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Chapter 16

Automation of Lease Equipment


G.R. Burrell, Exxon
Co.U.S.A.*

Introduction
Automation in the oil and gas producing industry covers exceed that of integrated circuits in the initial form of
a broad spectrum of supported functions. In a simple ap- “hard-wired” logic. Microcomputers combine the ad-
plication, automation may be defined as linking together vantages of electronic components and program instruc-
instruments and controls to perform lease-operating pro- tions into a flexible, capable, and reliable form that has
cedures automatically in a predetermined manner. substantial advantages for automation. These functional
Automation in a more complex environment will have advantages have been complemented by a reduction in
digital computers in some form of a supervisory control cost compared to implementation with integrated cir-
and data acquisition (SCADA) system. Automation in cuits. Microcomputers are being used in almost every
the industry has tended to evolve as new tools become component of automation related equipment from in-
available and ate accepted by industry and regulatory dividual instruments through digital computers.
agencies. Generally, automation has advanced by a more
complex linkage of instruments and control devices. Lease Automatic Custody Transfer (LACT)
Some of the more important tools and/or techniques that LACT is the process of transferring (running) lease-
have enhanced lease automation are (1) solid-state elec- produced oil into a connected pipeline on an unattended
tronics, (2) lease automatic custody transfer (LACT), (3) basis. LACT includes the capability to determine
tank battery consolidation, and (4) SCADA. automatically the quantity and quality of oil being
transferred and the control functions to prevent transfer
of unacceptable quality and/or volumes. Before LACT,
lease oil was produced into a tank, quantity and quality
Solid-State Electronics
(opening gauge and thieving, etc.) were determined, and
The development of solid-state electronics first as a valve was opened to the pipeline to initiate transfer.
discrete components and then as integrated circuits has When the transfer was complete, the pipeline valve was
been a key factor in advancing lease automation. Elec- closed and a final (closing) gauge was made as basis for
tronics have provided the base for improvements in in- determining net volume transferred. All these steps were
strumentation, control elements, communication, and manual activities with some related duplication of effort
digital computers that form the primary components of between the lease operator and the pipeline gauger. In
enhanced automation facilities. Pneumatic and elec- addition to being labor intensive, the process was in-
tromagnetic (relay) logic have been, and will continue to herently inefficient in use of related treating and storage
be, used in various forms of automation, but the extent facilities. LACT is an important tool in the evolution of
of logic implementation is limited substantially com- lease automation. LACT is a significant automation ele-
pared with that available for electronics. Pneumatic ment and has been widely accepted and implemented by
and/or electromagnetic functions are effective as com- industry. In addition, it has become an important
plementary features to electronic forms of automation building block for other forms of automation in lease
and as stand-alone automation for less complex operations.
applications.
Microprocessors and their extension to microcom- Tank Battery Consolidation
puters are having an impact on automation that may well Many oil and gas fields have multiple operators or work-
ing interest owners. In addition, most fields consist of a
‘Authorof theoriginal chapler on this topic in the 1962 edition was Don R. Patterson
number of separate leases (common royalty ownership,
16-Z PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

etc.) that require individual oil and gas processing systems may be oriented primarily to operating person-
(separation, treating, storage and transfer, etc.) facilities nel needs, or they may be multipurpose by providing
to account for production to each owner. functions for operating, accounting, engineering, and
LACT initially was applied to these separate lease management groups.
operations. The automatic transfer of produced oil and SCADA is a logical extension of automation in the se-
recycling of unacceptable quality oil [high basic sedi- quence from manual lease operation, to use of LACT,
ment and water (BS&W) content] to treating facilities in- and then to centralized treating, storage, and automatic
creased the effectiveness of treating and storage equip- custody transfer (ACT) with tank battery consolidation.
ment. In addition, tire incremental cost of larger meters, This sequence moved from essentially independent in-
pumps, and related equipment of LACT’s was low com- dividual lease operations to a single overall process that
pared to the increased oil volume transfer capability. has a number of closely related functions. SCADA pro-
Thus, a technical basis was available to process and vides the ability to obtain timely operational information
transfer much higher produced-oil volumes than present for optimization of the interrelated process functions.
on the average lease. For example, if a compressor outage reduces the gas
Historically, individual lease oil-production volumes processing capacity below a field’s gas-producing rate,
had been treated to pipeline quality (2 % BS&W or less) well-test information from SCADA allows shutting-in of
before custody transfer from the lease. In the 1960’s, wells with high GOR’s and thus minimizes reduction of
regulatory agencies began to approve operator requests the related oil producing rate. In general, timely and ac-
to commingle wet-oil (not pipeline quality) production curate operational information can be used to obtain
from multiple leases into a common or central oil proc- maximum utility of existing process equipment and
essing and custody transfer facility. Oil production from minimize need for stand-by capacity.
