Web SCADA offers new benefits, smarter operations

Cloud-based SCADA offers new data, reporting, analytics, and more cost-effective operations.

By Daniel Johns, Critical Control Energy Services October 6, 2016

With the uncertainty of oil and gas prices, producers are continually reviewing capital costs and operational efficiencies. Software and technology continue to allow producers to assist in these endeavors. Those in the measurement community recognize how technological services and software ensure measured data is collected, reviewed, and validated to confirm that all revenue streams are being tapped to their full potential.

With innovations continuing to expand in the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) world, producers are seeing advances in the availability of real-time data at their fingertips. By being able to monitor and manage processing sites and production, producers are able to reduce and limit operator site visits (thereby minimizing production downtime) and ensure compliance in regards to government regulations. 

Building blocks to using SCADA systems

SCADA was a term that emerged in the 1970s due to the use of microprocessors in programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal units (RTUs). In the 1980s and 1990s, SCADA evolved from the widespread use of hard-wired telephone lines and radios, giving SCADA developers an ability to connect to controllers on assets that were located at great distances or in isolated areas.

PC-based human machine interface (HMI) software allowed for a serial connection to a communications network. As such, the software could be run on multiple platforms such as disk operating system (DOS), OS2, Windows, and Linux. The remote locations of these systems provided an interactive ability to the operator who could produce local reports regarding production.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, local area networks (LAN) allowed SCADA systems to connect to other systems including the ability to connect these remote fields into corporate systems. Subsequently, structured query language (SQL) databases started to become a standard for HMI software. Corporations began having their IT departments support SCADA databases, routers, network switches, and intercompany network connections. 

The benefits of using cloud-based SCADA systems

Cloud-based SCADA systems now allow a level of automation that not only presents real-time data that is available and reportable but also allow operational conditions to be changed directly from the software, provided there is a connection to the cloud. Operators can be notified in real time of current issues and often do not require site attendance to perform shutdowns or to restart operations.

"With the appropriate credentials, anyone can access a Web SCADA system where there is Internet access," said Sandy Munro, product manager for Critical Control Energy Service. "You can access your data from any platform including desktop, laptop, mobile platforms, or cell phones." The alert system built into Web SCADA platforms is a significant value-add to companies that want to measure their volume data.

The time and money saved by remotely accessing sites rather than having personnel going to sites can be in the tens of thousands of dollars per month depending on the area, weather conditions, and number of sites. Web SCADA also allows users to change production settings remotely. These features are not available through traditional SCADA or walk-up SCADA services.

By using Web SCADA, operators have the ability to strategically determine when site visits are required. Through various customized alerts, including text messages, email, and phone calls, users can take appropriate steps to come up with a solution. According to Jay Moravec, director of software solutions at Critical Control Energy Services, users can login to Web SCADA platforms to not only retrieve volume data but also change production settings and perform shutdowns if problems are detected. This ensures that operators can strategically determine when they need to visit sites; saving both time and money. 

Solving problems with Web SCADA systems

Some Web SCADA systems use drivers written in the native protocol of the measurement computer. Where other SCADA providers need to outsource this work to third-party providers, such systems are able to access full device history archives and provide a complete device configuration using the in-house built drivers.

Web SCADA has advantages beyond monitoring and data gathering capabilities. Like traditional SCADA, users are able to increase gas measurement reliability by accessing the meter’s configuration information and audit trails. Tracking a gas meter’s configuration and audit trail is very important to ensure correct gas measurement. Web SCADA systems help manage changes made to the gas meter that could cause measurement problems. This information is also used to resolve measurement problems caused by incorrect meter configuration parameters.

They also run daily checks on the meter’s configuration parameters and will flag incorrect settings in the measurement problems report by displaying an alert and showing incorrect settings on the meter configuration page and area meter configuration reports. But the software takes it a step further.

Though ensuring that operational efficiencies are monitored and maintained is of utmost concern; equally as important is the availability to the volume data captured from the device. Web SCADA providers can also create reports that users can run such as production summary reports. These reports can be run per individual meter for a range of time including daily and monthly. Users also have the ability to create custom reports to trend and compare information from multiple locations. This customization helps users easily and effectively focus attention where needed. The manipulation of this data can greatly support operators in identifying trends that would not previously be available through other means such as walk-up SCADA.

Trending screens also allow users to see live meter production data in a graphical interface. These trend lines can include flow, static pressure, differential pressure, and temperature including time stamps and will continually adjust as the trends show live data. Users can view these instantaneous trends for a single meter or view compiled production data for multiple locations. 

The future of modern SCADA technology

As with all software technologies, Web SCADA will continue to expand and provide even greater access to data and allow for enhanced remote access to site information. "Those who utilize modern SCADA systems recognize the need and value in distributing real-time information at various corporate levels," said Munro. With the addition of Web SCADA, producers have the ability to gather exceptional amounts of data allowing them to make well-informed decisions to generate even greater revenue.

The industry is starting to get a taste for what the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) could mean from a productivity perspective. Being able to collect data and react to it instantly creates a safer, smarter, and more cost-effective way to conduct business.

Daniel Johns is the manager of Channel Partnerships at Critical Control Energy Services.

Original content can be found at Control Engineering.