OPC UA and High Speed Data streaming- Enabling Big Data Analytics in Oil and Gas Industry
Role of OPC UA in Oil and Gas Business
OPC primarily a Microsoft based solution for interfacing manufacturing and production systems. It was an abbreviation for "Object Linking and Embedding" (OLE) for Process Control (OPC). With time this concept has evolved into Open Platform Communication (OPC). Today it's more commonly referred as Open Productivity and Connectivity (OPC). The classic Microsoft version of OPC relies on COM and DCOM objects for interfacing the machine data. The COM and DCOM has their own limitations mostly related to platform dependence, security, and data portability across firewalls and other non-Microsoft based applications.
OPC Foundation has come up with an architecture framework and standards to overcome the limitations of classic flavor of OPC. This new standard or framework is referred as OPC Unified Architecture (OPC UA). It provides standards for data extraction, security, and portability independent of any proprietary technology or platform. APIs are available in Java, .NET, and Ansi C. European energy companies are one of the early adopters of these standards and funding vendors to develop products around these standards. Vendors are already in market offering their product stacks around OPC data streaming, web services, visualization tools, and Real time data analytics. It is not be going to replace the existing OPC Classic implementations in a short term but can act as a mechanism of exposing this data to the enterprise in a much more effective fashion.
OPC Foundation certifies the products developed by these vendors and exposes APIs to manipulate the data. It provides a more standard mechanism of representing data types ranging from simple to more complex data structures. Models can be created to cater to different needs of the business while data is in motion (Real Time Data Analytical Models) or data at rest (Staged Data Analytical Models). Business rules can easily be configured to process the information in more time and cost effective manner. The various streaming data tools enable simultaneous streaming of information to multiple applications and data stores by use of high speed data transfer protocols. OPC UA provide a robust security model for data transfers. It also enables custom application development by leveraging the APIs. It will help the enterprises to get most of the value out the data.
Most of the Oil and Gas Exploration & Production companies relies on proprietary products that cover the deficiencies of OPC classic by creating their own wrapper to expose this data to the enterprises. Hence creating a strong dependency on these product vendors and their line of products to cater to the different business needs. It leads to a high licensing, and Infrastructure costs for upstream businesses. Due to proprietary nature of the data; data extraction, transformation and Integration add up to the cost for these enterprises. Not only there is a cost impact but also an impact to the business operations. By the time these enterprises gets a chance to even look into the data, they have already lost most of the value that this data has to offer. The operational real time risks that could have been avoided and can be converted into opportunities, get materialized.
From the performance perspective OPC DA is good for simple data types while OPC UA is designed for Complex data types which is more relevant for the upstream enterprises. The address space concept in OPC UA makes if more lucrative to the enterprise data management systems. OPC UA currently supports secure and firewall friendly high speed Binary TCP data transport and the web based protocols. With openness of these standards we can use custom protocols if we need to achieve higher data transfer speeds. There are various other protocols in market like FASP©, proprietary protocol developed by Aspera®, now an IBM® Company. FASP Byte Streaming APIs can eliminate the limitations of TCP in relation to data packet tracking and packet loss. It is independent of geographical distances and can transmit data at blazing speeds.
The Upstream, Midstream, and Downstream operations relies heavily on the PLCs, DCSs, PACs, data recorders, and control systems. These OPC enabled devices produces data every second. The data is managed using popular proprietary OPC Classic servers. Using OPC UA the data can be exposed and ported to the enterprises in a much cost effective and timely fashion.
The OPC UA has opened the doors for the enterprises to have a real time view of their operations and devise new business process models leveraging the benefits of Big Data Analytics, Real time predictive Analytics, and much more.
Benefits to Oil and Gas Operations:
Enterprises can benefit from the new open standards in many ways saving on cost and efficient operations ranging for Well Life Cycle Management, Distribution, Refining and Trading.
Areas of focus:
Action and Response Management
OPC UA provides context and content in real time to the enterprise. Alerts and Events generated by various SCADA systems can be made accessible to the system operator and enterprise at the same time. System operators need not rely just on their instincts and experience but has support from entire enterprise. Notifications can be sent to multiple stakeholders and efficient response strategies can be implemented for each event. It also enables the analyst to visually interpret the data on the web and mobile devices in order to respond to the incidents in real time. Data movement need not rely on proprietary systems to move it across multiple network layers. Custom visualization models give a different perspective of the data flowing out to the enterprise.
Making right decisions at right time can save millions for the enterprises. Decisions are based on the insights generated by the data across the enterprise. Most of this is the OPC data generated by the devices operating at remote locations. Faster we analyze data the better is the value we get from the insights. For example, exploration sensor data can guide upstream to decide on whether to proceed with drilling operation at a particular site, understand the geology of the site and procure right equipment's to execute drilling operations, deciding on the well trajectories to maximize the production, optimize the drilling parameters for safe and efficient drilling, optimize the refining operations based on hydrocarbon analysis of the oil, determining shortest route for transporting oil and gas, help in scheduling oil and gas operations, better decisions for executing large oil and gas trades.
Oil and gas industry is highly prone to risks, whether it's related to deep water drilling operations or transportation of oil and gas across the challenging terrains. A small incident can lead to loss of billions of dollars and on other hand it can open doors to tremendous opportunities. It's about understanding the risks, its consequences and leveraging right strategy to handle the risk. Most of the assets and equipment are OPC enabled and generate tons of data every second. The data if tapped at right time the organizations not only deal with any risk with confidence but also can exploit the opportunities. Analytical models can easily crunch the data at is most granular form leveraging OPC UA and provide ammunition to the enterprise to optimize their operations.
Health and Safety
The OPC UA data can be streamed directly from the drilling assets to the enterprise with an ability to perform in-flight analytics. The data can feed into analytical models designed to predict outcomes and prescribe actions to ensure safety of the operational landscape. Data is the new currency for the modern world and can provide insights to improve health and safety aspect of the oil and gas enterprise and meet the legal and regulatory needs of the region.
Future of Oil and Gas Enterprises
With the latest technological advancements, right investments, and capacity to accept change, it's not far when our oil and gas enterprises will step into the new era of intelligent field operations. As quoted by OPC Foundation that "There will be a need of only two living beings on the oil field, a Dog and a Human, where Human ensures dog gets his food on time and Dog ensures Human do not interferes with the field operations."