Today, the oil and gas sector is being redefined, with fundamental changes in demand and new technologies. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA)1, Southeast Asia’s electricity demand growth has been among the fastest in the world. There has been an 80% increase in energy demand among Southeast Asian economies since 2000 and from now till 2040, demand is expected to grow another 60%.
To meet this demand, operators have focused on improving operational efficiency through data collection and analysis. From monitoring pipelines to measuring equipment health, the oil and gas industry has looked to digitalization to gain better visibility, manage assets efficiently and better apply preventive maintenance to optimize costs.
More commonly, many in the mid-stream oil and gas business have looked to make use of operations data to reduce risk, and boost safety for people and environment while increasing efficiency.
This could involve taking data from a pipeline, a pump station or a shipping terminal in near real-time to get a better understanding of what is going on in the field. This may be done remotely, thousands of miles away.
Traditionally, applications in the mid-stream oil and gas business have revolved around SCADA industrial systems control metering and leak detection, for example.
However, in recent years, emerging technologies are becoming more common in digitalization efforts. According to Accenture, as many as 10 distinct technologies are likely to disrupt the oil and gas sector, such as analytics, robotics, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), and cloud computing. Drive train analytics and pump analytics, for example, offer a glimpse of the performance of the systems and could offer tips on timely maintenance.
Asset performance management, site security via video analytics, and efficiency analysis are new areas that are being explored today, as companies seek to improve on their operations and processes through digital technologies.
Effective Data Management Requires a Robust Edge Computing Platform
To implement these emerging technologies, enterprises are turning to Edge Computing, a distributed computing model that is close to the equipment, to collect, analyze and deliver the data securely and reliably. The data is only as good as it is available, after all. Indeed, 75 percent of data will be created and processed outside the data center or cloud by 2022, according to research firm Gartner.
Of course, not all systems are created the same. Many edge computing setups do not have robust capabilities to handle a wide range of applications that can vary over time. Installing such limited-function systems risks committing to systems that are quickly obsolete and unsuitable for new tasks.
Having a poor foundation for a digitalization project is something that is difficult to recover from. Not surprisingly, an estimated 70 percent of digitalization projects failed to achieve stated goals in 2019.
For many midstream oil and gas players, the challenge in edge computing is procuring the right hardware to achieve digitalization, plus being able to easily manage the apps that run on them.
Simple, Autonomous, and Protected
In other words, it has to be simple, autonomous, and protected.
Simple, in the sense that it is easy to maintain and is future proof in its design to handle software updates and patches. This is important when managing multiple sites remotely, say, in pipeline and terminal operations.
The setup has to be autonomous, in the sense that the edge architecture is reliable and rugged enough to operate in open environments. Does it offer “zero touch” technology to let you monitor and control remote assets, when it is not possible to have on-site personnel?
Finally, it also has to be protected, especially in an era where cyber threats are prevalent in any sector of business. With machinery and equipment connected in the field, it is even more important to protect the data they deliver. Decisions made in real time depends on the availability of accurate data.
Stratus Edge Computing in Action
In Indonesia, an oil and gas company turned to Stratus ftServer for the flexibility, robustness, and security it offers. With this fault-tolerant system, it runs several SCADA applications to monitor the instruments in its liquid petroleum gas (LPG) terminals.
These systems are critical to monitor the amount of LPG flowing in and out of the terminal, because the information is used to bill customers for the amount of LPG they consume.
Stratus’ ftServer has both the horsepower and fault-tolerance to run SCADA along with other apps on a flexible, virtualized platform. Having moved from conventional servers the past, the Indonesian company now enjoys zero failover time, even if an unplanned event occurs.
In South Korea, Stratus’ fault-tolerant ftServer system has replaced general servers that were previously used by an oil and gas company to monitor the pump and valve performance in its oil pipelines.
Key to this was a SCADA app that is used to monitor facilities such as the pipe condition, oil accumulation and pump pressure. This was a critical piece of its infrastructure where downtime can be costly and must be avoided.
With Stratus’ ftServer the five-nines availability means the app will keep running even if a component, such as a CPU, fails. Should this happen, all that is needed is to swap in a new component, without having to shut down the system.
This beats most “high availability” (HA) systems, which typically has a backup system running. The key issue here is the cutover time – this short period of downtime can be costly for many in the oil and gas sector. Plus, the configurations of such systems are often complex, and apps don’t always run smoothly.
Compatibility is why a customer in China chose Stratus’ ftServer as well. It configured the servers to run a local variant of the Linux operating system that it uses at an oil refinery.
Instead of running a traditional HA system, the customer has turned to virtualization to deploy its software, which is used to monitor the power at the plant. This is a 24/7 operation.
1 International Energy Agency, Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2019