Streamlining communications systems

Paul Boughton

Erik Dellinger describes how one oil and gas company revamped its entire communication structure to achieve improved performance.

For several years, an oil and gas company's Pacific Region operation used Wonderware InTouch to communicate critical data on petroleum product pipelines and refined petroleum terminals among multiple control centres in Texas, California, and parts of Oregon and Nevada.

These pipelines move refined petroleum gas, diesel, and jet fuel from refineries and pump it to storage and loading racks in various cities. Communications between the geographically dispersed control centres help ensure that the pipelines are operating efficiently and the petroleum products are delivered on time.

After converting to an IP communications standard, the company's management realised that a more robust system was needed that could provide additional connections to the PLCs in the field. They determined that communications software from Kepware Technologies met their specific needs and could integrate with Wonderware's SuiteLink to build their envisioned communications system.

"We have many PLCs from various manufacturers in the field, and we needed to be able to communicate with them," noted the company's Systems Manager. "The native COM driver from InTouch was simply not powerful enough. Kepware was the only vendor who could give us the scalability and visibility we required to achieve centralized communication across the Pacific Region."[Page Break]

The Approach

Several hundred PLCs are located at more than 25 remote locations throughout the company's pipeline system. Each station controls various valves, pumps, and remote booster sites. KEPServerEX's built-in SuiteLink client interface provides communications between the various PLCs in the field to multiple Wonderware HMIs. Redundant historians are also used for collecting and archiving regulatory data.

"We simply outgrew the drivers we had before. Kepware has enabled us to make better connections," said the Systems Manager. "Since we've migrated to Kepware, we've also started using trending functions because Kepware also supports OPC. I built some automation applications that pull real-time data from the system that can be used for reporting to business applications by using Kepware's OPC server interface. The Kepware solution allows us to take advantage of existing equipment and has saved us a lot of time."

The company is revamping its entire communication structure to take advantage of additional Kepware tools for improved performance. When the project is complete, the company will both roll out the newest version of KEPServerEX and upgrade existing software in the field. "This upgrade will give us more reliability, stability and reduce maintenance costs," the company stated.

The Kepware solution also helps the company improve efficiencies in controlling and monitoring the pipelines, which are currently controlled locally and monitored centrally.

Redundant Wonderware HMIs are located at each of the 25 remote facilities where the pipelines are currently controlled. Approximately 50 HMIs run on 50 different servers. Each control centre has a consistent system that includes the same HMI and application software.[Page Break]

The systems are configured to meet the specific stations needs while creating interoperability between the control center and station. The data from these applications enables central personnel to forecast and schedule the times that various processes should start and finish.

Field personnel then carry out these instructions using the local HMI. The Control Centre has the capability to control one pipeline and a couple remote stations: all other pipelines and remote stations are controlled locally. The information is communicated back to Control Central.

Although KEPServerEX is currently installed at the local site, the company is in the process of migrating their design. After restructuring, KEPServerEX will be located in the Control Centre and will communicate with remote servers in the field (which will communicate with the device). Using the Kepware master/slave relationship to bring data from the field to the server in the Control Center streamlines communications.

Kepware is the only system that manages communications across the wide area network (WAN). The HMI, Historian, and other software that require data will communicate with a local KEPServerEX. This solution reduces the number of connections to the PLC because only the master Kepware server will communicate with the devices at that site.[Page Break]


Today, KEPServerEX is the company's primary communication server. The Kepware solution enables the company to do the following:

- Stabilise and increase the reliability of communications across protocols.

- Gain more visibility into pipeline monitoring and control data.

- Streamline the delivery of pipeline data to save time and gain operational efficiencies.

Enter √

Erik Dellinger is Product Marketing Manager with Kepware, Portland, ME, USA.

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