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For midstream oil and gas operators, data flow can be as important as product flow. The operator’s job is to safely move oil and natural gas from its extraction point (upstream), to where it’s converted to fuels (midstream), to customer delivery locations (downstream). During this process, pump stations, meter stations, storage sites, interconnection points, and block valves generate a substantial volume and variety of data that can lead to increased efficiency and safety.

“Just one pipeline pump station might have 6 Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs), 12 flow computers, and 30 field instruments, and each one is a source of valuable operational information,” said Mike Walden, IT and SCADA Director for New Frontier Technologies, a Cisco IoT Design-In Partner that implements OT and IT systems for industrial applications. Until recently, data collection from pipelines was so expensive that most operators only collected the bare minimum data required to comply with industry regulations. That data included pump discharge pressure, for instance, but not pump bearing temperature, which helps predict future equipment failures.

A turnkey solution to modernize midstream operations

Now midstream operators are modernizing their pipelines with Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) solutions. Cisco and New Frontier Technologies have teamed up to offer a solution combining the Cisco 1100 Series Industrial Integrated Services Router, Cisco Edge Intelligence, and New Frontier’s know-how. Deployed at edge locations like pump stations, the solution extracts data from pipeline equipment and is sent via legacy protocols, transforming data at the edge to a format that analytics and other enterprise applications understand. The transformation also minimizes bandwidth usage.

Mike Walden views the Cisco IR1101 as a game-changer for midstream operators. He shared with me that “Before the Cisco IR1101, our customers needed four separate devices to transmit edge data to a cloud server—a router at the pump station, an edge device to do protocol conversion from the old to the new, a network switch, and maybe a firewall to encrypt messages…With the Cisco IR1101, we can meet all of those requirements with one physical device.”

Collect more data, at almost no extra cost

Using this IIoT solution, midstream operators can for the first time:

  • Collect all available field data instead of just the data on a polling list. If the maintenance team requests a new type of data, the operations team can meet the request using the built-in protocol translators in Edge Intelligence. “Collecting a new type of data takes almost no extra work,” Mike said. “It makes the operations team look like heroes.”
  • Collect data more frequently, helping to spot anomalies. Recording pump discharge pressure more frequently, for example, makes it easier to detect leaks. Interest in predicting (rather than responding to) equipment failure is also growing. The life of pump seals, for example, depends on both the pressure that seals experience over their lifetime and the peak pressures. “If you only collect pump pressure every 30 minutes, you probably missed the spike,” Mike explained. “If you do see the spike and replace the seal before it fails, you can prevent a very costly unexpected outage – saving far more than the cost of a new seal.”
  • Protect sensitive data with end-to-end security. Security is built into the IR1101, with secure boot, VPN, certificate-based authentication, and TLS encryption.
  • Give IT and OT their own interfaces so they don’t have to rely on the other team. The IT team has an interface to set up network templates to make sure device configuration is secure and consistent. Field engineers have their own interface to extract, transform, and deliver industrial data from Modbus, OPC-UA, EIP/CIP, or MQTT devices.

As Mike summed it up, “It’s finally simple to deploy a secure industrial network that makes all field data available to enterprise applications—in less time and using less bandwidth.”

Learn more about New Frontier Technologies here.