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The oil and gas industry generates over 10 million jobs and nearly 8% of our GDP. Thus, this is a critical industry, and it needs to remain operational 24/7 without outages. To prevent outages and improve efficiency, the industry needs alarm systems for both onshore and offshore operations that provide alerts to help locate and resolve problems immediately.

Currently, oil and gas plants deal with alarm systems that aren’t the most efficient or effective, as they generate distracting alarms that leave operators scrambling to figure out the cause of an outage or error. Since operation outages translate into a loss of production, incapable alarm systems negatively affect revenue. Fortunately, a distributed control system (DCS) can help mitigate a legacy alarm’s challenges, allow the oil and gas industry to resolve their maintenance outages and help operators quickly assess the situation to get plant operations back in business.

Distributed Control System

A DCS is a versatile system that can help operators in the oil and gas industry make the right decisions for different scenarios by analyzing alerts. This helps track down the root cause of the alert and activate the right alarm system. As a result, operators only have to focus on that alarm system, drastically reducing the response time to resolve the outage. This also avoids the distraction of non-essential data and guides workers to better process visibility, better decision making and improved safety.

Usually, alarm systems send out large numbers of alerts every day. A distributed control system uses a filtering process to distinguish between emergency and non-emergency alerts. Alarm devices that are installed must take into consideration the environment, paying attention to air temperature in particular, so that the DCS can ensure safe and efficient transmission of alerts to these alarm devices. Oil and gas plants need this enriched technology, along with software that helps the DCS properly and efficiently communicate with the alarm devices.

Oil and gas plants have many critical units across their facilities, both onshore and offshore. Thus, a robust alarm system like a DCS is greatly recommended to synthesize all operations. Operators can analyze alerts by monitoring the services from a DCS to make appropriate decisions. This is especially useful when transferring responsibilities between operators.

Most workers gain experience through their length of employment. However, when they need to train a new worker, they cannot simply transfer all their knowledge, so a distributed control system can improve a worker’s efficiency. With a DCS, the new operator can understand the alerts, and just like an experienced worker, they can make the right choice between an emergency and a non-emergency alert to resolve the issue for business continuity.

To be most effective in the oil and gas industry, the DCS system must also have the following items.

Network/Bandwidth Availability

The DCS must allow data transfer over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. This network availability must be at 100% so that the DCS can make good decisions and, in turn, send out alerts so that operators can make reliable decisions in the case of an emergency. If a DCS system is not built on a strong network, there would be a loss of data between the alarm devices and the DCS, causing bad alerts to be registered and sent to operators daily. In consequence, workers then would not be able to make a choice between an emergency alert and a non-emergency alert, resulting in a chaotic situation that would impact operations and cause production issues and revenue losses.

System Footprints

It is necessary that a distributed control system is installed with sufficient infrastructure along with a strong network communication system. The DCS should also be robust enough to handle historical data and be intelligent enough to analyze the data to be predictive in nature, which would benefit the oil and gas industry due to its complex operations.

System Availability

The infrastructure that contains the distributed control system and the alarm devices must have high availability. High availability is obtained by having a backup system running alongside the primary system. If the primary DCS is incapacitated for any reason, the infrastructure should switch to the backup system to make it 100% available.

Next Steps

Most alarm management systems are focused on post-failure crises rather than being online in real-time to reduce the downtime of infrastructure. Oil and gas process plants have complex operations that consist of various units that interact with each other, so working with real data can be demanding and challenging.

But TiPS has a solution: LogMate®. Our software makes managing DCS alarms easy, providing oil and gas plants with much-needed DCS support that enables workers to understand alerts and resolve any emerging problems for business continuity and safety.