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Posted on : Thursday 2nd July 2020 02:22 PM

Cloud-Based SCADA Drills in on Oil Wells

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The Internet might indeed be a democratizing force, but the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has too frequently been seen as only certainly achievable by the luxurious and powerful. Behemoths like Shell or BP might be ready to release their wide-reaching digitalization projects, but how realistic are IIoT ambitions for smaller oil and gas startups?


At this year’s ABB Customer World in Houston, ABB launched a cloud-based visualization system that causes it as easy for smaller operators to gain ideas about their onshore upstream means as it is for the big guys. ABB Ability Wellhead Manager—in principle, a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system in the cloud—can scale easily and enable insights about production assets from anywhere in the world.


The emerging system not only creates it convenient for small startups to get the information they require without having to kick off a full-blown SCADA system, it gives even large operators the ability to more easily integrate newly acquired wells. “ This makes sense for somebody acquiring 100-1,000 wells and who wants to put a monitoring system in place,” said Martin Grady, senior vice president for oil, gas and chemicals at ABB. The Wellhead Manager is a web-based subscription service in the form of a light, simple application, he added. “ Then our analytical package can bring a lot of richness, extracting full value from a limited number of data points.”


Even as oil companies get more wells, they do not have to be faced with sending an operator out to the field all the time just to read data, added Nathan Tungseth, global product group manager for onshore oil and gas at ABB. “ They don’t have to have a new SCADA system every time they buy 100 wells,” he added. Remote workers can connect in real time, visualizing information on smartphones, tablets or computers, where they can also push into additional digital applications such as enhanced oil recovery or predictive analytics, he said.


It’s a reasonably agnostic system as well. “ It doesn’t have to be our system out there all the time that they have,” he said. “ It could sit on top of other people’s SCADA systems.”


By supplying immediate access to data, alarms and call out notifications, ABB Ability Wellhead Manager decreases downtime and risk. Operators can proactively lessen issues, predict productivity and easily scale up or down as important. The system also helps better decision-making, with field production data digitally gathered and visualized using a web application. It includes clear dashboards, insights and analytics.


Because Wellhead Manager is a subscription service, oil and gas operators can get the intelligent data they need to enhance efficiencies and increase production without having to reach the capital expenditure that they would for a full-blown SCADA system. Operators can give their attention to the most ineffective well sites, zeroing in on those that aren’t producing, Tungseth noted.


ABB Ability Wellhead Manager was developed initially for the North American market, Tungseth said, and then ABB has been exploring how it might be used in other parts of the world as well. “ It’s running now on approximately 1,000 wells out there,” he said. “ Now it’s set more for prime time.” ABB continues to add new applications, including plugging advanced analytics from partner companies into ABB’s tool, he added.


YPF, Argentina’s state-controlled oil company, has Wellhead Manager running on about 17,000 wells, Tungseth noted. “ The beauty of this is it’s completely scalable — whether it’s 10 wells or 17,000.”


ABB offers on-premise SCADA, but there are plenty of situations in which oil and gas operators might not want to go that route. They might have secured new wells, with a SCADA system they want to replace, Grady noted. Or they might have a 20-year-old SCADA system but want to move to digital technology, Tungseth added. “ With this, it makes you the flexibility to integrate into existing systems.”


When a well is getting close to the end of its operating life is another good use case. Rather than shutting in the well, which is costly, they could flow it just once or twice a year, preserving it an operating well, Tungseth explained. With the Wellhead Manager, they would only pay for SCADA when they use it.


“ The value proposition is you don’t have to spend money on a new SCADA system,” Grady said. “ You can try having some data without having to spend."

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