PLANT

Automation upgrade

CNRL migrates to pcVUE's Scada and FrontVUE to manage demanding data centres.


As one of Canada’s largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers, Canadian Natural Resources Limited (CNRL) – with major assets in Alberta’s oil sands and elsewhere in North America, the North Sea and Offshore Africa – generates a lot of data that’s used by some 2,500 employees.

The Calgary-based company operates its business through three segments: Horizon oil sands production, thermal heavy oil, and conventional oil and gas. To deliver its balanced mix of natural gas, light oil, heavy oil, in situ oil sands production, oil sands mining and associated upgrading facilities, CNRL needed a better way to manage the process control and monitoring of its 300 gathering stations, 800 compressor stations and 150 gas processing facilities.

The answer was an automation project to replace its FactoryLink SCADA systems with pcVue’s SCADA and FrontVue solutions from Arc Informatique, an industrial IT company with global headquarters in Sèvres, near Paris, France.

CNRL has numerous independent, variously branded automation systems and the company’s SCADA specialist Kurtis Jackson wanted to centralize and achieve consistency by integrating as many of them as possible on pcVue. But CNRL also wanted to leverage pcVue’s ability to support multi-station architectures for networking such as Modbus Roc, Roc Talk and BSAP.

The migration began with the Smart Generator tool, which automatically converts a very high proportion of existing applications to pcVue, while ensuring maximum compatibility and security.

“For most of our SCADA applications we were converting between 60% to 80% of our FactoryLink applications to pcVue with ease. This saved us a tremendous amount of time not having to reconfigure entire applications and it meant we did not have to retrain our users,” said Jackson.

CNRL currently runs daily production reports and uses real-time and historical trending to generate the data needed to ensure goals and sales contracts are met. So far, eight pcVue servers with remote client access have been deployed and Jackson expects to add about 40 pcVue SCADA systems within the next two years.

CTH Systems Inc., a value-added pcVue reseller, helped to configure and facilitate the migration. Using Smart Generator, the engineers converted all of the graphical elements, local and shared libraries, all sets of variables for the application (including variable tables, alarm configurations and histories) and the database without any rework. TCP/IP communication objects and their links were also converted.

CNRL also uses CTH Systems’ IM-SCADA, a multiprotocol measurement and communication software that allows wells equipped with different automation devices, such as remote terminal units or pump on/off controllers, to talk over a single radio channel to bring the data back to pcVue SCADA.

CTH Systems also implemented automatic and remote readings of gas compositions from wells, uploading of corrected gas compositions to each one, and the elimination of variances between well meters and the software database.

CNRL’s 178 host servers and 600 remote clients monitor between 5,000 and 6,000 data points per host. Of these there are eight pcVue stations supervise anywhere from 50 to 400 wells and one to three facilities per host, depending on location or region.

Daily monitoring

“This translates to thousands of tags and alarm parameters that are being monitored and acknowledged daily,” said Jackson.

As the oil flows out of the well, it passes through a pipe arrangement, which is connected to flow lines that bring the oil and gas to gathering stations, also monitored by pcVue, where sediment, gas, salt water and oil are separated.

pcVue SCADA collects I/Os from PLCs and RTUs in production fields and gathering stations that include gas/oil pressures, ESD, pump start/stop, remote/local pump control, pump speed, pump run/stop, motor operated valves and shut down, choke setpoints/positions, temperature, emergency shutdown and fire alarms.

“One of the most important factors in our industry is safety. At every stage of the process, pcVue monitors our mission critical operations and maintains all of our safety measures to prevent fires, explosions and ecological disasters,” said Jackson.

CNRL wanted to have each automated activity – whether in drilling/production, distribution, transportation or refining – supervised from several of its control centres. Due to the nature of the product, which must be transported from the well to final consumer, and the potential adverse environmental effects of oil/petroleum accidents, SCADA systems are a necessity. A solid and securely designed system must control flooding, leakage, fire, ESD, oil and gas flow rate and accumulated flow, line pressure, wellhead pressure, pump status, tank level, and gathering station equipment status, among others.

Now CNRL is reaping the benefits of its upgraded automation systems that gather more data and achieve greater control.

This article was submitted on behalf of industrial IT company Arc Informatique.

Comments? E-mail jterrett@plant.ca.

This article appears in the September/October edition of PLANT West.