• By Jack Smith
  • August 30, 2023
  • Features

OMV Petrom furthers its digitalization and production goals with an ISA100 Wireless network and instrumentation.

Parc Scurtu oil field
OMV Petrom oil field in Parc Scurtu Mare, Romania

What began as a pilot project for narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) technology became a test case for real-time monitoring of oil wells located in isolated areas. The resulting application not only advanced one oil company’s strategic and production goals with minimal capital expenditure. Completion of the pilot project by the company’s operation technology (OT) engineering team also earned a prestigious award: the 2022 ISA100 Wireless Excellence in Automation Award. Romania-based OMV Petrom—the largest oil and gas producer in Southeast Europe—is the first global end user to use ISA100 Wireless technology for real-time oil-field monitoring, and its project proves interoperability among ISA100 Wireless certified devices from multiple technology providers.

“The oil and gas business is one of the most challenging industries. There are many uncertainties,” said Sorin Dobrescu, automation engineer in the OT department at OMV Petrom. “The need for efficient, optimal, and safe operation requires advanced— yet cost-effective—digital solutions, especially in onshore oil fields.”

“We had to build a highly available real-time network with additional sensors and with supervisory control capabilities for the whole production system at a minimum capital expenditure,” Dobrescu continued. “We also had to add temperature and pressure [sensors] to have correct parameters, in addition to the existing control system parameters, to achieve our business goals of improving the health of production and extraction processes.”

OMV Petrom owns and operates 152 onshore and offshore commercial oil and gas fields. The company’s 2030 strategic goals are to transform to a lower carbon future, where innovation and digitalization are among the key enablers. Its oil fields typically consist of tens of oil wells, which the company calls “production cells,” outfitted with pumpjacks.

Although oil fields are typically not monitored in real time because of their remote locations and large geographic areas, OMV Petrom recognized the need. Pumpjack monitoring and surveillance ensures that the extraction process is occurring and operating efficiently. In addition, it proactively detects potential issues that could result in an oil well collapse, as recovering a collapsed oil well is an extremely costly and complex endeavor. An industrial IoT (IIoT) wireless connectivity solution seemed appropriate to eliminate the costly cabling needed for both the backbone infrastructure as well as the field equipment.

Figure 1
Figure 1. The OMV Petrom oil field in Urlati, Romania, located adjacent to the Village of Orzoaia de Sus, was chosen as the first field trial location for the pilot project.
Pilot project details

The oil field in Urlati, Romania—located adjacent to the Village of Orzoaia de Sus—was chosen as the first field trial location for the pilot project (Figure 1). The oil field is comprised of eight operating oil wells spread over an area of 1.5 x 1.0 kilometers (0.932 x 0.621 miles) with hills and wooded areas. Each production cell has its own local programmable logic controller (PLC), which is also engaged in supervisory control. 

OMV Petrom evaluated various Industrial IoT (IIoT) wireless connectivity solutions. They had help from Atlanta-based Centero, a provider of wireless technologies, products and services for Internet of Things connectivity. High data reliability and latency guarantees were of vital importance for the proposed monitoring and operation of the production cells. The solution also had to be compliant to an open, worldwide standard to support the installed equipment from various providers. Interoperability among the instruments was of vital importance, as was cybersecurity, given that these high-value assets are part of critical infrastructure.

The wireless solution had to meet other site-specific criteria. Field instruments were to be installed at the eight production cells with a wireless backbone infrastructure to form the plant-wide wireless network. Parameters of interest needed to be available in real time throughout the plant-wide network via wireless field instruments, PLCs, and RTUs. Installed field instruments engaged in monitoring would also report data locally to PLCs for supervisory control through wired actuators. The instruments needed to monitor and control various parameters such as pressure and temperature and be installed in hazardous location (HAZLOC) areas. Backbone infrastructure devices such as gateways and routers would be installed in non-HAZLOC areas.

Technical and interoperability requirements

OMV Petrom chose ISA100 Wireless over other IIoT technologies and solutions because it not only met but exceeded the requirements for oil field real-time monitoring. ISA100 Wireless is the only IIoT standards-based solution that can cover a large geographic area using a single wireless mesh, IPv6-addressable network (see sidebar, “ISA100: Open and Secure Wireless Technology”).

Figure 2
Figure 2. Data is collected from load accelerometers installed on the pumpjack donkey arm to monitor oil well efficiency and detect issues that could result in oil well collapse. Inset: The pumpjack donkey arm lift.
The deployed wireless network is based on a distributed topology centered on an ISA100 Wireless field gateway and multiple ISA100 Wireless field backbone routers. The field gateway and backbone routers are connected through a Wi-Fi Mesh+ backbone canopy. Centero’s ISA100 Wireless UNISON infrastructure product line provided connectivity for both ISA100 Wireless instruments and Wi-Fi field adapters engaged in real-time monitoring.

The ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute (see sidebar) certifies the wireless backbone infrastructure products that form the plant-wide wireless network, as well as the field instruments installed at the eight production cells. In addition to the Honeywell pressure and temperature transmitters, data is also collected from the Kenech WLP Wireless Load accelerometers installed on the pumpjack donkey arm (Figure 2). This data is vital for monitoring oil well efficiency and proactively detecting potential issues that could result in either partial or full oil well collapse. Field instruments monitor and report data locally to supervisory control PLCs.

On the back end, data is reported to a Honeywell Experion distributed control system (DCS) via Modbus TCP. Data is also extracted and reported at ISA Level 4 via an OPC-UA interface to an OSI PI historian. The OPC-UA interface uses the ISA100 data model standardized by the WCI in cooperation with the OPC Foundation.

Distances between the production cells required the installation of directional antennas, which Centero aligned and fine-tuned for optimal long-range wireless performance. The antennas were installed via extension cables on top of electric poles at various heights, but terrain and vegetation still presented challenges for some of the wireless links.

The ISA100 Wireless Mesh+ network

Centero provided a dual infrastructure for the OMV Petrom oil field: the field area network (FAN) and the wireless communication backbone, also referred to as the wide area network (WAN). Data from the FAN is transmitted over the Wi-Fi Mesh+ backbone infrastructure (Figure 3). This highly reliable plant-wide wireless backbone canopy connects ISA100-compliant field instruments, Modbus RTU/TCP, and Ethernet/serial field instruments using Wi-Fi adapters.

Figure 3
Figure 3. The Centero UNISON plant-wide wireless backbone canopy connects ISA100-compliant field instruments, Modbus RTU/TCP, and Ethernet/serial field instruments using Wi-Fi adapters.

Figure 4
Figure 4. Centero UNISON gateways and access points are used for the wireless backbone infrastructure.
The Centero UNISON gateways and access points (Figure 4) of the backbone—which support high-throughput, low-latency communications and mobility for simultaneous field data, audio, and video surveillance transmission—can be deployed in hazardous and nonhazardous areas. The wireless backbone infrastructure bridges the OT and IT domains for comprehensive digitalization.

“Up to 50 instruments can be added to each backbone router,” explained Robert Assimiti, Centero cofounder and CEO, and an active member of the WCI Technical Steering and Strategy committees. “Each network supports up to 200 instruments, which could be distributed in up to 20 wireless mesh subnets. The network is improved as more [wireless] instruments are added by leveraging the mesh capabilities inherent in the ISA100 protocol.”

Assimiti said that the FAN is comprised of instruments installed in the field at the production cells and the ISA100 Wireless Mesh+ that connects them. The FAN provides real-time monitoring of the entire oil field and includes the instruments, PLCs, and RTUs.

The functionality of the FAN includes pumpjack monitoring/surveillance and oil well production cell monitoring. A wireless load accelerometer monitors the pumpjack donkey arm via a HAZLOC-capable WellLynx RTU. This RTU interfaces with the oil field’s legacy network protocols: RS485, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP, DNP3, OPC-UA, and MQTT.

ISA100 Wireless certified instruments—including temperature and pressure transmitters—are installed in HAZLOC areas and communicate with the ISA100 Wireless field gateways and field access points to perform production cell monitoring. Typical data reporting rates range from one to 30 seconds. Local PLCs connected to Wi-Fi Mesh+ field adapters communicate with Wi-Fi Mesh+ routers.

Results exceeded expectations

According to all involved, the results of the pilot project exceeded all expectations. Wireless technologies helped reduce capex because they eliminated the need for costly cables. “Connectivity is also better,” Dobrescu said. “Real-time monitoring and control is also one of the major basic functionalities of the wireless systems envisioned for this project, in addition to high availability and low latency.”

A project of this magnitude demands interoperability, backend connectivity, and strong cybersecurity. “Interoperability is achieved through standardized technologies of ISA100 and Wi-Fi mesh wireless,” Dobrescu explained. “Accepting multivendor solutions is very important when you have to deal with a small budget. Backend connectivity is essential for reporting data to software entities like the Honeywell Experion DCS, OSIsoft PI historian, and Seeq [analytics software].”

ISA100 standards ensure cybersecurity, said Dobrescu. “Production cell parameters are collected using ISA100 sensors and combined with existing parameters collected by legacy PLCs. We’re also adding some edge RTUs capable of running supervisory control features per the IEC 61499 standard [Standard for Distributed Automation],” he added.

