Skkynet’s DataHub middleware was used by ABB for secure, real-time data networking on the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) project in Turkey.
Multiple benefits from remote monitoring
In keeping with their Industrie 4.0 strategy, Siemens recently introduced an initiative they call Digitalization, which offers digital solutions “for more efficiency, sustainability, and security.” As part of this initiative, Siemens promotes the use of data-driven services to monitor power plants, helping to ensure a reliable energy supply. Out in the field, Siemens personnel are working to transform those ideas into real-world projects. Here is the story of one project that has improved power plant performance and reduced emissions, while at the same time reducing transportation costs and man-hours.
A few months ago, Alexis Tricco at Siemens Buenos Aires in Argentina undertook their first digitalization project. In his role of providing technical support backup for power plant generation, he and his team are responsible for supervising operations and introducing new technologies to cut costs and ensure greater reliability of the physical plant. In this project, Tricco was tasked with developing a secure and reliable way to collect data from control systems running at power plants located hundreds of kilometers from the Siemens office. The first phase was to be a pilot—to connect his WinCC OA SCADA system to a Siemens T3000 DCS running at a power plant located about 100 kilometers from Buenos Aires. The live data would be used for supervisory control and developing new predictive control strategies.
A significant challenge of the project was that there were two networks involved, the control network and a multi-customer network, connected by an intermediary computer. “My idea was to bring all the process data onto my WinCC OA Server running on the customer network,” said Tricco, “To get this, I needed to replicate the data from the T3000 to the interface PC and from there to the WInCC OA Server. This basic data access was the first stage of the project.”
For the data communications protocol Ticco chose OPC, because the T3000 had an OPC server and WinCC has an OPC client. However, since OPC DA does not network well, he decided to tunnel the OPC data over TCP, using a company VPN. After reviewing the OPC tunnelling software that could meet his needs, he chose the Cogent DataHub.
“I needed to communicate over different networks, with end points that could convert between TCP and OPC, acting as server and client simultaneously,” he said. “The DataHub has an OPC server on one side and an OPC client on the other side, which is exactly what I needed. The other software I looked at would have required two licenses for each PC. I had to think of the costs.
“What’s more, the DataHub is user-friendly, not complicated to figure out. I just read the manual one time and got it working in less than a day. We did some tests, and when everything was working we presented the idea to company management for their feedback.”
The pilot was successful, and management decided to implement the solution. Tricco can now go online and collect OPC data from the plant’s T3000 DCS and perform analysis in real time. The system is connected to the WinCC OA server in the Buenos Aires main office complex, in the control room for monitoring remote locations. Like Tricco, company engineers can monitor the performance of each of the power plant’s gas turbines, and use the data to optimize combustion and control emissions to meet government regulatory standards. There is no need to go on site.
“Until now, to optimize combustion at a client location site someone had to drive or fly to the site, at significant cost and loss of man-hours,” said Tricco. “Now, we can do it all remotely. In fact, just sitting at home I can connect to our VPN and customize the process in a couple of hours. Getting data from the customer, we can choose which equipment to monitor in which part of the plant, and whether or not to optimize its performance.”
This initial implementation clearly demonstrates the practical value of digitalization for all parties involved. The customer is pleased with the solution, as they know their plants are operating at the highest possible capacity, while actually reducing emissions. Regulatory agencies laud the increased compliance. And, along with a new revenue stream from offering this service, Siemens builds a stronger relationship with the customer. Plans are currently underway to roll out the solution to two more plants immediately, and then expand the program farther afield.
French paper company, Papeterie de Mandeure, accesses data from their OT system and feeds it to their IT system and MES, using the DataHub.