each lease was determined by measuring the wet-oil Some form of automation is used on every lease that
volume (separator positive-volume or positive- produces oil and gas. The extent of practical automation
displacement meters, etc.) and correcting for water con- depends primarily on economics. Some of the benefits of
tent with automatic samplers and later with capacitance automation that may be used in the economic justitica-
probes and related net-oil computers. Final sales volume tion are as follows:
to each separate lease was determined by allocating the 1. Capital investment in lease production equipment is
custody transferred (sales) volume back to each lease on reduced.
the basis of its proportion of total wet-oil lease 2. Operating expenses are reduced through savings in
measurements. In other cases, tank battery consolidation labor costs, maintenance expenses, travel expenses, and
was implemented when a field was unitized under a power and fuel costs.
single operator for initiation of secondary recovery 3. Ability to initiate and document actions required for
activities. regulatory compliance is improved.
Tank battery consolidation eliminated oil treating and 4. Surveillance capability of management and support-
storage facilities on the individual lease. In some fields, ing staff groups is improved.
the pipeline trunk lines used to gather individual lease oil 5. The quantity and quality of operational information
volumes were converted to wet-oil gathering lines for the available for making business decisions is increased,
consolidated tank battery operation. Tank battery con- which results in revenue increases and operating cost
solidation converts a field’s operation from a number of decreases.
stand-alone lease functions to a central process with Automation in oil and gas production activities will
multiple inputs. Oil treating and storage, water treating continue to evolve as additional tools ate developed and
and disposal, vapor recovery facility, etc., became more applied. Most advances (including improved com-
efficient and controllable in the consolidated munications and “smart’ ’ end devices) will take the
environment. form of (1) improvements in existing devices, (2) new
devices with improved capability/reliability to replace
Supervisory Control and Data older equipment, and, less frequently, (3) new devices
Acquisition (SCADA) with new features/functions that are applicable to the
SCADA is a common name applied to computer-driven production process. Much of the basic instrumentation
automation systems used in oil and gas production opera- and control equipment (primarily pneumatic-based) that
tions. Basic functions generally include status/alarm has been used for years with oil and gas processing
reporting, production volume accumulation/reporting, facilities will continue to be applicable. Implementation
well testing, and control. These systems vary from small of some form of enhanced automation (as described
units that are applied to only a few leases in a single field earlier) will be a primary force to increase use of elec-
to large units that serve multiple fields containing several tronic and electronic/pneumatic equipment. On this
thousand total wells. basis, it appears reasonable to elucidate the topic of
SCADA systems are tied directly to the instrumenta- automation first by discussing some of the commonly
tion and control devices on the process equipment used used equipment and then by depicting equipment ap-
in oil and gas production. This provides timely and con- plication in automation systems.
tinuous access to the operational information being
sensed by the instrumentation. Some SCADA systems
Automatic Production-Control Equipment
emphasize data gathering and reporting to operating per- Automatically Controlled Valves and Accessories
sonnel for “open-loop” control while others use pro- Automatic control valves can be classified in a number
gram logic to analyze input information and initiate con- of ways, but classification by the energy medium that ac-
trol actions directly (“close-loop” control). SCADA tuates the valve operator is most pertinent to automation.
AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-3

By using this method of classification, automatic control operators, they normally are used only on large-sized
valves can be grouped into three major categories: fluid- valves and/or valves having high working pressures.
controlled valves, electrically controlled valves, and
fluid-electric-controlled valves. In the latter category a Fluid-Electric Controlled Valves. Self-contained valve
fluid energy generally is used to operate the valve and operators in the third category are generally
electric energy is used to control the fluid-energy source. hydroelectric-type operators. Operators of this type
essentially consist of a self-contained reservoir of
hydraulic fluid, a small electric motor, a pump, and a
Fhdd-Controlled Valves. The most common types of
fluid-cylinder device-all within a single housing. The
automatic fluid-controlled valve operators arc diaphragm
fluid-cylinder principle limits this type of operator to
operators and fluid cylinders. Both of these valve
valves requiring longitudinal motion or 90” rotation to
operators can be used on any style of valve body whose
seat the inner valve. Valve operators of this type are
inner valve can be positioned by longitudinal displace-
available for a wide variety of valve sizes and working-
ment of the valve stem. The fluid cylinder operator nor-
pressure ranges.
