A Comparison of SCADA Automation Engineers vs. Electricians

Who you choose to use will impact your oil and gas SCADA performance

Samantha McPheter
February 9, 2023

Over the past two decades as a turnkey SCADA service provider in the oil and gas industry, we have learned that many companies aren’t aware that there are significant differences between SCADA automation engineers and oilfield electricians. These differences end up mattering to the bottom line.

The successful implementation of a SCADA system and its ongoing performance depends on who installs and maintains it. This occurs because SCADA data and oilfield automation systems depend on how well all the many types of devices and equipment are configured to work together to produce useful data in real time -- not that they just work.

Both field automation experts and electricians are able to make the oilfield work and keep working, but how they do their jobs directly impacts the quality and timeliness of SCADA data for its end users, the lifeblood of good decision making in an oil and gas company.  The ultimate purpose of a SCADA system is to use data and its analysis to make better decisions faster in order to save costs and increase production. If the data is off, so will be the decisions and the timing of automation.

Knowing what the differences are between these onsite oilfield service provider roles, how they approach problems, and the impact they have on SCADA implementation and performance will help companies decide who to use and when.

This can also help you decide if it makes sense to contract automation experts through oilfield service companies like eLynx or develop this expertise in house.

The Major Difference: Automation Experts Focus on the Entire Data Chain, Electricians on Specific Equipment Functionality

All the differences between an automation expert and an industrial electrician -- their knowledge, ability to work with different equipment types, and approach to solving problems -- stem from the two different goals they pursue.

Automation experts' ultimate aim is to produce good, timely, usable data for users. They make sure that every sensor, device, and piece of equipment work together for proper implementation of the entire SCADA system.

This means that everything they do from setting up and calibrating sensors, to choosing, installing, and linking the communications and polling devices are done with a sharply focused eye to how it will impact the quality and timeliness of the data for end users This requires a broad knowledge base, that includes not only how specific equipment works, but how everything in the oilfield works together. They are more expert in doing it all.

Electricians, on the other hand, are very skilled at making equipment functional. Their chief goal in the field is to get well pads wired up and working, in contrast to the automation expert who holds usable data as the priority.

The electrician’s specific focus on the electrical aspects can leave them without as much know-how when it comes to properly set up communication and polling devices. They likely won’t be checking the quality and timeliness of data to find problems and make the needed adjustments to optimize the entire SCADA system. This narrower focus often leads them to become experts in specific hardware types, which can limit how well a SCADA system is implemented and troubleshot.  

Summarizing the Differences    

The table below provides a concise breakdown of some of the most important differences between automation experts and electricians. All these differences stem from the one overarching difference of focus or goal. Automation experts always want good data. The electricians prioritize wiring up wells efficiently, without focusing on the interconnections of what it takes to produce good data.

A Comparison of SCADA Automation Engineers vs. Electricians
A Comparison of SCADA Automation Engineers vs. Electricians

Automation Experts Save on Initial Setup Costs and Help Companies Get Much More Out of Their SCADA Investment

Because of their broad expertise in the oilfield, one might expect that employing automation experts will cost more. However, the initial cost in most cases will be less because the automation expert will likely be able to specify less equipment that works better and install everything properly the first time. Longer term, the data will be high quality and useful, which will help companies make better decisions every day. Automation experts play a crucial role in making SCADA effective and the tool to save money and increase production.

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