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PcVue SCADA software centralizes independent automation systems for greater efficiency

When a company the size of Canadian Natural Resources Limited—with some 150 gas processing facilities, 300 gathering stations and 5200 compressor stations controlled by numerous independent automation systems of various brands—looks to a better way to manage its far flung assets, it makes sense to put them all under one roof.

Systems IntegrationsThe company, Canada’s largest independent crude oil and natural gas producer, measures about 800,000 input/output (I/O) points and millions of tags in its primary operations with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and remote terminal units (RTUs) from a number of different manufacturers.

Canadian Natural sought to centralize and achieve consistency by integrating as many of its automation systems as possible, says Kurtis Jackson, the company’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) specialist. The solution it settled on to replace its FactoryLink SCADA systems was ARC Informatique’s PcVue SCADA software.

SCADA systems are designed to monitor, control and alarm industrial, infrastructure or facility-based processes in real time from a central location. They generally consist of PLCs and RTUs to collect data on site, a communications system to relay the data and a human machine interface (HMI) to display the data and allow operators to control the process when necessary.

Canadian Natural previously had numerous independent automation systems from various companies to deal with. With widespread (often remote) operations, Canadian Natural wanted to be able to have all its automated activity supervised from several of its control centres. With PcVue SCADA, the company can access relevant data used by about 2,500
Canadian Natural employees for such purposes as monitoring, reviewing and maintaining data in real time.

“We run our production reports daily and utilize real time and historical trending to give us the data needed to make sure we have met our production goals and will meet our sales contracts,” says Jackson.

PcVue’s SCADA and FrontVue (a thin client HMI also provided by PcVue), both Windows-based software packages, are able to manage millions of I/O points online from thousands of devices. And the software supports multi-station architectures for networking as well as a wide range of communications standards, including about 200 current and legacy protocols.

Canadian Natural also uses IM-SCADA, a multi-protocol measurement and communication software provided by Calgary-based CTH Systems, a value added reseller of PcVue with expertise in the oil and gas and utilities industries. IM-SCADA allows the wells that are equipped with different automation devices, such as RTUs or pump on/off controllers, to talk over a single radio channel in order to bring the data back to PcVue SCADA.

Keeping Track

The system allows for automatic and remote readings of gas compositions from the well, the upload of the corrected gas compositions to each well and the elimination of variances between the well meter and the IM-SCADA database, according to Canadian Natural, while minimizing the need to physically go to wellsites to download or upload gas composition data.

With 178 host servers and 600 remote clients, Canadian Natural is monitoring about 5,000–6,000 data points per host. Eight PcVue stations are supervising anywhere from 50–400 wells and one to three facilities per host. That means thousands of tags and alarm parameters that are being monitored and acknowledged daily, says Jackson. “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,” he says.

Woburn, Mass.-based PcVue Solutions is a subsidiary of Paris-based ARC Informatique. Originally designed for the process and manufacturing industries, ARC Informatique’s automation software is used in various industries including oil and gas, transportation, utilities, water treatment and building management systems. Its growing installation base has surpassed 45,000 licences.

“PcVue is a fully featured product that represents the latest advances in SCADA software for fault-tolerant, multi-station monitoring and control,” says Emmanuel Ecochard, PcVue general manager. “It is proven, intuitive, easy to get up and running quickly, and offers all the robust capabilities that oil and gas companies need to automate, remotely monitor and control gas processing operations, including gathering stations, wells, compressor stations and multiple facilities in an effective manner. Time and time again, PcVue applications have proven to save time and money and potential maintenance issues and reduced overall costs to run operations.”

The company’s SCADA software is “highly flexible, scalable, simple to configure and quick to deploy,” he says, noting it integrates easily with other brands of PLCs, RTUs and third-party systems, including business systems.

PcVue’s software combined with partner CTH Systems’ IM-SCADA gas measurement driver software provides a unique solution, Ecochard says. “The combination and tight interface between the software solutions is allowing clients to interface to plant PLCs and field RTUs seamlessly and therefore allows them to control capital and operational costs. Additionally, CTH Systems supports and assists the commissioning and implementation of applications both locally and abroad.”

One example of how PcVue can trim operating costs is seen in the template reports that are available in IM-SCADA, Frank Tarbox, president of CTH Systems, says. The reports “helped one client by having them run the production accounting reports with completely accurate and valid data right from the IM-SCADA software, without having to continually call the field for correct data. The additional saving was in the fact that the client felt so confident about the data that they were able to remove some the enterprise reporting software they were using and saved on the software maintenance renewal.”

Canadian Natural launched its large-scale automation project, which primarily impacts its conventional oil and gas business, almost a year ago. Jackson says the transition, using PcVue’s Smart Generator, has gone well. Smart Generator automatically converts a high proportion of existing FactoryLink applications to PcVue while maintaining maximum compatibility and security.

“For most of our SCADA applications that we were upgrading, between 60–80 per cent of our FactoryLink applications converted to PcVue with ease,” Jackson says. “This saved us a tremendous amount of time with not having to reconfigure the entire applications and it meant that we did not have to retrain our users. It also says that we are investing in our future with SCADA automation, as PcVue regularly enhances its SCADA with version updates and new features.”

The implementation is ongoing with about 40 PcVue SCADA systems to be deployed within the next two years.

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