Digital wellhead may just need new protocol

By Mike Bacidore

Mar 07, 2019

The future is built on digital. And the tools are already in place to digitalize your upstream operations, even with conventional wellheads. All you might need is the right connectivity. The information value chain starts with measurement and sensor data that is sent to controllers and on to a SCADA system for diagnostics and analysis. Wireless connectivity can then enable analytics in ABB Ability and the move toward autonomous operations.

“The intention of ABB Ability is to create a digital platform to help you be autonomous,” explained Giulia Seikel, ABB product manager, field-mounted flow computers and RTUs, who spoke at ABB Customer World this week in Houston. “We are ready to do more digitalization of the wellhead. We just have to ensure that we have connectivity and the right protocol. It’s not a huge investment. Everything is already out there.”

At today’s typical wellhead, you already have instrumentation and a center point of control as well as connectivity with SCADA and enterprise systems, explained Seikel, “but limitations do exist.” The analytics available depend on what data is being collected, and polling protocols mean new data requests and simulations are not necessarily supported. “It’s not bad,” said Seikel. “It’s just that a further level of control is needed.”

Cloud connectivity and computing promise to fill in these gaps, Seikel said. ABB’s Measurement & Analysis division, for example, is moving to event-driven protocols, noted Seikel. “And because data access is via a true API, or application programming interface, every time there are changes, you will see the information in real time.”

The MQTT protocol in particular is appropriate for the digital oilfield because of its client/broker configuration using a publish/subscribe pattern and adjustable topics. “On a well pad, you need to know what’s happening when it happens,” explained Seikel. “This is why we are implementing MQTT in our RTUs. You only transfer data when there are changes, but you don’t have to wait for the next polling cycle.” In this configuration, many systems can subscribe to the same topic, but not all systems will need the same data.”

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