Hydrocarbon producers face extreme pressures to reduce operational costs and boost efficiency. This is easier said than done. Standing in the way are outdated operational technology (OT) infrastructures that run supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, historians, and automation control systems at satellite facilities and remote pumping stations. Often installed decades ago, these systems gather potentially valuable data, but it’s painful or even impossible to extract it for high-level analysis.
Ask any business line executive associated with a production line, or a continuous process, what is it that they fear the most and the almost universal response is “unplanned downtime”. This is the one thing that can wreck KPI’s and negatively impact overall equipment effectiveness in unexpected ways.
When it comes to utilities, we as consumers find interruptions to electricity, heat, water, and phone service as extremely disruptive and even dangerous. For utility providers, the impact of such outages also is severe when it comes to lost revenue, customer dissatisfaction, and liability risks. In the natural gas industry, downtime incidents can present even more dire consequences.
Lately, people have been asking more questions about the safety and reliability of their water supply. That’s because recent incidents of system contamination such as the crisis in Flint, Michigan and storm damage from hurricanes Matthew and Sandy have thrust water and wastewater issues into the public eye. And that’s put increased pressure on municipalities and counties to get a better handle on their water and wastewater operations.
Water is getting a lot of attention lately. Whether it’s contaminated water in Flint, Michigan or environmental impact from hurricane-damaged wastewater facilities, incidents like these raise serious questions about safety and reliability.
Unplanned downtime has long been the nemesis of industrial operations. In recent years, we’ve seen tolerance for unplanned downtime get even lower. In fact, a recent survey by Stratus and the ARC Group reports that almost 40% of respondents said they could handle no more than 10 minutes of downtime per incident. More than 20% said they could not tolerate downtime at all.
I talk to a lot of people in the industrial automation world, and almost without exception they share the same challenge. They need to prevent unplanned downtime while preparing for the future, which includes evolving to the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Industry 4.0, and smart factories.
As companies across the energy value chain look for ways to become more efficient and agile, the Industrial “Internet of Things” (IIoT) offers attractive opportunities. Harnessing sensor data, machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and Big Data analytics enables oil and gas companies to take automation and efficiency to new heights, while creating the foundation for new business models.
More and more, we’re seeing operations organizations virtualizing critical industrial automation (IA) applications such as Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and human machine interface (HMI) historians. And whether virtualizing these systems or not, many companies choose to run their applications on fault-tolerant systems.
It’s often difficult to fully understand the impact of modernizing an automation system and how an investment in fault-tolerant platforms from Stratus, along with updated Programmable Automation Controllers (PACs) can deliver rapid results. For Columbia Pipeline Group (recently purchased by TransCanada) the answer is approximately $2.3 million in 2014 alone, even with a partial pipeline upgrade.