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DCS, SCADA, Controllers

Updated SCADA system brings easier compliance, more data for operations

Renewable energy company sees numerous benefits in operations and business management with new supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.

By Jim Meyers September 30, 2021
Courtesy: Inductive Automation

 

Learning Objectives

  • Roeslein Alternative Energy added a new supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to improve its compliance.
  • The SCADA system used edge computing, MQTT and a virtual cloud serve to improve efficiency.
  • More access to data helped the renewable energy company improve other operations.

Making government compliance easier while seeing other benefits from the same system is a real win-win for manufacturers. Just ask Roeslein Alternative Energy (RAE), which put in a new system for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) and is seeing improvements in numerous areas beyond compliance.

Roeslein Alternative Energy, based in St. Louis, owns, operates and develops biogas scrubbing facilities that convert agricultural and industrial biowaste to renewable natural gas and sustainable co-products. System integrator Roeslein & Associates, which is under the same ownership as RAE, created the new SCADA system for RAE.

Roeslein & Associates used several modern technologies, which include a cloud services platform, a SCADA platform, edge computing, and message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) capabilities.

The system reliably collects data from various disparate locations and makes all the data accessible in one place. The system helps RAE meet government regulations for reporting, and it can help other companies do the same. The secure network can support the addition of more companies, with each company having access to only its own data. The system provides a streamlined way to visualize data, assess the operation’s status and build the necessary monthly reports to maintain compliance.

The system provides a single source of truth and has streamlined the data submission process. RAE also uses the new platform every day to manage and optimize production, and it continues to add new features.

Integrating SCADA, cloud, edge network technologies

Mitchell Leefers, systems engineer with Roeslein & Associates, said it wasn’t difficult to connect all the parts. “Everything really integrated nicely,” Leefers said. “There was a bit of a learning curve working with Amazon Web Services resources, but with the edge and MQTT, everything just came together.”

The project involves two separate hub-and-spoke systems. One handles the data for compliance reporting and can include other companies in a secure manner. The has a virtual private cloud. It also includes direct Ethernet connections to programmable logic controllers (PLCs), to ensure reliable edge device communication. Data is transmitted via MQTT. The second system is for RAE only and gathers all its process data. This data is used for overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), troubleshooting, maintenance tracking and process improvement.

“We didn’t have any kind of model from a previous project when we decided to split this into two systems,” said Leefers. “We made the decision based on factors presented to us from RAE and from problems we had seen in the past.”

The SCADA system helps RAE in its compliance reporting to federal and state licensing bodies. “It has greatly facilitated our compliance efforts by providing up-to-date operational data in a user-friendly interface,” said Ivailo Chervenkov, finance manager for RAE. “It’s also enhanced our capacity to streamline data collection and distribution in a more efficient manner. Prior to having this system, all data was collected, filtered, and distributed in a cumbersome manual method.”

RAE can now do more with its data and improve operations. “The system has allowed us to scale up our reporting efforts, especially against the challenge of increasing capacity, more facilities, and added complexity,” said Chervenkov. “Data has also become more reliable and available, speeding up key production and forecasting activities. The system helps us easily identify problem areas and quickly find real-time solutions that result in enhanced efficiency and quality of information and decision-making.”

Inductive Automation’s SCADA software platform Ignition released 8.1.7 in May 2021 with various quality-of-life improvements, including Fallback Redirection for Perspective Workstation. The feature allows users to set an alternative gateway in the event of a connection failure, which is particularly useful for critical infrastructures that need to ensure maximum uptime. Other added features include scheduling scripting events and OPC UA Diagnostics. Courtesy: Inductive Automation

Inductive Automation’s SCADA software platform Ignition released 8.1.7 in May 2021 with various quality-of-life improvements, including Fallback Redirection for Perspective Workstation. The feature allows users to set an alternative gateway in the event of a connection failure, which is particularly useful for critical infrastructures that need to ensure maximum uptime. Other added features include scheduling scripting events and OPC UA Diagnostics. Courtesy: Inductive Automation

SCADA software offers more than compliance

“The SCADA software interfaces with our daily reports and allows for a single point to access data,” said Eric Bancks, vice president of engineering for RAE. “It’s provided tools to access and visually display historical process data for process analysis for optimization and troubleshooting. We’ve been able to plot our historical biogas production versus our biogas projection model and alter our projection model with empirical data. We track methane recovery and methane imbalance. And the data is used to identify ‘suspect’ meters and get them repaired more quickly.”

The new SCADA system saves plenty of time when it comes to troubleshooting issues. “It saves time, because most of sites are remote to our office,” said Bancks. “We can gather data and analyze it in the office and give direction to the field without traveling four or five hours one-way.”

The company also sees benefits in trending of its data with analytics in the SCADA platform. “Our process team uses the custom trending tool extensively,” Bancks said. “It allows our process team to plot multiple variables on a single plot, and also download the data as a CSV file for further manipulation and analysis. The custom trend tool has different data queries, such as minute snapshot, minute average, hourly average, etc. This helps manage the data in whatever frequency is needed for the task.”

RAE has seen plenty of value in having better access to more data. “It’s critical for the decision-making process and budgeting,” Chervenkov said. “It provides consistent, accurate, and prompt data which is used daily by different employees of the whole company. It’s also helped to improve the decision-making hierarchy by allowing different types of information for various levels of management.”

Compliance records help industries that don’t need compliance

Leefers said software that creates compliance records can also help organizations that don’t have compliance requirements.

“This type of system could be used for really any kind of data acquisition and analytics,” he said. “We’ve built a highly available and highly redundant system that reliably gets data from an operation anywhere in the world with an internet connection to a central database. That’s the problem we solved, and it could be a solution for many different scenarios.”

Roeslein is adding new features to the system. “We’re in the process of integrating a barcoding system for higher quality tracking of gas shipments,” Leefers said. “Many production sites don’t have direct connection to a gas pipeline, so they fill trucks that take the gas to an unload station to inject it into the pipeline. Each shipment must be tracked with a document that contains information about that gas loaded on that truck. Right now, the process is very manual and involves a lot of operator input to build the document, which leaves room for human error. The barcode system will make it much easier and reliable to track each load of gas and its data.”

Jim Meyers is communications manager at Inductive Automation, creator of the Ignition industrial application platform for SCADA, HMI, MES, and IIoT. Edited by Chris Vavra, web content manager, Control Engineering, CFE Media and Technology, cvavra@cfemedia.com.

MORE ANSWERS

Keywords: government compliance, SCADA systems, supervisory control and data acquisition

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What benefits could a new SCADA system provide?

ONLINE extra

Technologies used in the renewable energy application

Roeslein & Associates used technologies including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Ignition by Inductive Automation for the SCADA platform, edge computing, and message queuing telemetry transport (MQTT) capabilities from Cirrus Link Solutions.

http://roesleinalternativeenergy.com/

https://www.roeslein.com/

https://inductiveautomation.com


Jim Meyers
Author Bio: Jim Meyers is success manager at Inductive Automation, creator of the Ignition industrial application platform for SCADA, HMI, IIoT and more.