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Create Information Connections and Optimize Your Plant

January 122012
Create Information Connections and Optimize Your Plant

January 2012 - Machine utilizes Rockwell Automation control and visualization system to help oil producers maximize asset performance 

The mixture of oil, gas and water pumped from a well passes through many hands before it is ready to be sold as a barrel of crude oil. Well output is pumped into a storage tank near the well head or piped to a tank off-site. These storage tanks might be owned by the well owner, a co-op of producers or a third party. Trucking companies get involved in transporting the mixture from the well to larger storage tanks or batteries. The battery separates the mixture and processes oil to a set standard for delivery to a terminal or refinery.

Everyone along this supply chain is either paid or charged based on how much oil is contained in the well’s production fluid.  Unfortunately, many oil producers are forced to estimate the composition of their well output based on limited information or even guesswork. While equipment is available to measure the composition, it can come with a price tag of up to half a million U.S. dollars, prohibiting long-term or permanent installation at all but the largest oil wells. Many companies choose to rent expensive measurement equipment, and then limit it to monitoring output for a few days a month. As a result, they’re unable to gather conclusive data on a well’s production composition on an ongoing basis. This lack of visibility can limit a business’s ability to adjust to changes in individual well production and increasing regulatory requirements that can quickly impact the bottom line.

The management team that formed Kilo Technologies spent decades struggling with measurement issues while working in oil fields in Western Canada. This familiarity led to the development of the Well Production Monitor – Mark II (WPM – MKII). The WPM – MKII monitoring skid is one of the industry’s first cost-effective solutions designed to help oil producers measure specific gravity of a well’s output directly at the well pad and provide remote access to that data. By measuring the well output continuously, companies can more accurately determine the productivity and profitability of each well.

A compact, self-contained system, the WPM - MKII provides real-time, ongoing measurement and recording of oil, water and gas volumes. The mixture extracted from a well travels through the monitoring skid on its way from the well pump to an oil battery or remote storage tank. The WPM-MKII separates the gas from the water and oil, measures the amount of water versus oil, re-combines the gas and the mixture continues on its way. Although the liquid never stops flowing, its composition details are recorded by the WMP-MKII at better than ± 1 percent accuracy. This data can be viewed for immediate insight into well performance and is stored in the system for reporting purposes.
When the time came for Kilo to take its prototype of the WMP-MKII system to full-scale production, the company needed to upgrade the monitoring skid’s control and visualization system. It needed a system that could withstand harsh environments and offer reliable and remote connectivity, as well as the flexibility to increase networking functionality in the future. The system also needed to be easily configured to provide remote, secure data access.

Oil field applications see wide temperature swings and need equipment that can function properly whether it’s 40°C or -40°C (104°F or -40°F).  Well operators and maintenance personnel often support a number of wells spread across vast distances. They need to have confidence that their systems will operate reliably with limited attention, and also maximize efficiency during their time on-site. Additionally, a number of vested parties need to have access to different information from the machine.

As a new manufacturer, Kilo wanted a technology partner that was well recognized and trusted within the industry. At the same time, Kilo knew that to be successful it also needed to meet a strict price point for the WPM-MKII system. These were the goals Kilo was balancing when they sought an automation control partner.

Kilo implemented a control and visualization system from Rockwell Automation that met the company’s rigorous reliability standards and provided reduced total cost of ownership, allowing the machine to go to market at a popular price point.

The Rockwell Automation system is built around the Allen-Bradley MicroLogix 1400, a compact programmable logic controller with Ethernet connectivity. The controller measures, calculates and records specific gravity data and temperature information and runs an actuator valve that manages gas separation and reinjection. Using a fraction of the space of a full-size controller, the EtherNet/IP-enabled MicroLogix controller provides connectivity ease and a built-in LCD screen displays controller status, I/O status and simple operator messages.

FactoryTalk View Machine Edition human-machine interface (HMI) software provides machine-level data to operators for quick troubleshooting. Kilo uses the FactoryTalk View Studio design environment to create applications using an extensive graphics library, enhanced color animation capability and a multi-language font library. The server and client run directly on an Allen-Bradley PanelView Plus 700 terminal that allows operators to input commands by touch screen.

The visualization solution enables employees at different operating levels to securely view and analyze real-time and historical data from their unique perspectives. Operators, for example, can view particular metrics and utilize certain historical information for each well, while well owners can view individual machines or download an aggregated view of the entire field to assess the overall performance. Third-party vendors involved in transporting the oil have their own access that provides them with basic information on how much liquid they are offloading and the composition thereof.

By working with Rockwell Automation, Kilo was able to build a monitoring skid that provides greater accuracy at a fraction of the cost of existing solutions.

“By standardizing on Rockwell Automation components, we were able to reduce the total cost of ownership of this machine and provide our customers with a familiar, intuitive platform for machine control,” said Gary James, vice president of Business Development, Kilo Technologies. “The scalability of the control platform gives customers the flexibility to accommodate future expansion.”

Kilo was able to complete basic programming in just four weeks - with an additional week to customize each unit to customers’ specifications.

“The Rockwell Automation visualization solution is a huge improvement over the HMI we used in prototyping,” said James. “It’s much more user-friendly and graphically impressive. Some of these wells work with independent trucking companies to transport oil from remote storage tanks or to processing plants. Our well-owner customers are eager to apply their own technology to determine how much product the trucker is offloading and the composition thereof, in conjunction with the less modern sensors on the truck,” James added.

EtherNet/IP connectivity allows remote troubleshooting for improved control and support options for customers. A wireless router allows users to download information from the machine directly to their computer from their truck. Customers also have the option to add a cell phone modem for internet based status updates and data downloading.

With an easy to use and affordable monitoring system from Kilo Technologies, oil producers can accurately measure each well’s output. As a result, producers can maximize the performance of their wells, improve operational excellence, and meet or exceed compliance requirements.

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