Industrial Use of SCADA Systems

OpinionFront Staff Sep 30, 2018
Here is a description of the industrial use of SCADA systems, including their functions, application in oil and gas flowing, waste water management, and power and electricity surges.
From a central reading location, a SCADA system can track a number of remote sites equipped with Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) or Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs). The RTUs can measure an array of conditions and a wider variety of parameters, including temperature, current, voltage flow, and tank levels.
Real-time measurements are obtained from the RTU's via the different sensors they have inside. The types of sensors, which can be included in RTUs are temperature, flow, level, pressure, and proximity. The data acquired is then sent back via the communication link.
Some of the larger systems can monitor 10,000-20,000 remote sites, with each site handling as many as 2000 input/output (I/O) points. These units in turn report back to the Central Processing Unit (CPU) that carries out the control functions and needed analysis.

Water And Wastewater On The Rise

Growth in the water market is expected to track and exceed the growth of the population in both developed and underdeveloped areas. According to UNICEF, 844 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water.
Groundwater pollution is a major factor. Penetration of pollutants occurs from waste storage sites, absorption fields, water and wastewater sewage discharges, and expansion of irrigated lands (Water Federation). Developed areas include the cities needing additional waste treatment and water facilities.
Additionally, the proportion of people in developing countries who live in cities has increased from 20% in 1960 to 50% today, putting more stress on water and wastewater treatment facilities. This in turn will call for better management of water and wastewater facilities, and also the expansion of the number of projects needed to meet population demand.
Water treatment facilities are generally small enough to allow the usage of PC-based SCADA Systems, which are capable of handling an ever-increasing number of I/O points.
Water is becoming an increasing valuable and scarce resource. The ability to manage this resource efficiently both from an acquisition and distribution standpoint will be key to the survival of the human race. These systems will enable water and wastewater facilities to monitor the flow, level, and pressure in the pipelines.
When there is a measurement that falls outside the parameters established within the RTU (via sensors) or the Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), this in turn will set off alarms and trigger responses to do such actions as to turn valves and pumps on/off, and shut down pipelines, avoiding costly spillage.

Power And Electric Utility Surges

From an electric utility view, this system is a key factor in the profitability of this industry, not only in generation, but also in the transmission and distribution of electricity.
As world competition increases among electric utilities, primarily due to the deregulation and privatization of nationally owned utilities, the ability to transfer information to and from SCADA will become a key success factor in remaining a viable enterprise.
In North America and other parts of the world, such as Europe, competition is rife. Power generation companies that are now deregulated are competing, and are seeking means to lower their costs significantly; one of the best ways to do this is through automation.
End users generating power need to understand the capacity they have and what is available, to avoid overloading and face potential blackouts. Electric companies can face serious fines and lawsuits from continuous blackouts.
On the distribution/ transmission side of the energy business, the ability to provide electricity to consumers is vital. Knowing the status of power lines, the rates of transmission, etc., will enable companies to re-route the power through other lines or distribution networks.
Also, with the development of wholesale energy markets, if enterprises want to sell power, they need to know in real time, how much capacity they have. The concept in question allows them to analyze these issues, related to capacity, transmission and distribution, and respond effectively to current market conditions in both the wholesale and retail markets.

Oil & Gas Flowing

Refineries will be forced to control emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) associated with applicable process vents, equipment containing or contacting hazardous wastes, and tanks and other units used for storage of hazardous wastes.
VOCs are responsible for causing ground-level ozone and are also toxic. Approximately 76% of refineries are within three miles of population centers with more than 25,000 people.
Environmental legislation and regulations affecting the petroleum industry will continue to have a tremendous impact on this industry. The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) inhibits new installations in the largest markets, both in North America and Europe.
Compliance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations regarding emissions and effluents are expected to have a positive impact on the U.S. market for this software. As more oil and gas pipelines are built worldwide, the need for this concept will only increase.
Regulations affect end-user industries forcing them to better manage their resources, prevent leakage, and address possible problems immediately. This system is an integral part in attaining the level of control necessary to manage pipelines and distribution.
Regulations affecting the U.S. oil and gas industry include the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
Additionally, legislation is in the works to eliminate Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether (MTBE) in gasoline. This additive has been used mostly in reformulated gasoline. MTBE is a possible carcinogen that has been leaking into groundwater in several regions with serious environmental effects.
From a strictly industry profitability standpoint, the ability to actually measure the rate of the flow is key to making sure that both inventory levels and storage transfers from one enterprise to another are accurate. All this converts into more money reaching the bottom line, with fewer write-offs on financial statements.
Utilizing plant resources efficiently is just as critical when the industry is booming as when it is in a downturn. On one hand, for the oil and gas industry that as a whole has been struggling due to low crude oil prices, these mechanisms have been a necessary tool for their survival in a tough marketplace.
They are also vital in assisting them in managing a global enterprise. They are the key to helping them manage offshore exploration, custody transfers, and pipeline efficiency (both upstream and downstream), enabling them to have better control over their assets worldwide.

Other Industries Moving Full Steam Ahead

Other industries such as freight and light rail also need this mechanism. They are used to monitor the status of power supplying lines and control line traction. This enables the operator to keep trains on track and deviate these same trains when power is low or non-existent, avoiding delay times and accidents.
In addition, many regions of the world have a substantial amount of railroad lines in place, continuing to have a need for advanced controls. Furthermore, light rails are under construction in areas such as Asia and the Pacific Rim, thereby boosting revenues for this system.
Lastly, with an increasing number of standstill traffic conditions around the globe, these systems are anticipated to play an integral part of traffic management.
As margins become tighter, downsizing of personnel continues, resources become more scarce, deregulation and privatization of worldwide industries propels forward, and certain sectors experience the wave of mergers and acquisitions, SCADA systems will need to be there to provide strategic information to decision makers in a real time environment.
The Information Technology (IT) market is already enormous, with this system potentially becoming a component of IT. IT is really software to support a business; SCADA is really the acquisition of strategic information in a reliable and timely fashion that can be used to go in and support decisions in real-time.
It is the real-time IT business and cannot be ignored by enterprises without potentially risking both the profitability and viability of their business in a fiercely competitive environment.