[Blog] RTUs for Oil and Gas Pipelines:  Tackling Common Issues

In the second article in the RTUs for oil and gas pipelines series, Matthew Hawkridge, chief technology officer, explains how Remote Telemetry Units (RTUs) can help to tackle the common issues facing pipeline operators. 

While pipelines play an essential role in the oil and gas industry, they are not fail-safe. Common issues include structural failures such as cracks, leaks and corrosion. In order to minimise downtime and interruptions companies must resolve any issues quickly and effectively — this is where RTUs come in. 

In practical terms, RTUs help operators overcome a wide range of issues in the oil and gas pipeline sector ranging from continuous monitoring of remote fixed assets, data logging — meaning critical data from the field is not missed and is available for analysis — through to managing complex remote automation and control applications without the need for operators in the field. 

Some of the specific issues that RTUs can help address include: monitoring of flow, pressure, temperature; natural gas flow measurement; optimisation and secondary recovery; storage facilities and pressure monitoring. 

A number of practical considerations must be accounted for when choosing an RTU system to deliver these benefits. The key features that are required in an RTU are resilience to the site environment, an ability to operate with minimal drain on local power resources, and the processing power to perform any local control algorithms autonomously. 

It is also beneficial that an RTU has extensive diagnostics capability and a low Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) to reduce the time required for technicians to spend on site, improving both efficiency and personnel safety. 

An increased need for efficiency, environmental protection and safety are driving the market for data analysis and monitoring of assets in the oil and gas sector. RTUs facilitate these processes because they can be deployed on a vast range of assets. Once in place, the real value of an RTU is that it can perform autonomous control in real time and then report to SCADA that it has everything under control. Operators at the SCADA interface can ‘supervise’ the operations by setting new KPIs, set points or updating instructions — open/close this, start/stop that, for example — for RTUs to then act upon and manage locally.

This ability to provide accurate, real-time data enables management teams to make better, more informed decisions. In addition, because RTUs do everything locally, it means if communications break down, they continue to run, maintaining a historical log, and reporting back later. In remote locations, communications will fail regularly, although RTUs can manage this. For instance, the data that the RTU collects can be used to support maintenance decisions, and to verify that environmental obligations are being adhered to. As well as being used for operations, RTUs can support maintenance teams, health and safety initiatives and environmental management. 

RTUs offer a solution to many of the common issues facing pipeline operators, whether structural failures or pressure monitoring, asset optimisation or logging critical data in remote locations. By choosing RTUs carefully operators can improve efficiency, environmental protection and personnel safety. 

If you found this article interesting, why not read about our RTUs in action in one of our oil and gas case studies.

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