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SPE 69464

Operating Benefits Achieved by Use of Advanced Data Communications for Oil and
Gas SCADA Systems
Dan Ehrenreich B.Sc. E.E., Motorola Inc., and Diana May, Motorola Inc. Latin America Division

Copyright 2001, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Latin American and Caribbean
• What added benefits are achievable with the system?
Petroleum Engineering Conference held in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 25–28 March 2001.
• What is the future migration path for this system?
This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE Program Committee following review
of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper, • Will the system cope with future communications?
as presented, have not been reviewed by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are
subject to correction by the author(s). The material, as presented, does not necessarily • Will the solution yield Return-On-Investment (ROI)?
reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or members. Papers
presented at SPE meetings are subject to publication review by Editorial Committees of the • Which vendor can provide a long-lasting solution?
Society of Petroleum Engineers. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part
of this paper for commercial purposes without the written consent of the Society of
Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is restricted to an Communications Media and Protocol
abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must
contain conspicuous acknowledgment of where and by whom the paper was presented. SCADA system implementation starts with a clear definition
Write Librarian, SPE, P.O. Box 833836, Richardson, TX 75083-3836, U.S.A., fax 01-972-
952-9435. of operation goals and definition of ultimate needs, which
are expected to be required in the future. Selection of the
proper communications media and the protocol are very
Abstract important and must be taken into consideration already at
Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) for the system design phase. While physical media such as
monitoring of oil and gas systems is now increasingly wire-lines and fiber optics are less prone to interference, it is
implemented for pipelines. One of the most important widely known that wireless media might be affected by
building blocks in such operations is the communications natural noises and interference on the same channel.
network. 1) Widely used communications media in these However, this media has many important advantages and
systems are fiber-optic links, dial-up and leased telephone operating benefits, which should be taken into consideration
lines, analog Trunking radio systems 2) and digital wireless while designing a radio based SCADA system.
networks. Modern communication systems allow sending Integration of a modern and reliable SCADA system
messages from any remote site to any remote site in addition requires use of a seven-layer data protocol that matches the
to the control center. Use of advanced communications guidelines provided by the International Standards
protocols allows implementation of networking features, Organization (ISO) for Open Systems Interconnection
remote diagnostics and calibration (“over-the-air”), up- and (OSI). Data protocols, which are structured according to the
downloading of programs, parameters, databases, etc. ISO/OSI suite, allow separate handling of communications
functionalities from the application functionality related to
Introduction the transmitted messages. By using such an approach, the
Reliable operation of oil and gas pipelines requires reliable system programmer does not need to deal with complex
communications solutions. SCADA systems play an important communications functions such as system diagnostics,
role by providing the means for reliable fault detection and network routing, error detection, message retry mechanisms,
safe control of the entire infrastructure. Utilizing advanced etc. These are taken care of by the protocol structure, and
Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) facilitate timely and smart thanks to this, the system programmer has to worry only
corrective responses, better utilization of personnel, fewer about the application program. 4)
unanticipated problems, cost savings, and enhanced employee Systems, which utilize seven-layer type communications
satisfaction. When evaluating future investments in protocol, are better prepared for future system expansion
communications for a SCADA system, senior managers ask and for upgrading their operation with extended capabilities
some very basic questions: and improvements without losing any part of the investment
spent on the original installation. Implementation of secured
• Which operating functions need improvements?
interface to an Internet protocol (IP) network,8) time
• Which new system goals are to be achieved? synchronization over the communications network etc., may
• What are the best-in-class alternative solutions? be added to a specific layer within the communications
• Will the system handle extreme events optimally? protocol, without affecting the application program.
2 Dan Ehrenreich BSc. E.E., Diana May SPE 69464

