Distributed Control: SCADA applications in oil and gas

SCADA applications in oil and gas

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) technology has been under constant development for the past 30 years. When used in conjunction with programmable logic controllers (PLCs), it enables distributed industrial control.

In the city gas distribution (CGD) segment, SCADA monitors and controls the flow of natural gas through a pipeline by supplying gas flow data to centralised gas control stations. The gas stations assimilate and manage the data provided by SCADA and compressor stations. This mainly comprises the pipeline’s flow rate, operational status, pressure and temperature readings, and is used to assess the status of the entire pipeline network at any point of time. The application of SCADA in CGD networks has become inevitable as it plays a significant role in detecting leakages and preventing environmental hazards. SCADA also enables CGD companies to modernise gas transmission and distribution scheduling.

Features of SCADA

One of the most important operational technologies for CGD networks is SCADA. The system can be customised to have both simple and complex configurations. In a basic SCADA system, sensor information or manual inputs are sent to PLCs or remote terminal units, which then transmit the information to computers. The SCADA system analyses and displays the data on a central computer. The data is used by the CGD operator to improve its operational efficiency. The design of SCADA software should be such that it is able to handle any kind of communication in CGD networks. To protect the SCADA network, cybersecurity components such as security settings, IP whitelisting for database connections, a password policy, security logs and digitally signed applications should be incorporated. Another important feature of SCADA is its ability to synchronise with Google Maps. Various gas stations, along with all the adjacent geographies, are marked with different colours to provide a detailed picture of the geographical area.

A SCADA system can be deployed at compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, city gas stations and industrial units. It can be used for the online reconciliation of billed and actual consumption, monitoring losses at CNG stations, centralised monitoring of trends in load and performance parameters, monitoring of upstream pressure for each CNG compressor and gas flow parameters, and identification of pressure loss across the grid, among others.

Some of the technologies that SCADA supports are MS Windows Server 2016, MS Windows 10 LTSB, MS Visual Studio 2015, MS SQL-Server 2014 (64 bit only) and MS Office 2016 (32 bit and 64 bit). Among the various web services offered by SCADA, the O-Data protocol version 4.0 is likely to gain importance in the years to come as it allows the creation and consumption of queryable web services in a simple and standardised way. The benefits offered by O-Data are authentication, real-time accessing, maintenance of historical data, etc. With the real-time monitoring of gas consumption, the SCADA system enables reduction in data errors, automation of processes, etc.

Wireless SCADA systems

Wireless SCADA systems speed up the control and transfer of both live and historical data to the organisation’s headquarters. They also result in cost savings for companies. There are no hefty installation and permit costs. At the same time, wireless systems do not have to face repair bills, machine failure and downtime when environmental conditions degrade the facilities. Wireless SCADA systems aim to improve the reliability of the control architecture while reducing operational costs. Continuous research in SCADA systems will pave the way for better hardware and software, helping organisations further improve their operations.

In sum

Automation and service companies and small suppliers are betting that SCADA will be a powerful platform for streamlined operations across the oil and gas supply chain. Better control and coordination of complex site operations means lower costs to produce oil and gas. SCADA’s ability to collect data at remote oil and gas sites reduces personnel visits and leads to route and dispatch optimisation. The profile of SCADA in oil and gas is changing. SCADA is a platform technology that is used not only to control and supervise many types of industrial processes but also to optimise complex coordination of operations among multiple business partners.