Two important pillars of Oil & Gas company operations, power management and process management have traditionally remained separate systems, without common architectural and communication standards. Because these systems share significant duplicative functions, maintaining this traditional model results in high costs and increased operational complexity. This situation is about to change.
Three key marketplace drivers ̶ the maturation of the IEC 61850 standard, increased IIoT traction, and IP device proliferation ̶ are driving the industry towards a broader acceptance of converged power and process systems.
Understanding the system convergence market drivers
Ultimately, the goal for Oil & Gas enterprises is to move beyond the traditional silos of separate process management and power management systems and to integrate them into a collaborative but agile plant control system. Although this has been the dream for years, the possibility of convergence has now become both affordable and technically feasible because of three recent developments:
- Maturation of the IEC 61850 standard – On the power management side, the IEC 61850 standard has driven a technical shift that allows further innovation to take place along the lines of systems integration. IEC 61850 has evolved as a functional standard for integration of electrical control features within process control. The standard provides a configuration language known as Substation Configuration Language (SCL). This language allows for the creation of object oriented signaling and reporting methods between different engineering tools and devices, independent of the manufacturer. The potential now exists for much more complex, distributed power schemes. Removal of physical I/O limitations of protection relays, for instance, allows for hundreds of virtual input and output signals – internal to relays and not typically used in today’s schemes – to be shared between multiple devices.
- Increased Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) traction – Thanks to the emergence of IIoT, the linkage of connectivity, cloud, and analytics technologies is simplified and process automation systems are enriched as a result. The collection and adaptive analysis of data ̶ using machine learning techniques ̶ from increasing numbers of cost-effective and intelligent sensors increases business performance and asset uptime. With easier access to information across the enterprise, process system operations become simplified and production systems more profitable. Some of these changes can be implemented in the short to medium term. Others will require a gradual evolution with end users and vendor / manufacturers incrementally adding functions to their existing legacy systems as new international IIoT standards are established.
- IP device proliferation – Over the last several years, interoperable communication standards like IP have flourished. In fact, industry analysts are predicting in the vicinity of 30 billion IP connected devices by 2020. For Oil & Gas companies, this represents a double-edged sword that must be managed carefully. On one hand, it makes it much easier for Information Technology (IT) and Operations Technology (OT) systems to link up (and for more data to be shared). On the other hand, it introduces a new level of cybersecurity risk that will need to be addressed.
In order to execute the unifying vision of convergence, users and technology providers will need to team up in order to plan, design, implement and maintain a true “power aware” and secure process control system.
This is the first in a series of 3 blogs highlighting the Oil & Gas industry power and process systems convergence. The remaining two blogs will address the practical benefits of convergence, and the suggested methods for converging the two systems. For a detailed analysis of how Integrated Power and Process Management (IPPM) solutions work, download the newly released Schneider Electric white paper “Integrating Process and Power Automation: A Value for the Oil & Gas Industry”.