It is a widely known fact, that as of today there is no Gateway RF

SCADA communications protocol standard, which is
accepted worldwide. In light of this situation, system
Fi ber Optic RTU
providers use various types of de-facto accepted protocol “D”
Fiber RTU
implementations such as the DNP-3.0, IEC 60870-5-10x, “ E” Backup
Optic PSTN
and others. These protocols are derivates of the TC-57 IEC PSTN
workgroup and implement only three layers of the ISO/OSI Master Damaged
stack: Physical, Link, and Application Layers. Fig 1 outlines Control Center Fiber Link
the descriptions of the specific protocol layers of the seven- RTU
layer ISO/OSI suite.4)
“C” RF
End-user application process RTU

File transfer,access and managem ent, document Fig. 2– Illustration of backup communication
Application Layer and message interchange, job transfer
Presentation Layer Transfer syntax negotiation, data
repres entation transfo rmation Protocol Features
Dialogue and synchronization control for
Session Layer
applications entities
Transport. Layer End-to-end message trans fer (conn ection The mostly visible component in a SCADA system is the
. management, error control, flow control) Master Control Center (MCC). It may consist of a single site
Network routing, addressing, call set-up
Network Layer and clearing. computer or a multi-site networked control center. The
Link Layer Data link control (framing,data transparency, following list provides some important features normally
error control), media access control.
Mechanical and electrical network interface
required in a high performance SCADA system:
Physical Layer
definitions. • Immediate transmission of control center commands
and immediate attention to alarms reported by RTUs.
Data communication network • Efficient handling of “avalanche of messages” received
at the MCC; i.e. simultaneous reports from multiple
Fig. 1– ISO/OSI Protocol structure
RTUs (due to the same or related event).
Being three-layer type protocols, they leave out the • Built-in protocol solution for automatic back-up links in
important Network layer function (Layer 3). Without this the system to provide network redundancy.
feature, the data network cannot route messages between the
• “Air-time-efficient” communications to/from all RTUs
RTUs and the control center in a flexible way, which limits
linked to the data network, including:
the configuration to direct (point-to-point) links or use of
 Efficient integration of multiple communications
line-of-sight wireless channels. 5) Alternate routing can
media (radio, lines) into a complete network.
therefore not be automatic, and needs to be programmed for
each specific system. In many SCADA systems, the  Transmitting simultaneous messages to a group of
availability of an automatic back-up communication link is RTUs, e.g. for Emergency Shut Down (ESD) operation.
mandatory, so lack of the networking feature is a severe  Peer-to-peer communications; involving multiple
limitation.6) RTU sites (using the same or different media).
 Coverage extension created by Store & Forward
The basic data reliability is achieved within the Link (S&F) repeaters and nodes connecting multiple media.
Layer. This is imperative for wireless media, which require
 Solutions for remote maintenance of RTUs over the
a powerful CRC-32 error detection code to be appended to
network eliminate trips by helicopter or terrain vehicle.
every transmitted frame. This type of error detection
mechanism makes it virtually impossible for a frame
containing a digital transmission error to go undetected by Integration of IEDs Using Multiple Protocols
the receiving RTU or even by the digital data repeater. Upon
In a new or upgraded integrated SCADA system, there may
reception of a message, every frame is checked for errors. If
be a need to connect new Intelligent Electronic Devices
no errors are detected, the frame is passed to the upper
(IEDs) to the RTU such as sensors and PLCs, side-by-side
layers for further handling. The next level of data reliability
with existing ones. Consequently, it may be expected for
is provided by the Network and Transport Layers, which are
these units to use different data protocols. To perform this
responsible for routing the information via selected RTUs in
connection, there are a number of solutions that allow
the system. In the example shown in Fig. 2, the
linking the SCADA control center to IEDs and sensors,
communication between RTU “A” and the MCC is
which use different communications protocols. To carry out
established via RTU “B” and “C” which both act as
this integration, there are two basic concepts:
communication nodes. Assume now that the link between
RTU “A” and RTU “B” fails. In order to restore the data • Protocol emulation
flow between RTU “A” and the MCC, the Network Layer • Protocol encapsulation
will activate the PSTN link between RTU “A” and RTU
“D”, which acts as a node. The important benefit is that a Both solutions are acceptable and the selection depends
data link problem (between sites A to B) does not result in primarily on the data flow (communications) in the network
total system failure 5). between the RTU and the control center.
SPE 69464 Operating Benefits Achieved by Use of Advanced Data Communications for Oil and Gas SCADA Systems 3

