometimes hot conditions. And all power and cooling is configured in a 2n architecture, making for a Tier-IV compliant data center in that respect.

From a regulatory standpoint, a modular data center dramatically simplifies and shortens the permitting process much of the construction of a data center module happens off-site in the factory, keeping on-site construction to a minimum.With a traditional data center, permitting alone would take about 2 years.

Similarly, the modular design also makes it easier for the company to comply with stringent safety requirements. Building anything in an oil field is an arduous process because meeting safety requirements adds time and can easily drive costs to twice what they would be elsewhere. (One small example: in the office building on the site, the company has a guard who stands at the bottom of each staircase and reminds people to hold the handrail.)

The ability to expand as needed helped the oil company preserve capital and meet requirements from its CFO on what they could spend in 2014 and each of the next two years. For example, they could order and pay for some components this year, take delivery next year and order additional components, then finish the expanded data center in 2016. That spreads the cost over 3 years while delivering the initial capacity it needs in time to meet its July 2015 deadline. None of that would be possible with a stick-built data center.

The modular data center will also be prepared to withstand earthquakes, always a concern in California. Schneider Electric will place the modules on a specially designed, autonomous seismic pad. The pad is about 100 feet square and sits on top of pylons that allow it to move in the event of an earthquake. In effect, then, the entire data center will be protected in the event of an earthquake.

This is just one of the latest examples of the kind of projects that Schneider Electric is winning on the strength of our expertise in prefabricated data center modules. Perhaps it’s time for you to see what the technology can do for you.

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