Real-time data integration in the digital oil field

Real-time data integration is a crucial aspect of the digital oil field, but to make its integration successful, production engineers must implement a data infrastructure based on four key elements.


Real-time data integration is key for a digital system project to be successful; ensure a real-time field data infrastructure. Courtesy: CFE MediaOil and gas exploration and production (E&P) is one of the most important industries and business activities in the world. It is a multi-disciplinary process that includes bold activities such as geological seismic studies, oil field and reservoir assessments, geological seismic studies, drilling, hydrocarbon production, and surface facilities management. All these activities involve data acquisition, control, data transmission, processing, modelling, and the visualization of huge amounts of data coming from loggers, seismic files, field instrumentation, metering and other data sources, either in real-time or not in real-time.

But data acquisition and control is a just a very small part of the E&P operations. Oil and gas production is no longer an easy task. Today, oil production has become a complex activity requiring experience and data. A production engineer must comprehend data from many sources and integrate them in a way that allows him or her to take the right decision at the right moment. The information systems (and all underlined IT infrastructure) required to support complex production operations respond to an architecture called integrated asset management, intelligent operations, which is also known as the digital oil field (DOF). The main goal of the DOF is to maximize production while minimizing operating costs and capital expenditures, as well as to reduce any environmental impacts and to protect the personnel.

Real-time field data is just one of the data sources in the DOF, and it is very important. It provides field information from instrumentation in places such as wells (deep hole, sub surface and surface), pumps, surface network facilities, storage tanks, valves, and other equipment. It also allows control of choke and valves, pumps speeds, and torques. Production operation engineers require the systematic integration of real-time data along with information from other E&P applications and data sources to perform a faster acknowledgement of operational events and enhance diagnosis and analysis capabilities. The idea is to transform inputs from all data sources into valuable information that allows asset teams to better understand the state of the asset and take the right decisions timely.

Real-time data integration is a key for a DOF system. For a DOF project to be successful, one must have a real-time field data infrastructure based on four key elements:

  1. Instruments and actuators infrastructure installed appropriately in wells, surface facilities, pumps and valves;
  2. Controllers (RTU, PLC, PAC) for gathering all data, perform control, and report accordingly.
  3. A modern telecommunication and IT infrastructure to transport and delivery all field data to upper control levels, and also to get control set-points back to the field actuators;
  4. A real-time, open, and reliable integration middleware in order to seamlessly transfer all data to the collaborative levels of the DOF architecture by means of standard industry protocols.

Real-time data is crucial, but just getting data is not enough to achieve DOF goals. DOF solutions must provide engineers with a collaborative environment, delivering a process-oriented operating style by means of workflows or business processes that encapsulate the knowledge on how to properly manage and process all that information. The main goal of the workflow in this collaborative environment is to integrate data sources and capture the knowledge of production processes, enabling improved and timely decisions.

Proper design, deployment, and integration of real-time data and infrastructure are one of the duties of the Automation Engineer, to achieve a successful Digital Oil Field solution.

- Mario Torre is a system design and architect specialist who focuses on industrial automation and real-time information systems. He is an electronic engineer with a master's degree in systems engineering and a consultant to major oil, gas, and power utility companies. Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, associate content manager, CFE Media, Control Engineering and Plant Engineering, 

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