Protocol encapsulation; In this case the control center Wide Area Network (WAN) Connection
and the PLCs are connected to a pair of smart RF Modems.
Operation of modern SCADA systems is based on reliable
These encapsulate and de-capsulate the messagtes between
wide area communications. This means that remotely
the PLC and control center protocol while the seven-layer
controlled sites must be able to communicate with the
protocol serves as a “wrapping” cocoon. During message
control center either directly or via communications nodes.
transmission, the data network provides absolute data
It is also required that remote sites can be linked to the
transparency to "its users" and does not interfere with the
network using a wide range of communication media,
transmitted message (monitoring points, alarms, control,
including; lines, telephone network, microwave, satellite,
etc.), which the originating protocol carries. The advantage
fiber optics, narrow band analog or digital wireless network,
of this solution is, that any data protocol can be transmited
or any combination of these.
over the network and that the implementation requires no
detailed knowledge of the message content sent via the In order to assure cost effective system design, it is
originating protocol. The network protocol , makes sure that preferable that each RTU will have the capability to act as a
data integrity is guaranteed. An illustration of a network communications node or a Store and Forward (S&F)
utilizing the encapsulation concept is shown in Fig. 3. repeater, serving other field RTUs, which do not have direct
communication with the control center. In order to
PLC PROTOCOL implement such a feature, it is required that the
communication protocol is based on the seven layers
PLC ISO/OSI protocol suite, which was adapted for radio.
7 Layer Fig. 5 shows a simplified system, in which RTUs act as
Network communication nodes and repeaters.

Master PLC
PLC Network
Control Center PROT. Protocol

Network Network
Fig. 3– Protocol emulation Protocol Protocol

Protocol Emulation; The configuration in Fig. 4 also

uses a pair of seven layer protocol based RF Modems. In
this case, these RTUs perform protocol translation
(emulation), to assure reliable passage of the transmitted
data over the network. At the remote site, the IEDs/PLCs are
polled by a second RF modem using the protocol of that
IED/PLC. Here, the control center and each IED/PLC may
use different data protocols. This feature itself provides
Pipeline Pipeline
great benefits to the system operator, as it allows connecting
all existing and future units into a fully integrated system. Fig. 5– Network Communications
Emulation is preferable when the originating protocol is
unsuitable for over-the-air transmission, e.g. by requiring The RTU, which serves as an S&F repeater, actually
frequent and fast polling responses, such as MODBUS or tests the message content and verifies if it was directed to
other common PLC protocols. If such a protocol is used in that site or it is required to retransmit that message to
Encapsulation mode, the channel would be overloaded.. Use another RTU, which is linked to the SCADA network. This
of an advanced seven-layer communications protocol allows can be performed thanks to the availability of the Network
integration of additional services side-by-side with the Layer, which is part of the data protocol.
SCADA system. Another desirable protocol feature is that upon reception
PLC of the message from the source RTU, it should be tested for
data integrity, using a CRC-32 error detection code, which is
PROT. PROT. embedded in the seven-layer protocol. Only those data
7 Layer
packets, which are detected with errors, will be
Network retransmitted upon request issued by the S&F repeater or the
final destination RTU.
Control Center IED
IED Upon reception of the correct packets, these are being re-
PROT. inserted into their original time slot, and transmitted to the
MASTER next destination site, which will again test the integrity of
the received packets. Once the complete message is received
by the destination site (RTU or MCC), it will issue an end-
Fig. 4 – Protocol encapsulation to-end confirmation, a function of the Transport Layer.
4 Dan Ehrenreich BSc. E.E., Diana May SPE 69464

