Solar power solution helps control flow of water gathering pipelines

Louise Smyth

Liam Jones reveals how a smart solar-powered solution installed on a US produced water pipeline project is impressing its operator

An innovative solar power solution is helping a US water management company to control the flow of water gathering pipelines in West Texas and New Mexico.

Rotork intelligent IQ3 electric actuators have been combined with solar panels to overcome the absence of a mains power supply in the remote areas that the produced water pipelines travel through.

The application

Produced water, a by-product of oil and gas production, is carried from wells via a pipeline to be transferred to temporary storage at either a disposal well or central treatment facility. There are strict regulations in place to ensure this water does not come into contact with the environment so it is vital reliable management solutions are in place.

The customer requested valves to be installed every five miles in off-the-grid areas but the lack of available gas or electricity in the isolated locations was an issue. To overcome this, a system combining solar panels with control stations and Rotork IQ3 electric actuators was designed.

The customer provided the solar panels and measurements needed to correctly size them to the actuators, while Rotork Site Services engineers assembled the systems.
Each control station incorporates an IQ3 actuator that controls either a 12 or 16 inch ball valve while each assembly features solar panels to power either a 24, 48 or 120 VDC motor. The solar sets are able to generate the power needed to actuate single-stage modulating and isolation valves, as well as run a 24 VDC programmable logic controller (PLC).

Monitoring system

A control panel has been installed to operate voltage regulators that monitor battery voltage. The only time the batteries are charged is when the voltage drops below a certain level to prevent over-charging and subsequent degradation.

The innovative system meets the customer’s specific needs for the application of the valves, including the ability to control pressure to and from the well sites, shut down lines in the event of a leak or other failure, and to eliminate the need for high maintenance devices such as air compressors and other rotating equipment.

Rotork engineers carried out tests on the solar systems and confirmed they were able to continue valve actuation without any sunlight for at least two days. To achieve this result, covers were placed over the solar panels. During this time battery power was used to stroke the valves fully open and closed five times a day over the course of a three-day period. Following the removal of the covers, the batteries began charging immediately and reached full capacity within two to three hours.

The end result

The solar solution has provided the water management company with an innovative and safe method of transporting contaminants to water gathering and disposal facilities. The stations reduce installation costs by removing the need to install power lines along the pipeline, which also prevents damage being caused to the environment.

Liam Jones is with Rotork

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