March 2021, Vol. 248, No. 3


Many Benefits Occur Within Integration of the Control Room with SCADA

By Black & Veatch Insights Group 

Implementing comprehensive control room management (CRM) with modern SCADA systems can offer utilities and pipeline operators myriad benefits, particularly when it comes to improving pipeline safety.  

Figure 1: Control Room Management Components – Functional Grouping
Figure 1: Control Room Management Components – Functional Grouping

Integrating comprehensive CRM with modern SCADA systems deepens situational awareness, providing a more comprehensive, holistic view of control room management. This, in turn, improves operational readiness, which results in a smarter and safer pipeline system. Although the complexity that goes into integrating these systems cannot be taken lightly, the benefits are unparalleled – a smarter, safer and more secure pipeline system that can provide richer data, helping to support future long-term commercial initiatives to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.  

When it comes to pipeline operations and management, several benefits arise from integrating CRM with SCADA systems. This article will focus on three primary benefits: improved intraday pipeline flow controls, improved data on custody transfer points, and improved pipeline safety.  

By enabling this holistic control room view, pipeline operators will be able to leverage new levels of data, enabling additional capabilities around the future integration of hydrogen blending, the injection of renewable natural gas (RNG) and the ability to integrate peak shavings supplies like liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG). 

The conversation is timely, given that there is deepening industry interest in how the integration of CRM and SCADA systems will help enable the prospects of hydrogen and RNG blending, and the use of LNG/CNG for hourly peak shavings purposes. 

Taking a holistic view of control room management addresses multiple facets, depending on the situational point of view. Some aspects are specific to pipeline safety code compliance, while others are related to pipeline operations. The nexus of these various perspectives is the safe and efficient transfer of product – either gas or hazardous liquid. 

Figure 1 illustrates the functional grouping of CRM components. Commercial operation, which includes product purchase, sales and supply, represents the primary commercial function of the pipeline, with pipeline control and measurement playing critical support functions.  

CRM compliance and alarm management overlay and affect all the other commercial and functional components to ensure safe operation. Because all these components work in concert, stakeholder requirements for each need to be defined and integrated for operational readiness. 

Commercial Operation  

The purpose of the pipeline system is to support product purchase, sales and supply functions. System controllers are responsible for safely moving specified volumes of products through the pipeline system and providing delivery within specific parameters.  

The required operator qualification skills, supported by specific training, ensure that operations are conducted safely. The controllers’ understanding of system operation and safe operating pressure and flow enable the effective movement of products, including line-packing, when necessary. With this in mind, real-time data is the controllers’ primary tool.  

The continued evolution of gas-fired generation to provide both baseload and intermittent renewable support will alter how traditional pipeline and local distribution assets will operate. 

Figure 2: California Gas Consumption for Power Generation – Indicative May Day
Figure 2: California Gas Consumption for Power Generation – Indicative May Day

The hourly gas burn for power plants in California has begun to shift, because midday gas burn is offset by wind and solar power generation, leaving a large late-afternoon ramp for dispatchable gas-fired generation and gas pipelines to serve (Figure 2).  

The integration of CRM and SCADA systems will allow for improved tracking of intraday hourly flows and rates of flow on an hourly basis to key delivery points.  

Electric Vehicles 

The increasing advancement of electrification and the growing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) will also alter the use of natural gas on the gas pipeline and local distribution system.  

With California and Washington issuing numerous bans on new customer access to natural gas over the past 24 months, residential and commercial building electrification may be on the rise as traditional space heating and water heating units are replaced with electric appliances to reduce GHG.  

Building electrification will increase the overall electric load and its need for dispatchable generation when renewable resources are not available and could further stress gas systems during the early evening ramp in gas usage.  

The growing popularity and cost-competitiveness of EVs will also affect gas-fired generation and how gas assets are used. EV charging patterns will alter the hourly peak and non-peak consumption of electricity, at times drawing heavily on dispatchable generation resources and the gas system that supports it.  

While charging patterns will continue to shift, charging when the EV is at home in the early evening and nighttime can draw upon gas-fired generation when solar and wind resources are not readily available.   

Holistic View of CRM 

Effective measurement data (pressure, flow and volume) is critical to the system’s commercial operation. Understanding where and how much product is within the system ensures that the controller effectively moves the product to where it’s needed. 

The integration of SCADA and CRM systems will support changes in the use of the gas system by improving data collection and monitoring, allowing gas operators to serve these customers with changing hourly load shapes. The measurement data is also essential for product custody transfer purposes, both into and out of the pipeline system.  

Integration of CRM and SCADA will enable a more holistic control room perspective and allow pipeline operators to leverage new levels of data. This will enable additional capabilities around the future integration of hydrogen blending, the injection of RNG, and the ability to integrate peak shavings supplies like LNG or CNG.  

The evolving changes to gas system load shapes will impact LNG or CNG peak shaving operations. Improved management and data collection will allow for the seamless injection of LNG/CNG peak shaving needs during the peak hours of system use.  

Improved operational efficiency could extend the LNG/CNG peaking supplies and reduce end-user costs. With the continued shift in public policy goals to reduce GHG emissions, the direct use of natural gas and gas pipelines that serve existing customers will need to follow. There are several ways that natural gas utilities and pipelines can reduce their emissions. 

The blending of green hydrogen produced by electrolysis from renewable sources or blue hydrogen in which carbon is captured and stored could reduce the GHG emissions from the direct use of natural gas.  

A possible blend of 5% to 15% of hydrogen by volume into the existing gas networks appears to be feasible1 and would reduce the emission footprint of natural gas to meet public policy goals, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).  

Like hydrogen blending, RNG produced by landfills, biomass and sewage treatment facilities can also reduce GHG emissions. Improved flow data can allow operators to monitor system performance and gas composition at custody transfer points and track the integration of hydrogen and RNG.  

Interest in integrating comprehensive CRM with modern SCADA systems will continue to garner industry attention, particularly as utility and pipeline operators begin to realize the untold benefits that are in store.  

Not only will the data be compelling by helping to build a smarter and safer pipeline system, it also will allow stakeholders to leverage these heightened levels of data to adopt additional capabilities, particularly around the future integration of hydrogen and RNG blending, the injection of RNG and the ability to integrate peak shavings supplies.  

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