Direct IP Connection Since oil and gas installations are often spread out over
remote and vast areas, a high tier SCADA system must
Pipeline engineers who plan new installations nowadays
include a set of remote maintenance functions such as:
pay more attention to modern communications. The reason
is that in order to assure safe pipeline operation as well as to • Remote download of updated application programs to
perform computerized control by a SCADA system, RTUs via the network. This is required in order to
pipelines are now monitored at many more points and upgrade or modify the operation at remote sites and
subsystems. RTUs, installed along the pipeline are designed save costly traveling time.
to perform pressure and flow measurements, cathodic • Allow downloading of operating parameters to RTUs
protection equipment monitoring, leakage detection, valve via the network. This is required in order to optimize
control, scrapper station monitoring, gas pressure reduction the operation at remote sites.
& compressor station monitoring and also Custody Transfer • Remote calibration process for analog measurement
calculations. ports. This feature is required to eliminate the need of
While in the past, these RTUs primarily used Microwave frequent traveling of maintenance people to sites just
and satellite communications, today the recently installed for the purpose of analog port calibration.
pipelines include a fiber optic link, installed alongside the • Remote time synchronization of sites down to a
metal pipe. Having this type of high performance media resolution of 2 msec. This feature is required in order to
available for pipeline control allows implementation of analyze specific events along the pipeline network
high-speed data networks, using Internet protocol (IP) (specifically detects which of the events occurred first).
connectivity directly at the RTU level. See Figure 6 for a
system concept involving IP connected RTUs.
Innovative Communications-Based Functions
Transmission of video image stills: Reliable operation of a
Master Control remote infrastructure often requires having an alternate way
of verifying the reported event, in addition to what was
reported via the SCADA system, to avoid false sensor
alarms to cause costly maintenance trips. One solution can
IP be the use of image stills, which can be transmitted from the
ToolBox Gateway Fiber remote site to the control center. As seen in Fig. 7, a video
Optic camera is directed to the supervised remote equipment or
Remote Ethernet installation. Once an event, which requires attention is
recorded by the RTU, the camera is turned on to capture a
still picture. In order to allow sending this picture to the
control center, the typically very large data image file (5-25
Mbytes) is being adjusted to lower resolution, and
RTU RTU compressed to a smaller file. The outcome of this process is
a manageable file size of 5-15 Kbytes, which can be
Fig. 6– Integrated IP Connectivity with wireless network transmitted over a narrowband wireless or line media in a
matter of 3-30 seconds (depending on the channel quality).
SCADA System Maintenanace In addition, the operator can request the RTU to capture
In order to rely on the operation of the entire infrastructure, a specified set of still pictures (up to five consecutive stills)
reliable SCADA communications must be assured. and have these transmitted to the control center. This will
However, from time to time there may be a need to verify create a short slow-scan image sequence and assist the
whether the message received from a specific site indeed operator in his decision making process.
reflects the true condition at the site, or is the result of a
malfunction of the RTU. Master Control
Center RTU
In such cases, it is highly desirable, that an embedded Includi ng: -SCADA S oftware
diagnostics feature will be in place. This allows monitoring - SCADA Application
operation of specific hardware or software functions at the - Still Software
remote site, and when a problem occurs, log the relevant
information in a Diagnostics Data Logger, which is an
integral part of the RTU. Having this feature in place, allows RS232 RS232
speedy analysis of almost any problem, which happens at Video SCADA
the remote site and helps the operator to make a decision on
how to react and to fix the detected problem. Interface Video Remote
When a SCADA system is being expanded, or modified, Unit Camera Sites
it may be required to update the application program
running at the remote sites via the communications. Figure 7– Transmission of video stills and SCADA messages
SPE 69464 Operating Benefits Achieved by Use of Advanced Data Communications for Oil and Gas SCADA Systems 5

