Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies are being adopted by every industry, and oil and gas is no exception. Recent events have certainly emphasized the need for IIoT technologies that make data available when and where it is most needed, whether that’s onsite or remote.
Compared to traditional SCADA-based approaches, IIoT is highly disruptive. Every single core paradigm from SCADA networks that were once widely accepted and adopted are now in question. Here are a few examples:
- Instead of using a central polling engine to query all field devices in round-robin fashion, every field device gains the capability to ‘publish’ data whenever that data changes, greatly minimizing the bandwidth required to acquire that data.
- Where SCADA network design calls for complete isolation from the rest of the world, IIoT embraces open connectivity to the cloud (but secured through encryption).
- By using the cloud for data storage and centralized device management, companies no longer need to worry about their IT resource allocation such as servers, networks, etc. and instead focus on the value obtained from the data stored in the cloud.
Such drastic changes in designing, deploying and operating an IIoT architecture as compared to a traditional SCADA network are causing understandable hesitation by oil and gas operators to make the jump. Not only that, many companies have recently poured significant investment into their SCADA networks and are not willing to throw that away. In other cases, an unclear cloud strategy could hamper any migration efforts.
At Emerson, we have seen many examples of companies adopting IIoT architectures while continuing to use existing SCADA networks. From this experience, we have extracted the two most common IIoT implementation approaches that cause the least amount of friction and the greatest level of success: Read-Only and Point-Solution. Let’s explore these patterns.
Often the number one concern of IIoT technologies is cybersecurity – the possibility of being hacked due to direct connectivity between instrumentation and the cloud. The first approach is the most risk-adverse and least disruptive. We call it the ‘read-only’ approach. The idea is to leave the SCADA network untouched and undisturbed.
IIoT technologies are introduced in parallel and separate from existing SCADA systems and instrumentation. A read-only installation consists of non-intrusive, battery-powered sensors that are bolted into the facility alongside existing instrumentation referred to as the pervasive sensing layer, sending readings wirelessly onto a nearby gateway. No wires are required. The gateway contains its own connection mechanism for sending data securely to the cloud (typically through a dedicated cellular connection, but alternate methods are possible), bypassing any existing SCADA infrastructure and therefore minimizing any cybersecurity concerns.
What happens when the read-only data lands on the cloud? And whose? Emerson has addressed these questions by providing dedicated cloud environments to oil and gas operators, where we host and maintain the necessary set of technologies to consume the data obtained from the pervasive sensing layer. We even have Emerson Connected Services, staffed monitoring centers where our subject matter experts advise customers on corrective actions based on the data analyzed.
This approach does not require any changes in the customer’s organization or business processes. As expert recommendations are received, customers can include these recommendations into their day-to-day activities as they see fit. For instance, Connected Services for Corrosion and Erosion Monitoring reviews data to help operators implement effective maintenance plans.
The second approach is a ‘Point Solution’ approach. In this case, customers apply IIoT technologies to solve a very specific business problem. Remote control through IIoT is now possible, but only in those areas where a specific business problem needs to be addressed.
For upstream oil and gas producers, the most typical application of this strategy has been around equipment monitoring and artificial lift optimization through the Emerson Zedi SaaS SCADA Solutions platform. It provides all the necessary equipment and infrastructure to enable remote visibility and control in a secure manner. Power-efficient gateways connect to existing field instrumentation and leverage secure cellular connectivity to publish data to the cloud for consumption through either a web browser or a dedicated mobile phone application.
Deploying IIoT-based technologies like Zedi SaaS SCADA Solutions enables you to not only bring your facilities online quickly and painlessly, but you can also securely control all aspects related to your operations. See the case study of a Texas producer that admitted their operation was in ‘total chaos’ prior to implementing Zedi Access software. Afterwards, the company was able to efficiently aggregate their data and store it securely in the cloud for authorized users to access when and where they needed it.
Visit Zedi SaaS SCADA Solutions on Emerson.com for more on secure, efficient ways to better manage your operations and drive greater productivity.