Reliable Remote Monitoring Keeps Well Sites Productive

June 8, 2019
Roughneck Equipment, which provides chemical delivery equipment to oil and gas fracturing operations, uses Profinet to make it easier to keep utilization rates high.

Mostly brownfield operations, upstream oil and gas production sites require materials, equipment and delivery systems to work together to produce high rates of utilization. With hydraulic fracturing pumps, drilling equipment, blenders, and multiple types of storage tanks for sand, water, and chemicals, there are lots of moving parts to keep running smoothly.

Roughneck Equipment leases a wide variety of equipment and chemical delivery systems to oil and gas producers—from small to supermajors. Helping to ease integration challenges for its customers at well sites, the company has added remote monitoring to its machinery, which has proven its ability to improve operational performance.

Roughneck Equipment’s parent company, PfP Industries, makes the stimulation chemicals—friction reducers, calcifiers, and foamers—for oil and gas fracturing applications. Roughneck itself manufactures the equipment to store, deliver, mix, and control those chemicals. Getting the right mix of chemicals and volume is essential for keeping upstream costs low.

“Most of our equipment on a frac pad integrates with what the oil and gas industry calls the data van,” says Alex Yousefian, automation and controls manager at Roughneck Equipment. “The van receives all the data from the well site—pumps, chemicals, everything.”

Monitoring is essential for all frac pad activities in well site operations, and that’s where the data van comes in. The data van provides operators with the needed insight of their mobile factories—with their proppant, water, chemical storage, transport equipment, and frac blenders that mix powders, chemicals, gels, and liquids. This mixture is eventually pumped downhole by 25 to 50 tractor trailer-mounted frac pumps at extremely high pressures to fracture formations.

Fracturing production can last from four days to two months, depending on the number of wells. After drilling begins, the data van engineers begin to monitor these pumps that can produce up to 50,000 fracturing horsepower.

“Drillers frac in stages and the equipment can be running anywhere from an hour and a half to three hours,” Yousefian says. “That’s when pumps are producing a high-pressure mixture of water, sand, and chemicals into the fractures. They expand and hold the fractures open so hydrocarbons become accessible.”

Roughneck designed its equipment to be turnkey operations for a wide variety of production companies. The chemical delivery systems use industrial Ethernet networking standards and IP-based components. The chemical delivery systems include centrifugal pumps, progressive cavity pumps for pumping viscous liquids, and augers for metering in dry chemical. “All of our machinery is controlled by electric motors, most in the range of 5-20 hp,” Yousefian adds.

The company relies on Profinet-enabled Siemens 1200 programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and Siemens ET 200 CPU controllers to keep track of its equipment operations and provide diagnostics to detect and correct any operational problems. Using Profinet communications reduces the complexity for Roughneck and its third-party equipment.

“Well site producers have different control systems,” Yousefian notes. “Our challenge is to provide robust control to as many customers with a limited amount of programming and hardware.”

Most oil and gas production companies still rely on analog I/O control; Roughneck uses PLC analog cards to provide operational data from its delivery systems to the data vans. “The ability to provide control and diagnostic capability all on one cable is desirable from a manufacturing and troubleshooting standpoint,” Yousefian says. “Instead of having multiple wires, all control functionality is simplified.

The simplicity extends to the company’s ability to use different types of drives for its electric motors due to Profinet’s open standard. The variable-frequency drives (VFDs) used for the chemical delivery system come from Siemens, Danfoss, and Vacon. Roughneck is also considering leveraging Profidrive functionality on its equipment to provide easier programming and further expedite system integration at well sites. The VFD applications would use the standard application within Profidrive, setting the speed setpoint and control.

According to Roughneck, the company provides about 10 parameters to a well site's data van. “We’re delivering chemicals and, as important as that is, they have all kinds of operating parameters, such as well pressure and pump flows,” Yousefian says.

Profinet is more flexible, reliable, and fault-tolerant than other industrial Ethernet systems, Yousefian notes, making it easier to ensure that Roughneck’s equipment stays productive. “As an Ethernet technology, Profinet allows us to remote access the unit and troubleshoot equipment,” he says. “If additional data or functionality is needed, we don’t need to add new wires and programming, which saves us thousands of dollars. The only work required is additional software, which makes it easy and cost-effective to modify our systems and enables us to easily read and write hundreds of parameters.”

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