Using SCADA to Monitor Jungle Field Sites

Pluspetrol replaced its aging SCADA systems with Inductive Automation’s Ignition platform to track multiple geographically dispersed sites in the Ecuadorian jungle.

A new SCADA system gives Pluspetrol greater insight into its remote operations.
A new SCADA system gives Pluspetrol greater insight into its remote operations.

A jungle isn’t a place you normally associate with modern automation technology, but for Pluspetrol it was the best way to solve a long-standing problem: How to easily access process information generated by five field sites in the Ecuadorian jungle from its headquarters in Quito. 

Pluspetrol is a private, independent gas and oil supplier with a presence in Angola, Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, the United States, Netherlands, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay. By replacing its aging SCADA workstations with Inductive Automation’s Ignition, a web-based control and monitoring platform featuring tools for building HMI, SCADA, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) systems, the company was able to make a 20-year jump into the future in just days. 

The five geographically separated sites in Ecuador have a combined total of 18 workstations, each with its own SCADA system, that have been running for 20 years in a stand-alone architecture. This system forced each control station to establish an individual connection to the controllers, causing traffic and data loss on the network, which would repeatedly saturate the controllers due to the number of responses they had to generate for each station. 

Maintenance and updating of the SCADA applications in the stations was uncontrolled, leaving outdated applications without standards and unreliable data which resulted in errors. Process information could only be accessed by personnel in the field, who had to generate reports in Excel, limiting its use for administrative and process purposes.

System migration requirements
Part of Pluspetrol’s approval for the software migration of what was one of Ecuador’s largest SCADA systems, the company required Ignition to work in parallel with the old SCADA applications work for a month. It also required that there be no downtime during the move to the new platform operations. As part of this process, system integrator Automation Solutions Ecuador (ASE) had three days to start up Ignition at full operation, along with migrating 10 core PLCs with 2,000 I/Os in the main facilities and at the well sites.

During the three-day migration, controllers were upgraded without altering the commands and animations of the application. The project involved 4,000 tags, 300 screens, and 10,000 alarms, as well as 25 clients, a number that continues to grow.

The tags created for the new controllers were saved in a database and their addresses were updated by means of scripting. Then, the old control stations were replaced by Ignition control stations and the scan classes were adjusted for each connection. 

The new control architecture consists of a client-server SCADA system, with two Ignition redundant gateways installed in each main location, and three stand-alone satellite gateways on each remote site. This gateway network configuration allows information to be transmitted from the different locations to the two main redundant servers where the application is running.

Data sharing and access control
To share process information with all areas of the company, the main servers were configured within a DMZ that links the control network with the administrative network, providing access to system information from any point of the company's network, both nationally and internationally.

Applications are accessible throughout the company while maintaining proper levels of control and access. The access levels are currently controlled through active directory integration. This also enabled ASE to provide performance indicators through levels of access and control to the managerial board.

If there’s ever a loss of communication between locations, no information will be lost due to the store-and-forward configuration in each server, assuring reliability and real results in the data.

Application development and maintenance are also more organized and efficient. Each business unit can request modification of their apps individually, and these changes are published immediately across the entire system.

This is the first time in Ecuador that an Ignition platform has been used to control and monitor an entire oil extraction process, its transport and delivery to the national pipeline, as well as generate reports to local and corporate levels. The system also reports data to Ecuador’s national hydrocarbon regulation and control agency, ARCH, to achieve transparent connectivity with different platforms from different vendors.

Pluspetrol’s primary goal for the control migration was to convert process data into useful information for decision-making in the areas of operation, development, and management, at national and international levels of both the company and the Ecuadorean regulatory agents. Consequently, historian displays were adapted to allow searching for detailed information in the database. 

With the migration of the SCADA system, the old control stations’ operating systems and hardware were updated to help reduce time lost in the maintenance of obsolete devices. Now that Pluspetrol’s SCADA is no longer a black box, all of the workstation and server hardware and software are managed by the IT department—bringing IT and OT closer together than ever.

Additional business needs addressed by this update include the first real-time maintenance KPIs (key performance indicators) dashboard, as well as the first reservoir and power generation process monitoring apps for management.

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