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A Key Consideration when Automating Large Wellpads: Is the Automation Easy to Use and Maintain in the Field?

With the proliferation of new technologies and automation solutions introduced for upstream oil and gas, many companies are taking a more cautious approach as they determine the best path forward for their operations. A critically important factor in selecting an automation platform is ensuring the technology has been designed and engineered for oil and gas operations. Fit-for-purpose automation technologies are much more likely to deliver superior performance long term while providing an optimal user experience.

In this third article in our series of three, let’s explore the opportunity of standardizing on an automation platform that is easy to use and maintain.

Oil and gas producers are constantly tasked with identifying new ways to improve productivity and reduce operating costs. The reality is many producers are managing multiple sets of measurement and control devices which is in direct conflict with their productivity and cost reduction goals. With multiple technology platforms, users need to be skilled in a variety of software tools. This scenario leads to an inherent lack of efficiency and valuable time being lost. Even more time is needed for training and upskilling to ensure personnel can efficiently configure, use, and troubleshoot a variety of devices. In addition, there is added complexity from a SCADA architecture and data management perspective, both of which impact productivity and lead to higher costs.

In today’s economic environment, it is critically important to select a measurement and control platform that will reduce operating expenses in the field. Modern RTUs offer the same capability as PLCs and allow operators to keep their process running during common maintenance practices, such as hot swapping I/O modules and editing the control load online. Modern RTUs like Emerson’s FB3000 RTU continue to evolve the approach around I/O by offering optional software-selectable I/O for greater flexibility. Furthermore, new designs reduce the complexity of spares and replacements by separating termination from the I/O CPU module, giving the I/O CPU module a “personality” through less expensive, sacrificial modules. These modules define the I/O type and are easier to maintain as spares as well as reduce related costs. In addition, field personnel can be given the exact information needed by roles and responsibilities with configuration and management software that offers role-based access controls and custom displays.

With a standardized, single-platform approach to automation, producers can optimize many tasks and procedures. The results include enhanced productivity while consistent maintenance practices will help streamline parts management and reduce operating costs. 

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