Metso Halves Project Development Time with Skkynet’s IIoT Solution
Metso has recently completed a large Advanced Process Control (APC) project in half the typical time, and at substantially reduced cost, by using real-time IIoT from Skkynet. With Skkynet’s SkkyHub™ real-time cloud, they were able to execute most of the project from their head office in France, despite the physical process being in the Middle East. By leveraging the real-time data collection and distribution in SkkyHub they had multiple engineers working in parallel on GUI, sensor and data modeling and analysis—all using an exact replica of the live plant. As the project progressed, the insights gained by the engineers allowed them to suggest improvements to the control system beyond the original project goals. Upon completion of the project, Metso’s engineers can keep the replica of the customer’s control system and GUI in their office in France. At a moment’s notice they can switch on the data flow through SkkyHub to have an instant real-time view of the process. Even with 25,000 active tags, the maintenance and analysis team experiences sub-second updates and interaction similar to being on site.
By using SkkyHub, Metso cut their project time by 50%, and exceeded customer expectations by meeting tight deadlines and providing top-level expertise throughout the duration of the project. In addition, they have established a means to conduct ongoing remote maintenance, and expand into big-data analytics, for continuous process improvement. This work flow and outcome demonstrates the true potential of the IIoT.
Several years ago, executives and developers at Metso were looking for a full-featured, web-based HMI that they could integrate into their OCS-4D© product. OCS-4D© is an advanced process control expert system tailored to the needs of the mining industry, and is used in mineral processing plants to monitor and control crushing, grinding, flotation, dewatering, pyro metallurgy, and related tasks. The HMI they had been using was no longer suitable, and they found that Skkynet’s DataHub® with its WebView™ HMI met their needs well. Metso and Skkynet reached an OEM agreement in which the DataHub was integrated into the OCS-4D© product, and renamed “OCS-4D© DataLink”.
Last year Metso won a contract to implement a processing system for a large ore processing operation located in the Middle East. The timeline was short, as the customer needed a complete system up and running in 6 months, a job that would normally take at least a year. Meeting this deadline would require three of Metso’s top developers working full time on the project. These developers were based at the company’s home office in France, and for reasons of cost and convenience, the company was reluctant to send their people abroad for 6 months. So they turned to Skkynet for a solution, and implemented the SkkyHub service as a way to connect to OCS-4D© DataLink, allowing them to develop and monitor the system remotely.
Implementation Stage 1 – Development
The DCS used for regulatory control of the ore processing system exposed 80,000 variables as OPC tags, through an ABB OPC server. Metso’s APC optimization layer required access to about 25,000 of those tags to power both the expert logic in OCS-4D© and the HMI. On a typical project, a Metso developer working locally would then simply connect directly to the data. Instead, to get the live data to the office in France, they configured OCS-4D© DataLink at the customer location to make a secure, outbound tunnelling connection to SkkyHub. In the Metso offices, the development team made a similar, secure outbound connection from their local copy of OCS-4D© DataLink to receive the live data, in real time, and feed it to their OCS-4D© system. The result was an exact replica of the entire customer system, mirrored and tunnelled from the mine in the Middle East to the office in Olivet, France, updating continuously in real time.
With the complete project data set at their disposal, the three developers could get to work. Because the data was available through SkkyHub, they each had a full copy of the live data. Unlike a typical project, where developers have to take turns using the system data, this unique arrangement allowed each of them to work independently on their part of the project. One worked on the expert system logic, another on visualization, while the third focused on sensors and data modelling for the other two.
“It was really a nice fit because we had not been able to do parallel development before,” said Fred Theodore, Senior Engineer, Advanced Process Control, and lead developer. “Normally we have OCS-4D© running, but two people cannot be connected at the same time, and can’t develop their applications simultaneously on the same computer. The fact that the real-time data source was available to several people at the same time was a real benefit.”
The connection between OCS-4D© and SkkyHub supports secure, bi-directional data flow, allowing authorized personnel to write data back to the system. However, because this level of technology was still new to the client, they requested that the connection be configured as read-only. Using the bi-directional capability of the system would have facilitated and sped up the development process even more, but the Metso team was able to get along without it reasonably well.
