Oil & Gas Producers Innovate to Tap Hard-to-Reach Resources

Stories of Enhanced Recovery from China, Ecuador and Texas

By Jim Montague

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Fracking Trucks in the Cloud

To continue improving control engineers' access to production data via tablet PCs and smart phones, Ted Hill, director of global business development for Rockwell Automation, reported that it's helping move many process monitoring and other capabilities onto cloud-based computing services. "Everyone expects to have all-access, wireless Internet these days, so we're helping our customers and industries do the same thing," said Hill.

For example, M.G. Bryan Equipment Co. in Grand Prairie, Texas, is leveraging Microsoft's Azure platform with its fracking trucks. The platform provides generic Internet connections for tablet PCs and smart phones, so users can secure production data from the trucks and their drill sites. Azure will serve up Rockwell Automation's own cloud platform and JSON web service extensions for security via a Sierra 3G wireless GX400 radio. For instance, the trucks will be able to alert operators when their air filters need to be changed, which can be as often as every eight hours.

"These $1.1 million trucks work in harsh environments from -30 °F to 120 °F, so it's important to know when each of their four $40 air filters are sucking sand and dirt," says Matthew Bryan, M.G. Bryan's president. "It's a priority for us to be notified ahead of time, and Azure is allowing us to collect this data, other KPIs and fleet management information on our smart phones. All this data is stored in the cloud, and lets us manage our equipment and serve our own customers better."

Beyond monitoring the trucks' operating and maintenance conditions, Josh Rabadeux, M.G. Bryan's controls engineer, added that the company may soon be using Azure to collect and access process control data from its wells too.    

Jungle Heavy-Oil Optimization

Similarly, to improve operations and uptime at two of the seven blocks in central Ecuador from which it extracts about 148,000 barrels per day (BPD) of heavy oil, Petroamazonas in Quito, Ecuador, recently upgraded from Rockwell Automation's RSView32 to its FactoryTalk platform, and also upgraded from PLC5 controllers to its ControlLogix platform. The first block, Eden Yuturi field, produces 53,000 BPD, and the second block, Indillana field, produces about 39,000 BPD.

"The former RSView32 infrastructure was transferred to our IT and automation teams as black boxes, which was a potential risk for operations of both fields," explained Gonzalo Maldonado, IT infrastructure supervisor at Petroamazonas. "Some of the issues we had were that the physical servers were out of warranty; operating systems were no longer supported; and there were missing licenses and/or duplicate serial keys."

Besides upgrading to FactoryTalk and ControlLogix, Maldonado reported that Petroamazonasinas also implemented Rockwell Automation's redundant and reliable HMI system and installed the same solution at both fields. "We implemented an audit tool to keep track of changes at the PLC programming level and applied active directory authentication into the HMI log-in process to increase security levels in the application," he said. "We also made sure our system is compatible with new PAM EP standards for coordinating Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft components. And we've virtualized out servers using VMWare, migrated to a Cisco Metro Ethernet infrastructure and moved from a Microsoft SQL database to a FactoryTalk Historian.

"We now have very reliable applications at both sites, and VMWare means we can add a new server in 10 to 15 minutes, instead of the 30 to 45 days it used to take to order a physical box. In addition, real-time and historical trending connectivity to FactoryTalk Historian improves global performance trending, which is now faster and avoids overload of the HMI application and network delays with SQL configuration. Overall, using Contrologix is easier and has been very successful for us. Also, our data management tools, such as online controller tags and data server distribution, work better with FactoryTalk Studio." 

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