SCADA continues to evolve

Today’s SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems offer a new generation of technology components that are easier to integrate, and provide improved capabilities and functionalities.

End users are utilising SCADA technology to help improve operations and link operations to business processes for a variety of purposes, including business performance management and leveraging investments in existing assets and systems to optimise capital expenditures.

A number of significant factors are driving the global SCADA market in the oil & gas and other industries with remote operations.

Although the worldwide demand for additional energy from carbon-based fuels has leveled off and the reduced price of hydrocarbons have stymied upstream development, the shifting of exploration and production locations to more remote and hostile environments, aging midstream systems, and changes in end user requirements to link SCADA to business systems continue to drive the SCADA market.

The reduced commodity pricing has led to a rise in optimisation investment that is facilitated by SCADA platforms.

Operating companies are emphasising vendor services across the entire value chain and asset lifecycle, and seeking additional functionalities in application software.

Other factors include advances in network, wireless, and cloud-based technologies, which make it easier to connect more for less. These factors present new opportunities for additional players to enter the market and for the formation of new vendor alliances.

Trends in SCADA

SCADA suppliers continue to offer more flexible hardware with added intelligence and emphasising total solutions by coupling hardware and software with service packages. These smarter “edge”devices are able to host applications that traditionally ran in a central location due to the computing power that is required.

Traditional SCADA suppliers are introducing new and innovative product features and helping clients develop migration planning programs.

Although hardware revenues are down, the revenues associated with smart flexible devices grew significantly.

Additionally, suppliers are offering a wider range of web-enabled advanced applications and packaged solutions, particularly for users seeking to integrate SCADA with business and enterprise -level applications and supply chains.

Beyond the traditional data gathering and control functions, the addition of business intelligence-enabled applications has enhanced the value of SCADA systems.

These new applications give users better insight into the economics of their operations, the easier ability to validate nominations and pipeline allocations, and tools to track carbon emissions, which aids them in regulatory compliance.

SCADA systems, together with these advanced applications, improve visibility and the performance of geographically dispersed assets and form the basis for real-time performance management of production and pipeline assets.

New SCADA technologies allow global energy companies to manage their operations remotely even in distant and extreme environments, from the Arctic tundra to deep subsea installations.

Exploration activities and new production fields are being developed, monitored, controlled, and optimised globally using advanced SCADA technologies.

This is reflected in the strong revenue growth in software applications. Many of the top SCADA suppliers offer a full suite of products and services, including remote terminal units (RTUs), networking technologies, and associated controllers.

Service offerings cover hardware support, software applications, communications, and systems integration. Increasingly, suppliers are also moving toward open, industry standardised technology, including standards-based RTUs, general-purpose PLCs, and third-party network infrastructures based on commercial information technology.

The business (IT) and automation (OT) spheres continue to meld; in fact, this merger has happened faster in this solution space than in most others. SCADA systems can gather every piece of field data, making it indispensable for operations of all sizes.

Across the industry, SCADA technology is critical for accounting data collection, wastewater management, compressor/pump management, and environmental management.

The upstream industry is beginning to leverage automation in ways most of the downstream industry has done for decades because the price of hydrocarbons has forced the industry to optimise its processes like never before.

Shift from Traditional SCADA to Remote Operations Management

While traditional SCADA architectures are both hierarchical in nature (with a master station and remote terminal units) and data-centric, we’re now seeing a shift toward flatter architectures that take advantage of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to enable more effective overall remote operations management.

While traditional SCADA solutions tend to be data-based, today’s IIoT-based remote operations management solutions are object-based.

With no master station per se, users have the flexibility to allocate functionality as required, data management is truly distributed, and the data or information are held at the source; eliminating the need for path writing between data sources and users.

Ubiquitous use of TCP/IP networks provides transparency between local and remote resources.

Databases are used strictly as sources for trending, record keeping, analysis, etc. This promotes individual initiative in dynamic organisational structures in which everyone with a need to know can share the same information.

From a functional view, it also eliminates distance and time barriers.

Technology is not the issue; it is available and proven. Culture, organisation, and securing the right people continue to be the real challenges.

However, enterprises with remote , “outside the fence”operations need to explore today’s newer IIoT-enabled technologies and solutions and evaluate the potential value they can provide in their own remote operations by improving asset management, asset performance, safety performance, and environmental performance.

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