2019 LBCG Results-Driven Analytics conference, Houston

Anadarko/Oxy goes all-in on MQTT protocol and calls for a coalition of oil and gas MQTT users

Speaking at the 2019 LBCG Results-driven analytics conference in Houston, Nathan Bookwalter (Anadarko/Oxy) traced the history of automation data from the early days of telephone wire to the wireless, OPC-based networks of the 1990s and the domination of embedded Windows in the early 2000s. By around 2015, consumer-oriented IoT devices brought a shift, with the adoption of open protocols and a large-scale move from Windows to Linux. Today, even industrial hardware is supplied by ‘non-typical’ vendors like Dell, Samsung and Amazon. At the same time, polling rates have increased such that real time data is everywhere and end devices can be addressed from remote locations like the control room, via the cloud.

Anadarko has some 18,000 remote devices at 14,000 wells. A single central scada host receives 15 minute data from around 8 million tags and 1 second data from a further 2 million. Standard automation and scada package makes for centralised optimization and system-wide surveillance. The new system represents a huge efficiency gain with support staff headcount down from 45 to 20 and a reduction from 10 to 3 in the number of historians.

Bookwalter analysed the pros and cons of the MQTT data transfer protocol. The store and forward mechanism, TLS security, pub/sub are positives. On the downside, the market is very immature. Higher-level protocols like Sparkplug B or OPC UA Part 14 come with ‘optional’ features that create vastly different results, meaning that legacy models may not work. The claimed reduction in network traffic is ‘over-stated and out of context’.

Having said that, Anadarko has performed extensive MQTT network tests and now, closed loop optimization and process control will interact 100% via MQTT. There will be no direct connections to the control systems. MQTT has already replaced 800 connections and in 2020 these will be deployed at 1,250 well sites with a goal of 100% real time big data, IoT, analytics and edge computing. Other systems (HSE, planning, marketing, historian and production accounting) are moving off the scada system and onto the broker network. Anadarko is calling for an MQTT coalition to steer the industry on future features and priority development.

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