mally is used with valve-body styles requiring 90” rota-
In addition to the hydroelectric-type operators, any of
tion for operation. Diaphragm operators most commonly
the fluid-controlled operators mentioned can be made
are applied to valves that have globe, angle, butterfly,
combination-type operators. By the addition of electric-
and Saunders-type valve bodies. Fluid-cylinder
solenoid valves in the fluid-control lines, an electric
operators are more commonly used with plug valves.
signal can be used to control the release of fluid energy
In oilfield applications, the most common fluid used to
to the valve operator. Combination-type operators of this
actuate both valve operators is natural gas, generally
kind are commonly called “electropneumatic
taken directly off a separator or heater-treater on the
operators. ”
lease. If natural gas is not available, or if for some reason
the available natural gas supply is not suitable, a bottled
gas (nitrogen, etc.), compressed air, or hydraulic fluid Valve Switches. It is frequently essential that an
could be used. Diaphragm operators normally require automatic control system be able to sense the position of
only 15- to 30-psi fluid pressure to actuate the valve. certain valves whether automatically or manually
Pressures up to 100 psi and over often are desired for the operated. This is accomplished by means of a “valve
fluid cylinders because, the higher the fluid pressure switch” coupled directly to the stem of the valve in ques-
available to operate the cylinder, the smaller size the tion. In electrical control systems, the valve switch may
cylinder may be, and consequently the lower the cost. be a mercury switch, a microswitch, or a position-
Valves using these types of operators, as a class, are fre- sensing switch. In pneumatic control systems, the
quently called “pneumatic control valves” even though “valve switch” is a three-way pilot valve. The switches
the control fluid may be something other than air. may be adjusted to open or close a circuit as the valve
Some fluid-controlled valves can be controlled with opens and closes. One of the most common applications
the fluid flowing in the line in which the valve is located. of valve switches is on tank-run valves, in which case
These types of valves generally use the differential they are generally called “pipeline valve switches.”
pressure principle for control purposes. A reference con- Another common use of valve switches is to indicate
trol pressure is established by spring-loading or prcssure- remotely the operational position (open, closed, etc.) of
loading the valve operator. The control valve is actuated automatic control valves on wellheads, well manifolds,
when the line pressure upstream and/or downstream metering-tank inlets and outlets. In these general ap-
sensed by the valve operator algebraically exceeds the plications, valve switches normally will be referred to as
reference control pressure-i.e., the valve can be ac- “limit switches.” When interlocked with an automatic
tuated by pressures either excessively high or excessive- control system, valve switches perform the very impor-
ly low, or both. This feature makes this type of valve tant function of preventing subsequent steps in an
particularly suited for use as safety shut-in valves on automatic operation from proceeding unless certain
wellheads. valves are in the proper position. Other type devices can
be used to sense “control” valve positions at in-
termediate points (or continuously) between the open
Electrically Controlled Valves. Automatic electrically and closed positions.
controlled valve operators arc of two general types,
electric-solenoid (or magnetic) and electric motor.
Magnetic operators are used for valves requiring Automatic Production Programmers
longitudinal motion to position the inner valve. The use Time-Cycle Controller. Automatic production pro-
of magnetic operators generally is limited to valves 2 in. grammers are scheduling devices that control the par-
and smaller in size and of relatively low working ticular times and lengths of time that operating functions
pressures. Electric-motor operators can be used with any are performed. The simplest form of automatic produc-
type of valve but in all cases must include accessories tion programmer is a time-cycle controller. A time-cycle
that provide a torque-limiting means and a limit switch to controller basically consists of a clock with a timing
prevent damaging the motor when either extreme valve wheel or wheels, containing a number of programming
position is reached. On valves requiring longitudinal mo- points at regular intervals around its circumference. The
tion to seat the inner valve electric-motor, operators also clock may be electrically driven, gas driven, or
must include a gear rack and pinion to convert the mechanically driven by a spring. It may have a l-, 2-, 4-,
motor’s rotary motion to longitudinal displacement. 6-, 8-, 12-, or 24-hour rotation period, the rotation
Because of the relative expense of electric-motor period being the time required for the timing wheel(s) to
16-4 PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

make one complete revolution. Programming is ac- equipment nearly always is made to be “fail safe”-i.e.,
complished by positioning the contacts on the timing upon loss of power from the controlling energy medium,
wheel(s) such that the rotation of the wheel(s) generates the controls return to the position that will result in the
the proper control signal to open or close valves con- safest condition. Some automation controls, however,
trolled by the time-cycle controller at the proper times. primarily perform safety functions rather than normal
As commonly applied, a time-cycle controller in con- operational functions. These include high- /low-pressure
junction with a diaphragm control valve compose a safety shut-in valves, excess-flow valves, pressure and
“stopcock controller” and/or an “intermitter con- temperature switches, and pump-off controls.
