Thanks to amazing advances in technology and data collection, the quality of SCADA systems is increasingly more important to the oil and gas industry.
SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) hits on two major points for pipeline operators, midstream companies, energy companies, utilities, and E&P companies:
- Supervisory Control: are your connected devices effectively communicating? That is, can you gather data and display information to support personnel in both making real-time decisions and in anticipating future operating state?
- Data Acquisition: does your system effectively acquire data, contextualize the data, and deliver actionable information to personnel to make real-time decisions?
Notice the need for an effective combination of technology and human decision-making in both SCADA elements. They go hand-in-hand, as technology is not helpful if it does not support personnel in their role, and personnel need technology to streamline and improve performance on critical tasks.
This points to why SCADA training is critical for personnel to understand the structure, functionality, and key elements of SCADA systems to support operations.
The Key Elements of SCADA That Impact Operations
SCADA systems have advanced along with the advancements in technology, field devices, and data collection capabilities. However, the following key elements remain constant for the foundation of a reliable SCADA system. Understanding these elements helps oil and gas professionals set up, manage, or interact with the SCADA system to perform critical tasks.
1. Field Devices. SCADA systems use field devices including electronic flow meters (EFM), remote terminal units (RTUs), programmable logic controllers (PLCs), and other intelligent end devices.
2. Communication. SCADA uses various communication methods that depend on field location, available bandwidth, and operational use. Methods include radio, satellite, leased access, mobile connectivity (especially with 5G advancement), and more.
3. Data Acquisition. Strategies to acquire data are based on protocols and polling models. There are built-in error checks, reports by exception, and timed polling methods.
Specific to electronic flow meters, SCADA systems support EFM Data Collection. Effective troubleshooting requires an understanding of the telecommunications infrastructure and software tools used. Proper understanding and tools can reduce field technician drive time. An effective SCADA system provides real-time data about the source of the problem and supports addressing the issue remotely.
4. Host Systems. From an IT perspective, there are many different operational choices for host system architectures and host system features. Architecture types include a central master, distributed, hierarchical, or a hybrid. Features include polling modules, real-time data engines, and historical data engines.
5. Networking. The network of connected devices is affected by SCADA LANs, the integration of SCADA LANs with enterprise LANs, network protocols, wide area networks, redundancy issues, and firewalls.
6. Control Room Management. From a control room perspective, the SCADA system must be implemented to conform to regulatory requirements, including the standard for HMI displays (API 1165 for SCADA displays) and alarm management (API 1167 for SCADA Alarm Management).
7. Alarm Management. The SCADA system should present clearly present abnormal operating conditions requiring action to the controller. Through effective alarm management, a controller’s domain of control can be expanded, allowing the controller to retain permission to operate through normal, abnormal, and emergency operating conditions. The system should ultimately support a controller’s ability to achieve situational awareness in each operating condition.
8. Security. Cybersecurity is a significant element of SCADA systems. The advances in technology also mean the advancement in threats to a system. There are security threats, technical threats, technical vulnerabilities, and other elements of managing security in the age of the Internet of Things (IOT).
9. Reporting. Key stakeholders need to be able to view reports on system activity, data acquisition, system response, human response to what’s presented on the HMI displays, vulnerabilities, threats, and areas for improvement.
10. Project Planning. To continue using the SCADA system effectively, operators and companies need to perform risk analysis, analyze their execution plans, perform offline development and testing, verify and monitor the system, review the reports, and ensure personnel are trained on best use and practices.
11. Future Planning. SCADA technology is rapidly evolving. The evolution of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), data analytics, and edge processing are all likely to impact the capability and implementation of SCADA. Understanding these technologies can help to future enable your system.
Register For Our Next SCADA Fundamentals Course
Gas Certification Institute (GCI) provides a SCADA Fundamentals certification course that covers the important aspects of SCADA to support operations.
Our SCADA course covers terminology, field devices, HMI, communications, architecture, strategies, security, maintenance planning, and more topics.
Professionals who receive our SCADA training will return to their role with confidence to support operational integrity.
View our course schedule to find the next SCADA Fundamentals course. Then, contact GCI to register yourself or your team for the course.