PLCs Taking Some Excellent Adventures

Engineers Are Deploying More Capable Programmable Logic Controllers in Some New and Unusual Applications. Here's How They're Doing It

By Jim Montague

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"These $1.1 million trucks work in harsh environments from -30 °F to 120 °F, and 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 allows us to collect this data, other KPIs and fleet management information on smart phones. All this data is stored in the cloud and lets us manage our equipment and serve our own customers better." 

"Rocket Engine" Extraction

Finally, Mei Lixin, CEO of Jiangsu Great River Petroleum Technology in Jiangyin, China, reports his eight-year-old company has developed a new method—Composite Heat Carrier Generator (CHCG)—to increase oil and gas yields from fracking wells, and has designed an explosion-proof version for offshore platforms. The firm increases production for China's largest oil and gas companies, including CNPC, CNOOC and SinoPec.

"There are three traditional ways of enhanced oil recovery—thermal recovery, gas injection and chemical injection. We think there's a fourth way by combining the original three," says Lixin. "It's based on combining fuel, air and water in a sealing room, and then injecting them at extremely high temperature and pressure—almost like a rocket engine—into the target reservoirs, which are mostly in light, heavy and low-permeability oilfields."
Lixin adds that Jiangsu Great River's CHCG equipment uses pressures of about 30 mega-Pascals (mPa) and temperatures ranging from 120 °C to 350 °C. The flowrate of its composite heat carrier (CHC)—mainly CO2, nitrogen, steam and chemicals—is about 1200 normal cubic meters (Nm3) to 3600 Nm3 into wells that are 300 to 3000 meters deep. "The three main ingredients in our CHC greatly thins the crude in the reservoirs, makes it easier to extract and has zero carbon emissions," explains Lixin. "And, our process has less than 2% residual oxygen, which makes it safer."  

To reliably control and maintain its innovative CHCG system, Lixin added that Jiangsu Great River chose to employ a variety of Rockwell Automation's ControlLogix PLCs, software and other components, and even implemented them in an explosion-proof cabinet for use on offshore oil rigs. "CHCG requires a highly reliable control system, good maintenance, remote access and global support, and so Rockwell Automation was able to provide us with a turnkey system that solved our previous issues, and gives us mean time between failure (MTBF) of more 200,000 hours," says Lixin.

So far, Lixin reports that CHCG is allowing the oil companies that Jiangsu Great River serves to extract more oil and gas. "In heavy oilfields, compared to regular steam injection, the oil recovery ratio has increased 10% to 15% after CHC injection," says Lixin. "As a result, the production rate of oil from each well is 6.6 times that of original production rates. Also, the Nanbao heavy oilfield was the first application of CHCG offshore, and it met the explosion-proof requirements, ran stably and increased daily production rates from 10 Nm3 to 66 Nm3." 

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