How SCADA Can Optimize Helium Production and Management
SCADA helps helium producers overcome production and management challenges.
Helium is a valuable and versatile gas that has many applications in various fields, such as medicine, aerospace, electronics, welding, and research. However, helium is also a scarce and non-renewable resource that is in high demand and short supply. According to the US Geological Survey, global consumption of helium outweighs production by about 14 million cubic meters. Therefore, it is crucial to optimize the production and management of helium from its sources.
One of the main sources of helium is natural gas wells that contain helium as a byproduct. Helium is produced from the radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in the underlying rocks and accumulates in natural gas reservoirs. The concentration of helium in natural gas varies from less than 0.1% to more than 10%, depending on the geological conditions1. Helium can be extracted from natural gas by using cryogenic or membrane separation processes.
However, extracting and managing helium from natural gas wells is not a simple task. It requires constant monitoring and control of various parameters and equipment, such as pressure, temperature, flow rate, level, purity, valves, compressors, separators, etc. It also involves various challenges and risks, such as leaks, flaring, emissions, safety hazards, operational inefficiencies, etc.
Helium Producers Leverage SCADA to Overcome Industrial Challenges
To overcome these challenges and risks, helium producers can use SCADA systems to supervise and control their operations. SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. It is a type of process control system architecture that uses computers, networked data communications and graphical Human Machine Interfaces (HMIs) to enable a high-level process supervisory management and control.
SCADA System Components
SCADA systems are used in helium wells to monitor and control the production process. They help operators optimize their production by providing real-time data on the well’s performance and enabling them to adjust as needed.
A SCADA system consists of the following components:
Supervisory computers: These are the central units that run the SCADA software and communicate with the field devices. They provide the operators with a graphical interface to monitor and control the processes, as well as to analyze and store the data.
Remote terminal units (RTUs): These are microcomputers that are located at the remote sites and connected to the sensors, actuators, and other devices that interface with the process plant or machinery. They collect the data from the field devices and send it to the supervisory computers, as well as execute the commands from the supervisory computers.
Programmable logic controllers (PLCs): These are specialized microcomputers that are used to perform real-time control logic or controller calculations for the field devices. They can be integrated with the RTUs or directly connected to the supervisory computers.
Communication infrastructure: This is the network that connects the supervisory computers, RTUs, PLCs, and field devices. It can use various methods such as radio, wired, wireless, optical fiber, or internet protocols.
How Helium Producers Leverage SCADA Systems
SCADA systems can help helium producers optimize their production and management by providing the following benefits:
Efficiency: SCADA systems can help helium producers improve their operational efficiency by providing real-time data and feedback on their processes and equipment. They can also automate some tasks and reduce human errors or interventions. For example, SCADA systems can adjust the pressure and flow rate of the natural gas wells to optimize the helium extraction rate and minimize the flaring or venting of excess gas.
Quality: SCADA systems can help helium producers maintain their product quality and standards by ensuring consistent and accurate measurements and controls. They can also detect and prevent defects or deviations and improve customer satisfaction. For example, SCADA systems can monitor the purity and composition of the helium gas and ensure that it meets the specifications of the end-users or markets.
Safety: SCADA systems can help helium producers prevent accidents and injuries by monitoring and controlling the hazardous or critical conditions and processes. They can also alert and respond to any emergencies or incidents and minimize the damage or loss. For example, SCADA systems can detect leaks or ruptures in the pipelines or equipment and activate the safety valves or shut-off devices to isolate the affected areas.
Cost: SCADA systems can help helium producers save money and resources by reducing waste and downtime. They can also increase productivity and profitability by maximizing output and performance. For example, SCADA systems can reduce the energy consumption and maintenance costs of the processes and equipment by optimizing their settings and parameters.
SCADA systems are essential tools for helium producers to supervise and control their operations. They provide a comprehensive and integrated solution that enhances the efficiency, quality, safety, and cost-effectiveness of helium production and management.