Implementation Stage 2 – Deployment and Monitoring
For the initial test deployment, the system was delivered to the customer by one team member who travelled to the Middle East and worked on-site for a couple of weeks. During that time, and for the ensuing months, the team back in France used a cloned copy of the system to continually monitor the logic and ensure that everything worked properly, while the customer’s staff learned how to use the application.
“It was as if we were sitting beside them in the control room,” said Theodore, “and through live monitoring, we were able to continue developing the application, thanks to the real-time connectivity. In fact, I was travelling at the time, and was able to continue my work, uninterrupted, from the USA and Africa, as well as from our home office in France.”
“This approach is very flexible,” Theodore continued, “because at any point we could tell the client, ‘This loop is not performing the way we like it, could we investigate it with you?’ Maybe it would be a kind of secondary process loop that we could test here while something else was happening on the real system. Sometimes nobody had even asked us to develop anything, but we got an idea, something completely out of scope. As long as the data was coming in, we had the ability to test the idea, evaluate performance, and then contact the client, saying, ‘Here are some things we should do.’ The client would be surprised, because we hadn’t even come on site.”
These updates and improvements were all included with the final delivery of the system, which was turned over to local staff for normal operation and routine maintenance. Since the final sign-off, the data connection between OCS-4D© DataLink and SkkyHub has been deactivated, but it is still configured. It can be reactivated at any time, whenever an authorized Metso team needs it to provide service or support. Through this secure, outbound tunnel to SkkyHub, the developers can see what is happening in real time, monitor the logic, and efficiently interact with the system, as necessary.
Performance of the newly-installed APC system was measured by turning it on and off, and the results indicated that running OCS-4D© showed an efficiency gain of up to 10% in almost all areas of the mineral processing system. “We did so well because we were able to process the live data through SkkyHub longer than on any previous project,” said Theodore. “It had been a challenge to get this level of performance in such a short period of time, and we succeeded, thanks to the real-time data that was available through OCS-4D© DataLink (DataHub) and SkkyHub.”
This Industrial IoT approach to development and implementation of OCS-4D© substantially increased the profitability of this project compared to other, similar projects. Metso is planning to implement it again soon, in such far-flung places as Peru and Indonesia. As Theodore explains, “We have local people at these sites, but not many, and they are busy with other projects as well. There are several ways we can help them using this kind of connection, because we can schedule a time and connect by the Internet from almost anywhere. To optimize our resources of time and manpower, it is better to connect people remotely, from the US or France, for example, and let them work with the local people.”
“For the next stage,” he continued, “we don’t want to lose the data in the system, but rather use SkkyHub to make the connection to Big Data for analytics. We’d like to record as much as possible, so we can compare between sites, optimize performance, and do some kind of benchmarking. We want to be able to ring up the customer and say, for example, ‘You have the system installed, running at this percent, while we know that at other plants with the same configuration, it is running better.’ And of course there is the value of aggregating information. This information is crucial as we supply services and spare parts. We need to know the condition of the system at every point in time.”
OCS-4D© is a software solution from Metso used for Advanced Process Control (APC), including embedded expert systems with fuzzy logic, modeling and optimizing modules (MPC), vision and acoustics analysis algorithms―for mineral processing plants (crushing, grinding, flotation, dewatering, pyro metallurgy, etc.).
Metso is a world leading industrial company serving the mining, aggregates, recycling, oil, gas, pulp, paper and process industries, with products ranging from mining and aggregates processing equipment and systems to industrial valves and controls, providing a broad scope of services and a global network of over 80 service centers and about 6,400 services professionals.
Integrating legacy and new systems
BP Pipelines operates one of the largest networks of pipelines in the United States, transporting over 450 million barrel-miles of petrochemicals per day. Their control center in Tulsa, Oklahoma is responsible for the transport of oil and natural gas from South-Central and Midwest oil fields to locations nationwide.
Recently the management at the Tulsa control center decided to add leak detection to their SCADA system to monitor pipeline leakage. The SCADA system, by Telvent, gathers data from production systems and stores it in a Sybase database that has been modified for real-time applications. The challenge was to feed process data from Sybase database to the leak detection system, which had available an OPC server.
