SCADA and other remote monitoring systems introduced a step change to the industry in the area of operational efficiency by providing a positive impact on run-time, production and reduced operating costs. However, with low commodity prices and lower producing wells, there is still a challenge for business cases to justify putting monitoring on all assets.
Although the potential of these systems is undeniable, many companies struggle with gleaning the full value due to the challenge of training and the process/workflow changes that go with the technology. The greatest challenge is the discipline of alarm management and all the tasks associated with this key feature of any SCADA or other monitoring systems. There are a number of challenges to deal with in this area, including:
- Making sure Operations get the information they need, when they need it, formatted so they can recognize what is happening, its importance, and the appropriate action to take.
- Prioritizing alarms by importance or significance in terms of risk (safety, environmental, operational, cost, etc) in relation to other alarms.
- Reducing the number of alarms occurring during abnormal conditions to the minimum required to diagnose or identify the root cause.
- Validating all alarm parameters including action, set points, test frequency, etc.
- Documenting the alarm/event system for internal use and regulatory compliance.
Although most organizations will try to use the alarm functionality features of their SCADA or monitoring systems, the complexity and special training required is often too much for many organizations to implement and maintain on their own, especially with the sheer number of individuals required to use these alarm features.
How to Solve It
The answer is to bring together a group of well trained and experienced personnel who can specifically manage this piece for the company on their SCADA and monitoring systems—the answer is a control center.
An effective control center can take on the responsibilities for alarm management so Operations can leverage the high value output from this work. When your operation is in constant contact with the important changing well conditions highlighted by alarms, and not distracted by unnecessary call-outs derived from improper alarm management, you will enhance response time, increase production, and decrease unnecessary time in the field. Specially trained and experience control center technicians can work with you to handle all of the following:
Alarm philosophy Develop a collection of documented rules, definitions, and general guidance covering definition and governing rules. For example: what constitutes a possible alarm versus an event? What are the priority definitions and assignment rules? What are the performance targets? What are the alarm messages?
Alarms organization and priority assignment Take ownership of the alarms and event organization, presentation, reporting and determining the importance or significance of the alarm in relationship to other alarms.
Alarm configuration Configuration, analysis, filtering, suppression, testing, and the regular monitoring and enforcement and maintenance of alarm set points.
Alarm operations rationalization Structured process that generally involves the examination of each alarm to ensure it conforms to the alarm philosophy. Alarms can be eliminated, others have their priorities changed, and others have their set points changed.
Alarm training Training Operation on how to configure and enforce alarms set points properly, how to properly respond to alarms and provide assistance in finding information regarding an alarm.
By leveraging a specially trained control center, you will experience the full benefit of SCADA and remote well monitoring. A lack of specialized training in the area of alarm management has prevented oil and gas producers from fully realizing the benefits of remote monitoring in the past, as the technology and disciplines that surround alarms are unique skills, different than those required for day to day well site operations.
The alarming features of SCADA and remote monitoring, without question, facilitate production increases, windshield time decreases, and run-time increases. By migrating to a control center philosophy, you will unlock these benefits while decreasing alarm response and review time, making such a significant impact to your bottom line that most producers will find a new floor for commodity prices that allow for profitable operations. The advent of well site alarms brought with it an enormous opportunity for oil and gas producers. Control centers help you unlock that opportunity.
In his 15 years in the Oil and Gas industry, Evan West has assisted in the evolution of SCADA technology and has been an influential member of Zedi’s leadership team since joining us in 2004. In his role as Director & Market Manager for Artificial Lift Services, he overseas both our artificial lift and SCADA product lines.