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Simplify Multi-Well Pad Operations with a Single Solution for Measurement and Control

The Shale Revolution prompted a number of drilling advancements to help oil and gas producers increase production recoveries, create new production opportunities in unconventional areas, increase operational efficiencies and reduce costs. These drilling advancements, combined with new digital and IIoT solutions, have spurred the evolution of oil and gas operations from simplistic single-well pad fields to more complex multi-well pads.

Today, producers are transitioning to lateral drilling techniques, to place anywhere from 10, to more than 30 wells on a single pad. While multi-well pads have a variety of benefits, the increase in size and scope has created a new challenge – much greater data and control requirements. These new requirements are putting new pressures on producers to maintain data integrity and accuracy.

Don’t Let Legacy and Traditions Hold You Back

Traditional control architectures, such as RTU technology, are being pushed to their limits due to maintenance costs, scalability and data/measurement capabilities. It has become increasingly difficult for RTUs to keep up with these demands.

Each well in a multi-well pad requires artificial lift, equipment control, flow measurement and level measurement – creating more control and data acquisition demands than a traditional single RTU can handle. As a result, producers need to purchase additional RTUs to spread control across multiple units. However, there are challenges that come with this approach:

  1. Multiple RTUs can create a “birds’ nest” for producers – requiring maintenance of multiple application configurations and programs, complicating communication management
  2. Multiple vendors’ hardware (for control, measurement, sensors, LACT units, etc.) can limit SCADA communication, complicate integration and make training practices more difficult for maintenance and operations, increasing overhead.
  3. “Black Box” RTUs, designed with specific inputs and outputs, can limit flexibility for changing, or upgrading systems and create service and support challenges

Operators and managers, that have experienced common RTU issues, can find better solutions in modular and scalable, single-control platforms, such as programmable logic controller (PLC) technology. In this architecture, everything can be linked together, so producers have a single system for all oil and gas measurement and control.

Benefits of a Single Platform

Modular: With multi-discipline control, PLCs can be configured in different ways, enabling control of a wide variety of field instruments. Operators can achieve normal automation of well pads, as well as combined process and discrete control, with one system that also supports communication for many different network types.

Scalable: PLCs offer predefined libraries and code that can be added instantly and configured on-site. This makes it easier to add new hardware – with no new code required – so as well pads grow with production increases, it is easy to scale control to accommodate new wells and integrate into control on the pre-existing pad. This minimizes the need for technicians to write new codes when hardware is added, which helps to eliminate downtime and decrease spending.

Furthermore, with traditional RTU technology, measurement isn’t easily integrated or scalable – multiple networks need to be pieced together in a field, or well pad. Today, advanced modules, such as an in-chassis oil and gas flow computer, achieve required measurement standards within the control architecture. This allows producers to have one architecture for control and measurement without requiring any licensing fees and eliminating the challenging effort to integrate multiple vendor products. This also helps simplify deployment and enables measurement scalability for any future well site or system expansions.

Data Control and Integrity: Due to the limited control capabilities of RTU systems and the need to integrate various systems together from various solution providers, data integrity is in jeopardy. Any time data moves from one system to another, integrity is at risk. With integrated infrastructure solutions like the ProSoft Technology flow computer module and Rockwell Automation control platform, producers can help guarantee the integrity of their data because:

  1. Control data and flow data from the module can be kept in its native format and it doesn’t need to be aggregated.
  2. The solution is capable of a more granular level of data – providing information down to the millisecond, to support industry measurement standards and help ensure data accuracy at custody transfer.
  3. The solution can also support larger-scale measurement from larger meter runs than traditional solutions. The flow computer from ProSoft technology operators as a coprocessor to the Rockwell Automation control platform, offloading measurement functions from the main central processing unit, while maintaining a secure data.
  4. Embedded remote I/O functionality allows for control of the complete operation and insight to measurement/data, from a mobile device and allows producers to wire field devices closer to where they sit, minimizing field installation, wiring and commissioning time.

The Case for a New Platform

ARC Resources, a conventional oil and gas company, implemented a system with the goal of minimizing footprint and streamlining operations across their multi-well pad site in western Canada.

The existing controllers were not capable of handling the large amount of I/O required to run the entire well pad. As a result, the company had to use multiple controllers, which were hardwired together, along with remote terminal units (RTUs). This limited the amount of information available for control and monitoring. Additionally, the producer used standalone flow computers to meter natural gas – they could only handle 8 meter runs apiece, which was not optimal for a large operation with planned future expansion.

To optimize control and measurement, ARC Resources implemented the Well Manager solution from Rockwell Automation, based on ControlLogix PLC control platform, and the ProSoft Technology Flow Computer for better data integration.

This solution eliminated the need for multiple controllers and RTUs, simplifying the overall well-site architecture and lowering hardware and software costs. It also increased data visibility for better control and maintenance. The use of the integrated flow computer reduced wiring, allowed for full support of large meter runs and enhanced data integrity and measurement. ARC Resources was also able to save money as the new solution required no licensing fees, whereas each RTU they had in place did. The new, modern solution also reduced the cabinet size and overall hardware and control footprint.

Control and Measurement Made Easy

Multi-well pads have made data and application requirements in upstream operations greater than ever. With data coming in from multiple locations, it is important to have the ability to manage it in one system and manage it properly. Modular and scalable PLCs are capable of handling the scalable architectures required by modern well pads and easily integrate with other systems, such as flow modules. Moving to a single solution allows for enhanced data integrity, improved scalability, and reduced installation times and costs.

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