“We tried for months to find an OPC server that would communicate via ODBC to the real-time Sybase product,” said Chuck Amsler, Team Leader for SCADA Applications at BP Pipelines. “It was an old version of ODBC, and we just couldn’t get at the data. None of the applications we tried could do it.”
Finally Chuck called Cogent to see if there was some way the Cogent DataHub® could be used to make the connection. After a few hours of consulting with Cogent’s technical staff, he had a DataHub script that supports a connection to the Telvent system and queries the Sybase database. With his process data reaching the OPC DataHub, it was just a matter of bridging the data to the leak detection system’s OPC server. Now the data flows from Telvent to the leak detection system reliably and consistently.
“Once we saw how easy it was for the DataHub to make the connection,” said Chuck, “we decided to use it to log the results.” With Cogent’s help he wrote another script to transfer the leak detection calculations back to an Oracle database for eventual re-use by the SCADA system.
The DataHub scripts give a large degree of flexibility for customization. On the Sybase side, there are actually two servers running, one hot, and the other for backup. The system can switch from hot to backup at any time. For every query, the script tests for which server is hot, and always reads from the correct server.
On the Oracle side, dynamic scripting allows members of Chuck’s team to modify the logging process even while the system is running. They can add, delete, or change data points that qualify the basic pipeline data, without breaking the connection or interfering with the logging.
“We are very impressed with the overall quality of the DataHub” said Chuck, “and with the level of support from Cogent. We look forward to working with them as we move from data gathering to the next stages of the project.”
Integrating OPC servers and data from high-security facility
In a recent data integration project, Siemens engineers in Copenhagen, Denmark were able to connect equipment and instrumentation running in a high-security facility to a remote monitoring location, using the Cogent DataHub®. The goal was to allow technicians access to the machines they needed to work on, without breaching security or permitting any non-authorized personnel on site.
At first the project promised to be a typical OPC application. The main objective was to connect a chiller unit with an OPC server running at a secure facility to two SCADA systems at a monitoring station, each enabled as an OPC client. However, it soon became apparent that there would be some problems with networking. OPC networking depends on DCOM, which at the best of times can be difficult to configure and slow to reconnect after a network break. To make matters worse, the OPC server provided by the chiller manufacturer was not up to the task.
“This particular OPC server has some strange behaviors,” said Carsten Barsballe, the project leader. “It won’t run as a service, and it won’t allow remote connections using DCOM, because when you disconnect, you are not able to reconnect. So we decided to encapsulate it in the DataHub.” Carsten installed a DataHub on the same machine as the chiller’s OPC server, and configured it to run as a service, causing it to connect whenever the system starts. This allows him to use the DataHub for all OPC client connections.
At the monitoring facility, Carsten discovered another potential setback. His SCADA systems were not able to connect remotely to an OPC server. They required a local OPC connection, so Carsten decided to use the tunnelling capabilities of the DataHub. He installed two more DataHubs, one on each SCADA system machine, and configured connections across the network to the first DataHub. His SCADA systems each connected to their local DataHub, and the data link was complete. Technicians could now view data from the high-security facility from the safe distance of the monitoring location.
“The two SCADA systems are separate from the chiller unit, but fully connected in real-time, so technicians can work on them as they are used to,” said Carsten. “This is a way to keep people from touching things they don’t know about. We have lots of people working at all hours, and now there is no need to for them to be onsite at any time.”
With the chiller system up and running, Carsten plans to integrate more data sources into the system. They have a few UPS (uninterruptible power supply) units with SNMP connectivity that they need to monitor, and by adding an SNMP-OPC server, the data from these will be brought into the DataHub. After that, they will also attach an OPC server for several meter-reading input devices. All of this data will then be sent across to the SCADA systems, and made available to the service people who need access to it.
“The DataHub is running very well,” said Carsten. “We do a lot of this kind of data integration, and there will be other projects. Now we have a good feeling for this product. We have chosen the right solution.”