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HomeISAPublicationsInTechMagazine2009/OctAutomationBasics:Dataacquisition

October 2009
Data acquisition
Supervisorycontrolanddataacquisitionisthetechnologythatenablesausertocollectdatafromoneormoredistantfacilitiesandsendlimitedcontrolinstructiontothosefacilities.
SCADAhasseenusetomonitorandcontrolverylargeprocessfacilities.SCADAisnotnormallyusedtooperateasmallfacilitylikefactoryalthough,somefactoriesarelarge
enoughtobenefitfromusingSCADA.Controlsystemslikeprogrammablelogiccontrollersordistributedcontrolsystemswilldoabetterjobformostfactorycontrolandmonitoring.

SCADAallowsahumanoperatorinalocationcentraltoawidelydistributedprocess,suchasapipelinesystem,oilorgasfield,hydroelectricgeneratingcomplex,orirrigation
network,tomakesetpointchangesondistantprocesscontrollers,toopenorclosevalvesorswitches,tomonitoralarms,andtogathermeasurementinformation.

Whenthedimensionsoftheprocessbecomeverylarge,hundredsoreventhousandsofkilometersfromoneendtotheother,onecanappreciatethebenefitssuchasystemoffersin
termsofreducingthecostofroutinevisitstomonitorandcontrolthatprocess.Thebenefitsgrowifelementsoftheprocessarenotonlydistant,butphysicallydifficulttoreach,
perhapsrequiringahelicopterorotherspecialtransportation.OncethebenefitsofaSCADAsystemarerecognized,improvedcontrolmethodscanbeutilizedtooperatethefacility
moreefficientlyandsafelythancouldbedonewithoutthesystem.

Applicableprocesses

SCADAtechnologyisbestappliedtoprocessesspreadoverlargeareas,simpletocontrolandmonitor,andthatrequirefrequent,regular,orimmediateintervention.

OneprocessinwhichSCADAseesuseisingroupsofsmallhydroelectricgeneratingstationsthatareturnedonoroffinresponsetocustomerdemandandareusuallylocatedin
remotelocations.Theycanbecontrolledeasilybyopeningorclosingvalvestofeedwatertoturbines.Theyneedtorespondquicklytochangesindemandandmustbemonitored
continuously.

Anotherprocessisinoilorgasproductionfacilities(wells,gatheringpipelines,fluidmeasurementequipment,andpumps),whichareusuallyspreadoverlargeareas,requiresimple
controlssuchasturningmotorsonandoff,needtogatherfluidmeteringinformationregularly,andmustrespondquicklytoconditionsintherestofthefield.

Otherprocessesincludepipelinesforgas,oil,chemicals,orwater,whichhaveelementslocatedatvariousdistancesfromacentralcontrolpointelectrictransmissionsystems,which
maycoverthousandsofsquarekilometersirrigationsystems,whichoftencoverhundredsofsquarekilometersandataheavyoilupgrader,whichiscontrolledbyadistributed
controlsystem.

Typicalsignalsgatheredfromremotelocationsincludestatusindications,alarms,analogvalues,andtotalizedmetervalues.Thisseemslikeasmalllistofsimpleoptions,butavast
rangeofinformationcanbegatheredwiththisapparentlylimitedmenuofavailablesignaltypes.

SignalssentfromtheSCADAsystem'scentrallocationtotheremotesitesareusuallylimitedtodiscretebinarybitchangesortoanalogvaluesaddressedtoadeviceattheprocess.
AnexampleofabinarybitchangecouldbeaninstructiontoamotortochangefromOFFtoON.Anexampleofananalogvalueisaninstructiontoavalvecontrollertochangethe
valvesetpointfrom60%opento70%open.

ElementsofaSCADAsystem

AtthecenterofaSCADAsystemistheoperator,whointerfaceswiththesystemthroughsomeformofinput/output(I/O)device.TheI/Odeviceinturncommunicateswiththemaster
terminalunit(MTU).TheMTUcommunicateswithoneormoreremoteterminalunites(RTUs),eachofwhichcommunicateswithsensorsoractuatorsattheprocess.

ThetwopurposesofaSCADAsystemaretoextendtheoperator'sabilitytoseewhatishappeningintheprocessandtoextendtheoperator'sabilitytomakechangestotheprocess.
Whentheprocessisverysmallandsimple,theoperatormaybeabletodirectlyseewhatishappeningandtoreachouttomaketheneededchangewithhisorherownhand.When
theprocessgetsabitlarger,thatbecomesimpossiblehowever,itmaystillbetheoperatorandawirefromaswitchneartheoperatortothemotororvalvethattheoperatorneedsto
adjusttomaketheprocessworkproperly.Astheprocessincreasesinsizeevenmore,thesignalstoandfromtheoperatorstarttodegradeandthecostofrunningdedicatedwires
foreachelementbecomesprohibitive.Theoperatormuststillknowwhatishappeningintheprocess,andheorshemuststillbeabletomakethechangestotheprocess.

Themasterterminalisthesystemcontroller.Someindustriesusethetermhostcomputer,hostcontroller,orserver,butwecanrefertoitastheMTU.InmodernSCADAsystems,
MTUsarealwaysbasedonacomputer.Withappropriatesoftware,theMTUcanmonitorandcontroltheprocessevenwhentheoperatorisnotpresent.Itdoesthisbymeansofa
builtinscheduler,programmedtorepeatinstructionsatsetintervals.TheMTU,forinstance,maybescheduledtorequireanupdatefromeachRTUeverysixminutes.Theoperator's
I/OandtheSCADAsystem,generally,mustbeatwowaydevice.JustasaSCADAsystemisnotjustatelemetrysystemgatheringdatafromthefieldandpresentingittotheoperator,
theI/Omustnotbelimitedtopresentingdatatotheoperator.Itmustalsobecapableofreceivinginstructionsfromtheoperatorsandpassingthemon.

SOURCE:SCADA:SupervisoryControlandDataAcquisition,4thEdition,byStuartA.Boyer,ISA,2010.

https://www.isa.org/standardsandpublications/isapublications/intechmagazine/2009/october/automationbasicsdataacquisition/ 1/1