ConnectedProduction enabling oil & gas transformation

By Dave Perkon

Nov 01, 2018

In the oil-and-gas industry, ConnectedProduction from Rockwell Automation is a digital technology that improves operational efficiencies and validates the case for digital transformation. It connects the multiple, disparate systems common to this industry, then cleanses and makes sense of the data.

"Simply put, digital transformation starts with high-integrity data—data that is secure, available, in context and delivered to all the key stakeholders in an operation at the right time," said Allan Rentcome, director of global solutions technology, Rockwell Automation, at this week’s Rockwell Automation Perspectives media event in Philadelphia. "Rockwell is helping customers and partners do that in the oil-and-gas industry using a suite of technologies called ConnectedProduction. It provides the foundation of success and the ability to gain operational insights."

Oil-and-gas operations must run safely while meeting production goals, which can be moving targets, as can the availability of the workforce and the capacity to meet demands of the production cycle.

"Due to a diminishing workforce, 22% of executives say that a lack of qualified people is impacting operations," said Rentcome. "With huge amounts of data untapped in a typical operation and more and more people who want to access the information, it also opens up many concerns about cybersecurity."

With all these concerns and the competitiveness of the industry, operations must be streamlined. "It's time to think about digital transformation to streamline maintenance and use analytics to focus on areas to minimize downtime and ways to extend profitability of existing assets," said Rentcome.

On-premise or in the cloud

ConnectedProduction is based on Rockwell Automation's Connected Enterprise vision and is a complete suite of on-premise or cloud-based oil-and-gas applications and services that deliver automation and information from the wellhead to the terminal, according to Rentcome. “It's not just gathering data and putting it in context — it’s also about bringing to bear the full capabilities of the Rockwell Automation portfolio to provide closed-loop control and automation of many of the oil-and-gas production processes.”

"In addition to providing a highly secure connection to the data — bringing the silos of information together — it provides a suite of oil-and-gas applications and tools that allow managers and producers to gain operational insights into their operations," said Rentcome. "This includes production and operation workflows, automation of manual processes and role-based visualization, so the right stakeholder sees the right information based on that person’s function. It also connects to advanced analytic platforms, allowing operations to gain valuable insights to the process."

A key concept of ConnectedProduction is the idea of intelligent assets. "Intelligent assets are a way to group together software and hardware components in the field and provide automatic configuration of the asset," said Rentcome. "An example would be a well-pump controller. The ability to automatically connect to an asset, give it context and then automatically generate dashboards, workflows and analytics hugely reduces the number of skill sets needed to configure that asset. The historian, visualization and program are all done automatically by the system."

ConnectedProduction also connects to legacy and third-party systems. "Rockwell understands that the digital transformation in oil-and-gas is a long journey, often starting with pilot plants and limited capital expenditure, so phased implementation is an important aspect of using ConnectedProduction," said Rentcome. "The information can also be handed off to other petrotechnical experts to allow remote monitoring and diagnosis of events during production and real-time recommendations on how to adjust operational parameters."

"The digital-transformation journey is constantly evolving from assessment to actual optimization. It's not a linear process," said Rentcome. "We work with our partners in the oil-and-gas industry to assist with assessments and planning, technology integration as well as early piloting and concepts. Analysis and visualization assistance is also provided to help with understanding. It takes time."

From data to decision-making

While high-integrity data is the foundation of this journey, data on its own means nothing, continued Rentcome. "We combine and unlock the data with competent decision-making to expand what is possible, helping to make our customers more connected, productive, intelligent and competitive," he said.

Rentcome described how a customer, through assessment and analysis, had developed an array of manual processes that involved sending engineers to the field to collect data from well pads, coalescing that data into spreadsheets for analysis related to the level of chemical injection needed to avoid wax buildup, which impacted production. While the analysis was valid, it took time, and the needed resources weren't always available. And when recommendations were made to production, it was often too late to take advantage of the analysis.

"This customer implemented ConnectedProduction to gather data from those assets, automatically handing that data off to advanced analytics which provided analysis of the data and made real-time recommendations regarding chemical injection,” said Rentcome. “Based on the number of wells on a well pad, this customer is realizing half a million dollars a year in savings.”

Another example of ConnectedProduction was at a large producer with a large installed base of mature and disparate systems used for control and safety. There were many silos of information across different systems. They had workforce issues—they didn't have the skill sets to maintain all the systems and limited capital to upgrade the systems.

"This customer turned to Rockwell for services to support a planned migration over time," said Rentcome. "By implementing ConnectedProduction and taking advantage of automation solution services, a standard set of hardware architectures for each of their control systems was created, allowing a phased migration while still connecting the existing infrastructure."

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