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Oil & Gas Forum: Users Organize Big Data, Optimize Operations

Nov. 19, 2014
Energy Companies Apply Rockwell Automation Solutions to Enable More Profitable
About Jim Montague
Jim Montague is the Executive Editor at Control, Control Design and Industrial Networking magazines. Jim has spent the last 13 years as an editor and brings a wealth of automation and controls knowledge to the position. For the past eight years, Jim worked at Reed Business Information as News Editor for Control Engineering magazine. Jim has a BA in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and lives in Skokie, Illinois.

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If you want to capture the output from a bunch of fire hoses, you're going to need a really big bucket. And if all that water is actually operational data from multiple oil and gas wells, offshore platforms and other process applications, you'll need an automatic, super-fast way to organize all that information and retrieve salient details for better, more profitable decision-making. Doing these data gathering and analysis jobs by hand is not an option.

"We must comply with local regulations and requirements and protect the environment with spill prevention and control technologies," said C. Kisha Herbert, staff electrical engineer at QEP Resources, a leading, independent crude oil and natural gas exploration and production firm based in Denver. "Reliable and accurate process controls and fast communications also are necessary to fix upsets as they happen and to optimize production," Herbert said. "However, where we traditionally used remote terminal units (RTUs) to manage our wells and drilling pads, our construction schedules are so aggressive now, and we're bringing so many wells, controls and I/O into our central control pads that it's no longer efficient to use RTUs only."

QEP has 1,000 employees working in eight states, and operates mostly in the Williston Basin in North Dakota, the Permian Basin in West Texas and in the Pinedale Anticlime, Uintah Basin and Haynesville regions. Herbert reported that QEP has built 32 drilling and production facilities since July 2012, each with between 160 and 220 I/O points. Each employs a variety of automated valves, manifolds and skid equipment. To help automatically and quickly manage all the new data coming in from its new wells, pads, sensors, controls and other components, QEP recently adopted ControlLogix PLCs
from Rockwell Automation.

"Reliable and accurate process controls and fast communications also are necessary to fix upsets as they happen and to optimize production." Kisha Herbert of QEP Resources discussed the benefits of replacing traditional RTUs with ControlLogix PLCs at its distributed well pads.

"On a typical QEP pad and production facility, well locations are protected through constant monitoring of protective shutdown devices; alarm and event logs are used to review and track specific information and recent events. Standardized ControlLogix PLCs and RSLogix software are helping us meet our aggressive schedules and maintain safe, standard process controls," explained Herbert. "Understanding local regulations and requirements upfront and having good controls is a big help, but ControlLogix enables the remote I/O points at our remote pads to provide useful information to our central control pad. This is easier than using the RTUs because they required a lot of linear programming to run their loops, routines and subroutines."

Herbert was the first of several presenters at the Oil and Gas Industry Forum held today at Automation Fair, in the Anaheim Convention Center in California. The forum was moderated by Luis Gamboa, global oil and gas market development manager at Rockwell Automation, who reported, "The oil and gas industry is facing some very challenging times in the next decade. We're seeing increasing capital and operational costs; faster responses needed to rapidly changing market conditions; incorporation of new technologies such as cloud, fog and edge computing to improve business results; loss of workforce expertise due to retirements; increasing need for cyber and physical security; and added regulatory pressures. More real-time data flows and the Internet of Things (IoT) are bringing operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) together, and The Connected Enterprise from Rockwell Automation is enabling it in the oil and gas industry to help users achieve the availability, production performance, cost savings, safety and other operational excellence they depend on."

The second end-user presenter, Nestor Cautiño Ramirez, account manager at ICG Group Automation, reported that his system integration firm in Coatzacoalcos, Mexico, has been integrating and optimizing the Dos Bocas TMDB marine oil storage, transportation and distribution terminal for Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). The terminal receives heavy Mayan oil from rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, dehydrates and desalts it, and then transports it for further refining.

"Oil from offshore facilities has a lot of water and salt in it, which can hurt production quality and wear out and damage process production assets," said Ramirez. "So we use a four-stage process to dehydrate and desalt the oil. Our project's main goal is to ensure continuous oil transportation throughout these processes, but our existing control system had some issues. These included complicated failure diagnostics, redundancy backup that no longer worked, control system design and programming that wasn't user-friendly enough for maintenance, and obsolete hardware and software."

The Dos Bocas terminal decided to undertake a phased migration to PlantPAx based on Allen-Bradley ControlLogix 5570 series programmable automation controllers and 1756-SRM2 modules for enhanced redundancy. It also added EtherNet/IP, FOUNDATION fieldbus and Modbus networking, and installed redundant power supplies and redundant HMI servers. ICG also used FactoryTalk Studio software to develop and deploy 3D HMI graphics at the terminal to improve its operators' user experience and efficiency.

"These improvements really enabled us to achieve our goals for this upgrade project, which included reduced downtime risk and improvements in overall availability and reliability, extended lifecycle, compliance with applicable regulation and reduced learning curve for operators and maintainers," said Ramirez. "Not only did we improve the availability and reliability of the terminal's servers, controllers and power supplies, but we also reduced its system recovery time from a full day to just a couple of hours."

About the Author

Jim Montague | Executive Editor

Jim Montague is executive editor of Control. 

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