Over the past 20 years, eLynx Technologies has been at the forefront of innovating SCADA for the oil and gas industry. We are one of the top SCADA vendors in oil and gas because we have built the complete beginning-to-end oil and gas SCADA system. We didn’t set out to do this initially, but as we continued to find and solve problems with our customers, the ability to provide the entire service and fill specific gaps, no matter what they are, continues to prove valuable.
In an oil field, SCADA data enables engineers and other human operators to monitor and control pumps and devices involved in the production process. This saves time having to drive to check to see if the equipment is working properly and allows an operator to immediately adjust settings from afar when he spots an issue. The data also makes it possible to spot problems earlier and prioritize what to tackle to save operating costs and increase production.
Most oil and gas companies don’t use their SCADA system properly or to its full potential. This article will detail some of the biggest challenges companies face getting the most out of their SCADA system and how eLynx solves these. Let’s first start with what SCADA is so we can understand why it can be so hard to do well and make it difficult to reap the benefits from SCADA.
What SCADA stands for is supervisory control and data acquisition. In plain terms, SCADA is a software system that gathers, analyzes, and makes real-time data useful for an industrial job site. Making a modern SCADA system work requires sensors, industrial control systems that activate, communication or polling devices to read the sensors at intervals, historians or databases to house the collected data, and HMI software (human-machine interaction) that presents information to operators and allows them to input new information or commands that control field automation.
Given this, the challenge of building this supervisory system well is that all of these pieces of hardware and software have to work seamlessly together in a rough and tumble physical environment to provide accurate, real-time data that is instantly accessible and actionable by anyone, anywhere in the field. It necessitates a challenging blend of operation technology (OT) and information technology (IT) and a diverse range of expertise.
What goes wrong from the outset is that companies don’t have a holistic strategy when it comes to SCADA. They don’t have clear goals or a well-defined measurement plan to inform a strategy for building their system. This occurs because it is impossible for them to know these without prior experience. They don’t think they need to hire a SCADA engineer to plan and continue to evolve their system.
Because we have built so many systems, eLynx SCADA offers the strategic guidance to help companies decide in advance what they need from their SCADA system now and in the future so they can build the proper system.
If a company already has a system, eLynx provides the same guidance and then helps them alter and align their SCADA architecture with these goals. At the same time, we integrate with all or much of the pre-existing infrastructure. eLynx is built to mesh with all lift types and third-party equipment and software. This means we can save your investment and allow you to finally get much more out of it.
This lack of SCADA strategy usually leads companies to use multiple SCADA system vendors for hardware set-up and integration. Set-up and implementation fragmentation results in rampant fragmentation of data into different forms and values. This makes comparison difficult to impossible.
As you would expect, vendors don’t coordinate with each other or have the same standards or procedures. They work to get things running rather than optimizing their activity to integrate with the rest of the system to produce quality, timely data that is ready for analysis. Many companies are running “Frankenstein SCADA.” These hodgepodges are not well integrated and compromise SCADA performance.
In this common scenario, crucial SCADA programming decisions are not made to conform with a master plan based on accomplishing well-defined user goals. One important lesson is that a SCADA system is a complicated network where one part of it done improperly can and will spoil the entire outcome.
As a concrete example, companies often hire electricians to install their field automation and sensors instead of oil and gas SCADA field experts or automation engineers. The electricians will get them to work, no doubt, but what they install likely won’t be configured to take readings in a way that is similar to other devices in the field or communicate these readings at the proper intervals.
This quickly leads to a mish-mash of data that will require cleaning and normalizing to make comparable and usable. Most companies won’t have this capability and they will not be able to work any smarter than before. eLynx works with many of our new customers to reconfigure their set-ups and standardize the output that is best suited to create standardized, real-time data.
No matter how good and timely the data is, if it is not easy to use, then it will never impact the business. Typical SCADA software vendors offer industry agnostic solutions, so they design their solutions to be one-size fits all in terms of the end user experience and screens for viewing the data. As you know from using a smartphone, if something is even a little bit hard to use or understand, it won’t be used for long. The best data means nothing if no one is using it.
eLynx knows how crucial the visualizations and usability are. We specifically designed our product to be used by the different key roles in oil and gas companies. There is only ever one system to log into for all the information, screens are easily configurable, and we designed eLynx to work anywhere in an oil field and on any device.
Today, eLynx has over 1,500 daily users of our product on desktops and nearly 1,000 on mobile devices. The more users you have accessing the SCADA data directly to get what they need, the more value and better decisions across the company that are occurring.
A simple test to determine how well your SCADA system is working for your company is to answer the following questions:
If you answer no to one or more of these questions, then your SCADA system is not as effective as it could be or might even be leading you astray.
While there is much buzz, or even hype, around advanced analytics these days, what we know is that most oil and gas companies are not using their present SCADA applications anywhere near to full potential.
They don’t know what is possible with SCADA, and when they learn what is, they aren’t sure how to revamp their system to get there. One of the most important things we tell companies who approach us is that SCADA makes all analytics activities possible -- no matter the sophistication -- and creates powerful insights today.
Not only will advanced analytics never be possible without good SCADA, making better decisions right now will not either.
January 14, 2021