Automating Gas Measurement

Author: Richard L. Cline

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This paper will address concepts of SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) Systems and their application to the measurement industry.

An important focus of the paper is to provide the reader with an understanding of the technology and with guidelines to be used to evaluate this equipment as part of an automation project.

Historical Perspective

Since the discovery of oil and gas and the advent of commercial conveniences, powered by oil and gas, companies have been confronted with the need to accurately measure the oil and gas bought and sold in the marketplace. And, as usual, the technology available at that point in time was brought to bear on the measurement process.

All oil and gas companies must deal with measurement and their current technology is positioned somewhere on an automation curve. As time passes, the technology advances and changes. New products and measurement techniques are constantly brought to bear to improve the measurement process. More recently SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) systems have become a key technology assisting the user in acquiring measurement data and in controlling the transmission and distribution of oil and gas. Unfortunately, adopting the new technology always brings with it a price that must be paid. And the price is not only measured in dollars, but in ever increasing difficulty in making intelligent decisions and choices.

So how does a company, with a need to move to the next step on the automation curve, sort through the options and complex technology available today? The effort requires a continuing education process. The decision maker must understand not only what the available technology can do for his company today but must understand its future impact on the company.

The Race toward Automation

The oil and gas company cannot stand still, but must continue to push toward increased automation utilizing, in most cases, SCADA technology. Saying “no” to the question “Should I automate or not?” is today not an acceptable option. The answer has to be “Yes” as competition and government regulation requires it. The available computer technology offers us ways to improve measurement accuracy and to reduce the amount of human resource required to manage and accomplish the measurement process. By incorporating this technology, our costs are reduced.

So, faced with the need to automate, the more relevant question is “How do I design my system and choose the proper system components to meet my corporate objectives?”