OPC-UA Inaugural tech summit Orlando (December 2012)

Schlumberger ‘OPC-UA a lifesaver.’ Siemens’ transition in full swing. Indusoft, Matrikon on board.

According to Tom Burke, OPC Foundation chairman, the new ‘universal architecture (UA), is a ‘multi platform, secure, interoperability protocol for moving data from embedded devices to the enterprise.’ The original OPC was based on Microsoft’s ‘object linking and embedding’ COM protocol. The inaugural OPC technology summit, held earlier this year in Orlando, focused on UA as the new ‘glue that binds innovative devices together.’

Mbaga Ahorukomeye (Schlumberger) sees OPC-UA as a route to Scada systems and which can be extended to industry-specific protocols like Wits/WitsML. Schlumberger leverages KepWare’s OPC-UA technology at the heart of a ‘generic’ rig interface that runs the auto driller, top drive, mud pump and controls real time data flows and rotary steerable systems. Domain specific protocols are converted to OPC-UA with RigAdapter, a software library that implements a control state machine leveraging OPC Foundation C# libraries. OPC-UA is seen as a way to interface with multiple legacy tools and services. Ahorukomeye concluded, ‘Adopting OPC UA in our drilling automation architecture was one of the best things we did.’

Siemens’ head of software Thomas Hahn outlined how OPC-UA offers a standard interface across all levels of automation. It is OS independent and provides better security than vanilla OPC. Siemens sees OPC-UA certification as a route to interoperability, ‘the transition to UA is in full swing.’

Dave Emerson (sic) presented Yokogawa’s UA Server for its Centum VP platform which translates the Centum protocol to OPC-UA. Yokogawa’s Fast/Tools is claimed to be the first UA application certified for Scada. Key benefits include ‘industrial’ web services, a multi-protocol information model and cross platform capability. UA will ‘increasingly be a component of Yokogawa’s products.’

Chris Coen described legacy OPC as one of the most popular (of 450) interfaces to OSIsoft’s PI System. A UA interface is under development—the hope is that this will ‘free us from DCOM and a Windows-centric world.’ Moreover the new web services architecture is ‘probably a lot more secure than aging legacy protocols with well documented deficiencies’.

Indusoft’s Scorr Kortier sees OPC UA as slowly being embraced by oil and gas drilling companies. OPC solves the limitation of WitsML in that it is ‘drilling only’ and provides limited opportunities for better well planning, optimized drilling and completion and generally lacks ‘enterprise level’ knowledge management and optimization. Drivers for change include disasters like Macondo, HSE and risk issues and better project management. The future will see UA-based integration from office to rig instrumentation. The digital oilfield is at a critical point in its development, real time data structures have evolved with little conideration to overall design and are too closely linked to proprietary protocols. The future is UA.

Jeff Gould revealed that 30% of MatrikonOPC’s business is now UA. This includes managing Linux data from a wellhead data logger and flow and level meter data. At a higher level, OPC-UA provides plant status and ‘enterprise level’ communications over http sans DCOM. ‘It’s the first time VPs have had real time visibility.’ OPC-UA also promises a longer software life cycle. On the security front, NERC-CIP and API compliance was cited. Chevron, Shell and Honeywell are users. Presentations available from the OPC Foundation.

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