The connection to the control center is done via two This type of Peer-to-Peer communication can only be
serial ports, one for SCADA type messages and one for the possible if the system is implementing a seven-layer type
image stills received by the wireless modem. communications, which includes the Network Layer.
Instant Pager Notification: Maintenance people spend
Summary and Conclusions
most of their time in the field, and communicate with their
office via wireless media. In case an emergency takes place or Communications play a major role in SCADA systems
any event which requires their immediate attention, they while their operation is mostly based on the reliability of the
typically are being notified via a pager and asked to call their communications network. This subject was specifically
head office for further instructions. Today, when most highlighted in this paper, since the selection of the optimal
communications networks are digital, it is possible to link type of communications medium and protocol is often being
these field teams directly to the SCADA network. overlooked by SCADA engineers and customers who are
lacking expertise in this field.
As shown in Fig. 8, the message transmitted between a
specific RTU and the SCADA control center, is being Use of a high quality and advanced data protocol, allows
directly sent to the pager transmitter. Once the message is implementation of unique functions such as system
transmitted over the paging system, the maintenance person diagnostics, remote calibration, smart RTU decisions based
will instantly see the message. For example: “Station 52 on imported data (from another RTU), update of programs
shows high pressure” which is identical to the message, that via the network, download of new operating parameters,
appears on the SCADA operator’s screen. This will allow interface to paging and transmission of video still images.
the service person to respond immediately, without
Use of modern seven layer protocols such as the Motorola
contacting the operations center for further instructions.
Data Link Communications (MDLC) protocol and MOSCAD
RTUs described by the authors, results in simplified
Master Control programming, less costly system upgrades, retrofits and
Center expansions, and improved maintenance procedures. The
integration of advanced communications protocols with
wireless SCADA systems generate major operating and cost
benefits, which more than justifies the investment.3)

FIU M Acknowledgements
Paging We thank Shlomo Liberman of Motorola’s Asia-Pacific
Radio Division for his helpful assistance and valuable information,
which helped highlight the key issues and make this paper
more comprehensive for the reader.

Fig. 8 – Integrated SCADA and paging systems
1. Implementation of Intelligent Data Communications in DA
Systems, John Grothman, Dan Ehrenreich, DA/DSM’93, Palm
The paging operation can be provided by a private Springs, January 1993
system, if such is owned by the company, or it can take 2. Data on Trunking Considerations, David Lum, Motorola Inc.
advantage of a public paging operator. Most paging DA/DSM’94 Orlando, Florida, January 1994
operators provide computer dial-up or leased-line access to 3. Cost Benefits resulting from use of Integrated Communications
their system. for Distribution Automation, Dan Ehrenreich, Shlomo Liberman,
DA/DSM’95 Asia, and Singapore 1995.
Enhanced System Operation 4. Operating benefits achieved by use of advanced communications
Protocols for DA/DSM systems, Dan Ehrenreich, Dr. Salomon
Modern SCADA systems can provide innovative solutions
Serfaty, DA/DSM Europe, Vienna 1996.
which otherwise could not be implemented. Among these
5. Dual RF channels improve grid operations, Dan Ehrenreich,
are; implementation of closed loop control along pipelines,
Utility Automation Europe, Vol. 1, No.1 Summer 1996
smart decisions locally made by the RTU software, etc.7) A
6. Integration of RF communications for Distribution Automation
typical RTU can make decisions based on the following: with Dual Redundancy, Dan Ehrenreich, Samuel Katar,
• Its own application program DA/DSM 97 Asia, Singapore 1997.
• Locally monitored analog and status conditions 7. Data Communications for Oil and Gas SCADA Systems. Dan
Ehrenreich, Shlomo Liberman, PETROMIN magazine October
• Parameters downloaded from the control center 1999.
• Intervention of the control center 8. Wireless IP Networks Serve Distribution Automation Systems,
Dan Ehrenreich, Utility Automation Magazine, August 2000
• Imported Data form Other RTUs in the network:
In our case, an RTU can be programmed to make local
decisions also based on status conditions and analog levels
imported from other RTUs connected to the same network.