Cloud-Based Remote Monitoring System: 3 Reasons to Invest

Still deciding if a cloud-based remote monitoring and control system is right for your oilfield operations?

Consider this: Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston metropolitan area in 2017, causing $125 billion in damage and becoming one of the most destructive tropical cyclones on record. For those that invested in a cloud-based remote monitoring and control system, real-time alerts and remote control features allowed them to shut off systems and protect their asses protect their assets while limiting the loss of valuable data from the field.

If your oil field is located in a hurricane zone, tornado alley, or another area with harsh environments, SCADA monitoring and control systems are an absolute necessity to keep you updated on alerts and in control of your equipment during extreme weather events. Instead of an onsite field house packed with servers to monitor your equipment, advanced remote monitoring and control systems (RMC) use cloud technology to collect your data and deliver it to your laptop or mobile device – all from the comfort of your home or office.

Traditional monitoring systems typically involve the installation of hardware in the field for capturing data and a backend desktop/mobile dashboard for viewing it. When a sensor detects something out of tolerance, as is common with oilfield tank monitoring and compressor monitoring, the system will alerts the customer, prompting them to take action. Getting the maximum benefit from your remote monitoring system requires that it be part of a larger solution designed to improve your operations. It should seamlessly integrate with existing hardware and software, and work with existing devices like PLC, HMI and SCADA, which will provide countless connectivity options.

The following sections offer three compelling reasons to invest in a hosted cloud server system versus an onsite server configuration:

 

1. Saves time and money otherwise spent on personnel and infrastructure

Most customers build their entire data collection and monitoring system on-site in a field house. This installation is typically packed with servers and network equipment, surrounded by compressors and tanks, in a communal spot where fieldworkers tend to gather. In order to preserve seamless data collection and troubleshoot any problems, IT personnel are required to maintain your equipment and prevent it from experiencing outages of any kind.

Hiring, managing and retaining your IT staff, along with the costs associated with keeping server equipment, add excessive overhead to your operation. When bad weather strikes, the risk for major outages still exist. Additionally, if you operate a nearshore drilling platform with an on-site system, you probably have to pay someone to visit it daily via boat. A cloud-based solution spares you the cost of building an on-site server that requires constant support, and it removes the risk of having a single point of failure. Additionally, a cloud-based remote monitoring and control system gives your operations big data capabilities with a sophisticated backend in a secure offsite server that is safe from harsh environments in the field.

 

2. Rarely affected by outages

If your server system is onsite, power outages can be disastrous for data collection. Likewise, onsite servers in remote areas are often expensive and time-consuming to repair. Cloud-based RMC systems rely on cellular or satellite networks to send data to the server and include power backup and daily data backups to protect SCADA data against a total loss of connection.

In the rare instance that a cellular network goes down, cellular companies are quick to respond and send out Cells On Wheels (COWs) to provide fully functional service. COWs are mobilized, via trailers, vans and trucks, to areas affected by natural disaster or to areas where major events have increased user volume. It’s highly unlikely these days that unreliable cell connection will disrupt communication and data transfer from remote monitoring and control systems.

Bluetick has relationships with cellular services to keep data secured and to quickly funnel it to the client. In the instance that a cellular network is down for more than 12 hours, customers can rest assured, because the Bluetick RMC system can capture up to one month’s worth of data and upload it once connection is restored. Bluetick RMC solutions also can work with satellite networks in order to completely bypass terrestrial communication networks – thereby making it immune to extreme weather events.

 

3. Avoid the potential for lost data from damaged onsite storage

Your operation is only as strong as its data collection system. With strong gusts of wind and sideways rain, losing power is to be expected in extreme weather events, but you shouldn’t lose your data along with it. Regardless of the weather, a cloud-based remote monitoring and control system using cellular or satellite connection significantly reduces the risk of connection failure – and thus, loss of data. Furthermore, internal data logging capabilities prevent the loss of data even if you lose communication with your system.

Onsite servers are vulnerable to destruction from extreme weather, which could lead to the a total blackout for critical alerts and the loss of valuable data. What are the implications for lost data? It depends. In the case of hydraulic fracking, losing captured data would be detrimental to modeling and future projects. Without current data, the models would be inaccurate and any searching for resources would essentially be like throwing punches in the dark.

The data is equally valuable for non-fracking energy companies, as being within operational limits is critical to operations. The collected data can also be reviewed for any anomalies or clues that point to pending malfunctions or required maintenance of equipment. Furthermore, as technology has advanced, upstream oil and gas companies are embracing big data to improve overall performance with predictive analytics. Any hiccup in the data could translate to real world costs.

 

Conclusion

The benefits of a cloud-based remote monitoring and control system include real-time alerts, reliable data storage and costs savings related to personnel and infrastructure. When deciding which system to install, the value of due diligence cannot be underestimated.

As an example, a few years ago, a customer came to Bluetick with complaints about a competitor’s product. They’d installed a monitoring system that was barely operational due to spotty cellular connectivity, which thus lead to a big disaster. A rain storm passed through, and the customer’s oil tanks and saltwater tanks overflowed, spilling 10 barrels of oil onto their property and into a public body of water. Their monitoring system failed to alert them until 12 hours after the incident had occurred. By that time, major clean-up crews and federal agencies were already onsite to inspect the damage. The next day, they hired Bluetick to install a more reliable solution. Our RMC systems have survived extreme weather events, like Hurricane Harvey, and helped our clients remain operational. That’s why we like to boast that our systems are “hurricane-strength.”

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