Data is used to proactively detect potential issues that could result in well collapse. Oil well operations are now fully monitored in real time, which allows crude to be extracted and transported efficiently and cost-effectively.

Final thoughts

All these benefits were realized with minimal capital expenditure due to the field network architecture, connectivity technologies, and security mechanisms present in ISA100 Wireless. According to Assimiti, data availability for the ISA100 drivers is 99.9% and the Wi-Fi Mesh+ wireless backbone infrastructure communication reliability is greater than 99.7%. This is allowing assets to run autonomously 24/7, backed by an adaptive digital workforce.

Members of the OMV Petrom engineering team presented the case study about this wireless implementation in an ISA webinar on July 12, 2023.The 2022 ISA100 Wireless Excellence in Automation award for leadership in digitalization and innovation while implementing this application will be presented in person during the ISA Automation and Leadership Conference in Colorado Springs, Colo., Oct. 4-6, 2023.

Photos courtesy of OMV Petrom.


ISA100: Open and Secure Wireless Technology

ISA100 Wireless, also known as international standard ANSI/ISA-100.11a-2011 (IEC 62743), is a plant-wide wireless infrastructure technology for industrial environments. ISA100 Wireless helps make the industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) a reality by incorporating Internet Protocol version 6 (IPV6) directly as part of its network layer and transport layer. IPV6 provides numerous technical benefits compared to other industrial network protocols and its predecessor, IPV4:

  • Better security. Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), a major design improvement of IPv6, authenticates and encrypts each IP packet of a communication session. IPsec operates in the Internet layer; thus, it protects all application traffic across an IP network.
  • Support for new services. By eliminating Network Address Translation (NAT), true end-to-end connectivity at the IP layer is restored, enabling new and valuable services. Peer-to-peer networks are easier to create and maintain and a more robust Quality of Service (QoS) is enabled.
  • More efficient routing. It reduced routing table sizes and enabled more hierarchical routing.
  • More efficient packet processing. It simplified packet headers and eliminated IP-level checksum that exists in IPv4.
  • Directed data flows. IPv6 supports a superior multicast method, saving network bandwidth.
  • Simplified network configuration. Auto-configure functionality (address assignment) is built into IPv6.

As of Aug. 18, 2023, the next generation of ISA100 Wireless field devices will support Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) as a second radio while the established ISA-100 (IEC 62734) protocol will continue to be used for field reporting. BLE will enable provisioning and commissioning of ISA100 Wireless field devices by Bluetooth-enabled handhelds, particularly by mobile phones.

In addition, ISA100 Wireless gateways are also adopting a new OPC-UA data model, based on the PA-DIM specification. End users will be able to build a single set of applications that work end-to-end with all ISA100 Wireless systems using the OPC-UA model. These ISA100 Wireless enhancements will improve interoperability and the overall user experience.

Lists of certified ISA100 Wireless devices and suppliers can be found on the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute (WCI) website.

About the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute

On 26 June 2023, the International Society of Automation (ISA) and its subsidiary, the ISA100 Wireless Compliance Institute (WCI), announced that OMV Petrom won the 2022 ISA100 Wireless Excellence in Automation award for its novel application of wireless instrumentation. WCI is a non-profit organization dedicated to decreasing the time, costs, and risks of developing and deploying standards-based, industrial wireless devices and systems. It brings together users, suppliers, and other stakeholders to support adoption of the ISA100 wireless standard. It does this by:

  • conducting independent testing and certification of ISA100 wireless devices and systems
  • providing education, tools, and technical support to users and suppliers in the design, certification, deployment, and management of ISA100 wireless devices and systems
  • certifying that ISA100 wireless devices and systems meet a common set of specifications
  •  assuring interoperability of ISA100 wireless devices and systems using standards, tests, and conformance processes.

WCI’s ISA100 Wireless Excellence in Automation Award, presented each year since 2013, goes to an end user company that has demonstrated outstanding leadership and innovation in the use of ISA100 Wireless technology, or for completion and publication of related research or field studies about ISA100 Wireless. Previous award recipients include Fuji Oil Company (2020), ILBOC (2019), BAPCO (2018), ALCOA (2017), Phillips 66 (2016), Petronas (2015), Nippon Steel & Sumikin Engineering Co., LTD (2014), and RasGas (2013).

Reader Feedback

We want to hear from you! Please send us your comments and questions about this topic to InTechmagazine@isa.org.

Like This Article?

Subscribe Now!

About The Authors

Jack Smith is a senior contributing editor for Automation.com and ISA’s InTech magazine. He has been a trade journalist for 22 years.