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How do you clean up a SCADA mess in midstream oil and gas?

Add a lot of SOAP and some good old fashioned elbow grease.

True story. A few years ago we were asked by a client to commission a midstream gathering facility. It seemed like a straightforward project. The EPC firm had already installed all the equipment, and they had been working with a Integrator for several months on implementing the controls and SCADA system. We were told the commissioning should take only a week - a red flag since a typical commissioning project takes about 1-2 months.

When we conducted the site audit we were alarmed to say the least. Although the controls were in place, none of the processes were operational. Troubleshooting would take weeks. The client believed the site would be operational within seven days of our arrival. How could this be? Why was the client not aware of these critical roadblocks? Why was the Integrator not completed with the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) phase?

You can imagine the awkward position we found ourselves in. We had to deliver the horrible news to an unsuspecting client that their expectations simply could not be met, and the gathering facility that would generate millions of dollars worth of revenue would not be operational for several more months.

There’s only one thing to do in a situation like this; rip the bandaid off and tell the truth.

We had several meetings with the client and the EPC to explain the diagnosis, and to provide a comprehensive solution for restructuring the controls. Ultimately, we learned that the SCADA Integrator previously awarded the work did not have experience in Oil and Gas. This is a major issue in a segment such as midstream that has to comply with substantial regulations, and relies heavily on automation to reduce HSE exposure. The entire project team needs to be very familiar with the processes and limitations of the equipment, and must have intimate knowledge of the operations in order to program the controls properly.

Our team began the overhaul of the system and reprogrammed 10 PLCs, 10 HMIs and configured and implemented the new SCADA system for the onsite control room. We had four engineers working 16 hour days and were able to successfully deliver a year’s worth of work in four months.

If you are a midstream operator, here are some tips on how to avoid this situation:

  1. If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is. One week to commission a Gathering Facility is unrealistic.

  2. Check the resumes of the SCADA Integrator’s engineers before awarding the project. If they haven’t worked in oil and gas, and they haven’t completed a project of similar scope and scale - seek alternatives.

  3. Have regular meetings with your SCADA Integrator together and separately from the EPC firm. Ask them directly about roadblocks, delivery schedules, and processes.

  4. Always ask your SCADA Integrator for a preFAT QA session in which you will observe first hand if the devices and screens have been programmed properly. QA typically occurs during the Development Phase of the project, and a client should be involved in the testing and acceptance of the work in a simulation environment BEFORE the instrumentation is delivered to the site.


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