SCADA systems are taking on a bigger and more business-critical role as oil and gas producers modernize their operations in the digital oilfield.
The systems are no longer mere operations-monitoring tools that produce large volumes of data in static displays. Instead, modern SCADA systems can collect production data from all operation data sources including IT-level databases, contextualize and present that data to workers in real time as meaningful, actionable information. Users can monitor operations at whatever level is most relevant to them, and dive deeper into production or asset data if needed to investigate specific issues.
Modern SCADA systems can seamlessly integrate with a producer’s existing infrastructure, while also accommodating the growing number of industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices and other new technologies being adopted in oil and gas production.
For example, modern SCADA systems can integrate new data concentrators that can communicate on multiple networks and connect to multiple vendors’ technologies. They also can support edge-computing devices, which collect and analyze data closer to its source. And they can support new protocols like MQTT, which more oil and gas operators are adopting as a means for delivering data across their operations.
Delivering Results Today
Many oil and gas companies already are reaping the benefits of modern SCADA systems. One such company is an operator with large onshore operations that span multiple fields. The company lacked real-time visibility into its operations and was hindered by multiple data silos that could result in missing or poor-quality data. These data-related challenges resulted in staff spending 50 percent of their time manually extracting, manipulating and verifying data to make decisions.
To improve its data integrity and improve efficiencies, the company transitioned to a ConnectedProduction™ architecture from Rockwell Automation. This new architecture includes a systemwide production-intelligence layer, which integrates all data sources into a single ecosystem. It also has a modern SCADA system with dynamic dashboards and reporting.
Workers can use the SCADA system to view high-level production summaries, identify issues and drill down into those issues. The system can also send notifications to workers via their mobile devices as needed, and it supports predictive analytics to potentially get ahead of downtime issues. The system can even auto-discover new assets on the architecture, which could help the company minimize implementation time for a planned expansion that will significantly grow the number of wells in the company’s operations.
Better Analytics to Drive Decisions
A modern SCADA system is just one of many ConnectedProduction technologies that help bring the digital oilfield to life. But it has one of the most important roles to play. The modern SCADA simultaneously supports multiple best-in-class analytics from a variety of vendors, allowing the right analytics solutions to be applied to achieve key business goals. This can range from predictive analytics for improving uptime to model-based analytics for monitoring and optimizing production.
Operators can use these capabilities to monitor information that’s relevant to their role, make quick decisions and improve asset performance to operate at peak efficiency and on target.
At the highest analytics level, users can view their entire operations on a single dashboard. This provides real-time, dynamic KPI’s versus targets, and a prioritized list of required actions to meet business goals. In addition, current performance can be compared to past performance. Operators can drill deep into each site, viewing well-pad performance, and drilling even further into a well or pump’s performance.
Rod-pump control analytics, for example, can use downhole card information to provide insights into the downhole conditions and identify if equipment is running optimally and if intervention is required. Plunger-lift analytics are retrieved from the field and displayed as a timeline of well-performance indication and influence key operator decisions, such as if pressure should be increased. Gas-lift analytics can help operators to know if they’re over injecting gas and identify the proper ratio of oil and gas injection.
A modern SCADA system can deliver all this information live, with constant updates. This can create a far more dynamic decision-making environment than traditional systems, which can deliver stale information and offer minimal opportunities for digging deeper into data. For example, a production or maintenance supervisor could arrive in the morning and pull up a dashboard that indicates the key wells and equipment needed to be serviced that day. This can eliminate the need to compile and aggregate data reports from emails and excel exports, saving hours of work each morning.
Advances in SCADA technologies are helping improve not only what information workers see, but also how and where they see it. Modern SCADA systems allow workers to view information from more sources and on more devices. They also can significantly reduce the amount of time workers spend manipulating data to produce the information they need.
Some companies report having production employees spend up to 50 percent of their time manually managing data. This can include collecting data from multiple sources, like spreadsheets, PDF reports and emails, and then aggregating it in a single place.
A modern SCADA system automates these processes. It seamlessly collects, combines and contextualizes data from multiple sources into text or graphical information on flexible dashboards. This can save significant time – and headaches – compared to manual data-management processes. It also can provide information in a more intuitive and easy-to-understand format.
The dashboards in the system can be easily designed and customized for each individual end user, depending on the type of information and viewing format that is needed. An executive or operations manager could use dashboards that display production-target information for all sites, while an operator could have a dashboard that relays information for one specific site or asset type. Dashboards also can be customized for anyone who has remote access to the SCADA system, such as a centralized expert or support provider.
Modern SCADA systems also take advantage of responsive design. Dashboards will automatically adjust to a worker’s screen size and orientation – such as a computer screen, tablet or smartphone – to provide the visualization that’s right for each user.
Greater Ease of Use
SCADA systems have historically been complex technologies to maintain and modify. Modern systems, however, are scalable and flexible. They can be easily adapted to operators’ needs without intervention from vendors or specialized personnel, and be seamlessly integrated with new or legacy technologies.
For example, oil and gas production sites are constantly changing. Companies often need to modify or replace processing equipment or bring in new technologies. These changes can be time consuming, and they require that producers make corresponding changes in their SCADA systems. Failing to keep up with these changes can erode a producer’s data integrity.
To reduce the time required for these changes and to help protect data integrity, modern SCADA systems can use auto-discovery capabilities. They can automatically recognize new devices and walk users through the configuration process. They also can auto-generate the new devices’ control screens and faceplates, and add them to existing dashboards, reports and KPIs. Should a device go down, the system can use quality attributes to flag potential instances of poor-quality data.
Beyond technology changes, modern SCADA systems also benefit maintenance technicians, for example, who might have a goal of reducing downtime on gas lift compressors. They can simply go into a dashboard, select the gas compressors from a designated field, and start viewing reports on their performance.
The modern systems also allow users to create automated workflows. This could include generating an alarm for the maintenance team or automatically creating a work order in a business system if certain predefined events occur. Users also can make content annotations, like leaving a comment in the system to inform operators about a faulting pressure transmitter and providing detailed instructions if the alarm occurs.
Tap the Potential of the Digital Oilfield
There are certainly concerns that come with adopting modern SCADA systems and other ConnectedProduction technologies – chief among them is security. Only a comprehensive security approach can help protect a company’s intellectual property, productivity, people and other assets.
Still, such concerns shouldn’t be a roadblock. There are established industry best practices for addressing security and other issues. After they are addressed, a modern SCADA system can give companies the visualization and analysis they need to make the most of both new and legacy technologies, and help them unlock the many opportunities for improvement within the digital oilfield.