American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - 38

SpecialReport: Reservoir Optimization & Modeling
The traditional control architectures that
have been used for decades are being
pushed to their limits and simply may no
longer be sustainable in resource play pad
developments. Instead, more advanced
control systems are needed to handle the
scalable architectures required by well
pads. As a result, both operators and the
equipment builders who support them must
modify-if not radically change-their control systems approaches to optimize multiwell pad operations.
Upstream oil and gas producers have
long relied on remote terminal unit technology for well-site control. Initially, the
cost of implementing RTUs and the challenges in programming them limited the
devices to simple data acquisition and control. Over time, however, RTUs incorporated more features, including input/output, communications, and IEC-61131
programming. These capabilities enabled
oil and gas operators to monitor more data
points, log history and alarms, and add
more complex calculations into their
RTUs. Equipment builders and engineering firms also started developing specialty applications for wellhead artificial lift
controls with proprietary microprocessor
controllers.
Eventually, virtually every artificial lift
manufacturer developed its own RTU to
control and optimize its respective solutions. Engineering firms also developed

their own methods with slightly different
RTU applications, while instrumentation
manufacturers introduced new instruments to measure just about any process
point required.
Pushed To The Limit
Each well on a pad requires artificial
lift, flow measurement, equipment control
and level measurement. This creates more
I/O and control demand than a single RTU
can handle, pushing the technology to the
limit of its capability. As a result, oil and
gas producers are forced to purchase additional RTUs and spread application and
site control across multiple units. While
producers successfully have implemented multiple RTU controllers on a well pad,
there are some common problems with
these architectures, including:
* Change management of multiple
configurations or programs at each well
pad;
* Communication management of
the many RTUs on site (e.g., peer-to-peer
communications);
* Supervisory control and data acquisition communications to hardware from
multiple vendors; and
* Unreliable execution of custom
programs in the RTUs.
The ultimate demand on RTU devices
comes when much larger multiwell pad
control is needed. This can include an op-

eration with 10 or more wells on a single
pad. The higher density of wells on a pad
also increases the equipment required on
site. For example, many of these well pads
have their own separators.
It also becomes more economical to install pipeline compression, vapor recovery
units, and VRU towers because of the high
rate of natural gas produced from the pad.
Lease automatic custody transfer units, and
water transfer and chemical injection systems also are common equipment components on well pads.
In addition, many oil and gas producers are investing in electrical buildings
known as e-houses to facilitate main utility power distribution, motor control centers, network switches, and uninterruptable
power supplies, and they often are environmentally controlled.
All these increases-in equipment, field
instrumentation and applications-only
compound problems with RTU architectures. They also create new challenges in
the form of service and support. Using
multiple RTUs has led to multiple application configurations and programs to
maintain, and forces oil and gas operators
to work with multiple vendors.
Additionally, having several devices
from multiple vendors requires that workers have more training and experience to
support them. While some producers are
fully staffed with enough trained personnel to maintain the well control systems,
many are not. These producers must rely
on manufacturer support or contract engineering support to maintain their control
systems.
Modularity And Scalability

The greater data and control requirements associated with multiwell pad developments
are driving the need for modular and scalable control architectures. PLC-based system
approaches provide modularity, open-source architectures, scalability, and user-friendly online programming.

38 THE AMERICAN OIL & GAS REPORTER

RTUs have fulfilled their role for
decades in handling simple control requirements, simple field-device interactions, and
simple communications. But the increased
requirements associated with more complex, multiwell pad operating environments have started to exceed the capacities of RTU technology, and they no
longer can suffice as the architectural backbone of well site monitoring and control
functionalities.
Many oil and gas producers that have
experienced common RTU issues have



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016

Contents
American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - Cover1
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American Oil and Gas Reporter - September 2016 - Contents
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