Network access key to high precision process monitoring and control

Paul Boughton
New routers, modems and cables are transforming access to networks and simplifying data transfer across all production processes. Sean Ottewell reports.

Lufkin Automation has chosen the Westermo MRD-310 3G router to equip its SAM Well Manager product, an advanced technological solution for high-precision monitoring and control of rod-pumping wells.

Used in a series of pilot projects, mainly for the European and Asian markets, the MRD-310 range provides a very high level of connectivity, and support many mobile standards including GSM, GPRS, 3G UMTS, HSDPA and HSUPA. Dedicated to harsh environments, MRD-310 is aimed to demonstrate significant cost savings in this application.

Lufkin Automation was formed by the merger of two companies, the Delta X and Nabla Corporations, pioneers in rod pump controls. Delta-X was a leader in test and analysis systems for pumping processes using new innovative and user friendly methods. Nabla was the developer of software solutions that in many ways has simplified the analysis and control of the pumping process. Today these two companies are a part of Lufkin Automation oil field division and offer analysis, security and control solutions for rod pumping wells.

Oil fields are often situated in remote and demanding environments where extreme variations in temperature, moisture and other environmental variables are an issue. To install the control and monitoring systems in these environments can be difficult as oil fields often consist of hundreds of pumps spread over large geographic areas.

The Lufkin-developed SAM Well Manager is described by the company as the oil industry's most advanced technological solution for high-precision monitoring and control of rod-pumping wells. It allows the operator to optimise pump performance and reliability. Pump flow can be analysed, service and maintenance requirements are calculated before the event of mechanical failure and energy consumption is optimised. The SAM Well Manager can be configured to stop the pumping process at low oil levels and when maintenance or service is required. The system also creates a complete action history that can be used for further optimisation.

The SAM Well Manager is connected to the pump's SCADA system. To remotely control the system a variety of technologies such as copper, fibre and radio links have previously been used. Although Lufkin's European division has further enhanced the system and new solutions using mobile networks have been developed. Lufkin has decided to use the Westermo MRD-310 3G router in a series of pilot projects, mainly for the European and Asian markets.

The router provides support for the wide variety of mobile standards used globally and allows installations in practically the whole world. It also supports IPSec encrypted VPN tunnels which is a requirement for safety critical applications that use unsecure public networks such as the internet. Furthermore, the MRD-310 provides a serial interface and serial to IP conversion, which is necessary to connect to the controller. The routers are also developed for extreme environments and can operate in temperatures from -20°C to 60°C. Today, this application is installed in a number of pilot projects to demonstrate the potential for significant cost savings.

Using high speed uplink packet access (HSUPA), the uplink capacity is 2 Mbit/s, together with the 7.2 Mbit/s downlink data making the unit suitable for even high data rate applications. MRD-310 also distinguishes itself with a very high level of connectivity. It provides built-in two port 10/100 Ethernet switches and an RS-232 and thus easily allows devices to seamlessly connect over a vast geographical distance. To extend the life of legacy equipment there are a number of tools included in the MRD-310 that will ensure connectivity with PLCs and other RS-232-based devices. The unit supports both packet and circuit switched mode, Serial to IP conversion, Modbus Gateway, DNP3 Level 1 Outstation and Dial-Up modem emulation.

Westermo currently has a local presence in more than 35 countries through authorised distributors and its own offices. Since 2008 the company has been part of the Beijer Electronics Group, a fast growing technology company with extensive experience of industrial automation.

High-performance solutions

The global economy and even society as a whole is more dependent on energy supply, particularly the oil and gas industry, than on any other branch of industry. It is vital to be able to optimally manage systems for oil production, for transport over thousands of kilometres, via pipelines or across the sea, as well as systems for its processing.

Managing such systems is important for: early detection of technical downtimes; highly efficient, cost-saving operation of systems; remote querying of sensors and remote control of equipment; and early detection of threats, for example from terrorist attacks.

Such considerations provide a variety of increasingly stringent requirements for communications systems and requirements are exceeding pure voice applications, for example high-performance transmission of data at the same time as voice, prompt transmission of images, and interoperability between different systems Such requirements can only be met reliably in the future by digital communications systems, which are designed in accordance with the latest international and open standards and built as systems for mission-critical applications offering excellent security.

With ACCESSNET-T, Rohde & Schwarz is providing a secure and reliable tailor-made communications solution which can be relied upon even under extreme conditions.

The heart of every ACCESSNET-T communications system is the exchange system which includes: optimum scalability for every application, gateways to external networks (PSTN, PABX and ISDN), and access to application-specific add-ons.

The backbone of a communications system is the base station that comes in indoor or outdoor versions with a fixed or variable number of TETRA carriers. In addition, the company cites unsurpassed robustness that suits practically all environmental conditions, low weight and small space requirements, plus integrated drop and insert multiplexers without the need for external multiplexers

The brain of the system is the control centre, which is also designed as a multi-user system. The network management server (NMS) is integrated in every network element (exchange and base station). Access by clients to the NMS, directly or via LAN, involves using standard laptops with secured access. The company also places a high priority on security. For example, security of the connection is maintained using redundancy solutions, hot swap and no single point of failure, and security of communications via encryption.

Meanwhile Data-Linc has gone into full production with its latest and newest addition to the FastLinc family of high-speed modems. The FLC910E offers a new option in data transmission. Using orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) technology and the robust 900 MHz ISM band, the FLC910E provides high data throughput and immunity to multi-path fading. It also looks to the future by providing a platform for another of Data-Linc's high-speed products with the same footprint that will offer OFDM 802.11abgn capability.

The company says that the FLC910E addition is an ideal data communication option for noisy in-plant environments. It handles data with a spreading method that utilises a wide number of carrier frequencies transmitted simultaneously, dividing signal data across exactly spaced carrier frequencies uniquely designed to have the exact minimum 'orthogonal' spacing. This ensures that each carrier frequency will not interfere with any other, and it is this precise space utilisation in the 900 MHz band that gives the FLC910E its robust, reliable performance.

The OFDM technology permits data transfer via a wide channel that supports complex modulation and the resulting high data rates (up to 54 Mbps) with low latency - the transmission time a data packet travels from point A to point B. OFDM also enables the FLC910E to be significantly more immune to multi-path fading caused by RF reflection that can be particularly troublesome in conditions that constrain data rates and reliability in standard 802.11 high-speed data systems. The advantage of the 900 MHz band, wide-channel modulation and immunity to multi-path fading permits the FLC910E to provide high throughput rates while maintaining excellent resistance to noise.

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