troller.” The primary difference in a stopcock controller
and an intermitter controller is in the application. A stop- Safety Shut-In Valves
cock controller generally is installed in a well’s flowline High- /low-pressure safety shut-in valves and excess-
at the Christmas tree. It controls the times that the well is flow valves are both fluid-controlled valves of the type
opened for production, normally for short intervals that is actuated by line fluid. This valve type was
several times a day. An ‘ ‘intermitter controller” is in- discussed briefly in the section on automatic control
stalled in high-pressure-gas supply line at the wellhead valves. The use of an excess-flow valve or low-pressure
of a well being gas lifted intermittently. It controls the control with a safety shut-in valve primarily safeguards
times that gas is admitted to the well to actuate the gas- against a flowline break and the resultant loss of oil and
lift valves and lift the fluid to the surface. A time-cycle surface property damage. High-pressure control with a
controller in conjunction with any type of automatic con- safety shut-in valve guards against pressures in excess of
trol valve may be used to produce a naturally flowing the allowable limit building up in the flowline. Either of
well where it is desired to produce the well less than 24 these two kinds of valves normally would be installed at
hours per day and/or 7 days a week. the wellhead.
A time-cycle or percentage-time controller plus a
motor starter basically compose an automatic production Pressure Switches
programmer for an electrically driven rod-pumping unit. Another means of protecting against excessive flowline
The rod-pumping unit controls also generally contain pressures and/or flowline breaks is the use of a pressure
several safety devices: undervoltage relay, which drops switch and an automatic control valve. Pressure switches
out on power failure, overload relays to prevent burning are available that produce either an electric or pneumatic
up the motor, lightning arrester, circuit-breaking signal, as required, to actuate the automatic control
devices, etc. valve. On rod-pumped wells, the control signal from the
The electronic (solid state) timer frequently is used in pressure switch also must shut down the pumping
new installations that require timer functions. unit-i.e., turn off the switch on an electric motor or
Mechanical and electro-mechanical timers will continue ground the magneto on an internal-combustion engine.
to be used in many existing installations. On rod-pumped wells that have no tendency to “head”
Any time that these automatic production- or flow when the pumping unit is shut down, the
programming devices are actuated electrically, the con- automatic control valve may be omitted.
trol point for individual wells may be centralized at the A “pressure switch” in the sense it is used here con-
well manifolds, a central point on the lease, or even a sists primarily of a pressure-sensing element, limit
point remote from the field. The time-cycle controllers, pressure contact(s), and an electrical, mechanical, or
automatic control valves, motor starters, etc. still may pneumatic means to transmit the control signal to the ob-
remain located at the wellheads while control is exer- ject(s) controlled by the pressure switch. The pressure-
cised remotely. This is not true for similar devices that sensing element is commonly a bourdon tube, though
are actuated pneumatically unless the pilot gas for these some requirements could necessitate the use of a
devices is controlled electrically. Too much dampening helical-, spiral-, diaphragm-, piston-, or bellows-type
and distortion occurs in pneumatic control signals for ef- pressure-sensing element. In electrical control systems,
fective control when transmitted distances of more than the displacement of the pressure-sensing element is made
about 150 ft. to “make” or “break” an electrical switch, normally a
mercury or microswitch, when the line pressure reaches
Other Programmers the preset pressure limit(s). In pneumatic control
The programmers discussed previously have been used systems, reaching the preset pressure limit(s) may ac-
in oil and gas production facilities for many years. Cur- tuate a pneumatic transmitter, relay, or slide valve.
rently, the more complex sequential control will be
electronic- and combined electronic/pneumatic-based in Liquid-Level Controls
many applications. This trend is expected to increase as Another automatic safety-control device, which also fre-
general-purpose programmable controllers, developed quently performs an operational-control function, is a
initially in the plant applications, find more use in oil and liquid-level controller. These devices commonly are
gas production. The functions of the programmable con- used to control liquid levels in separators, heater-
troller and the remote terminal unit (RTU) may well be treaters, storage tanks, surge tanks, accumulator vessels,
combined into a more capable unit for oil and gas pro- metering vessels, etc. They may be used (1) to control
duction monitoring and control applications. high liquid levels to prevent running over a vessel, (2) to
control low liquid levels to maintain pump submergence,
Production Safety Controls (3) to control intermediate operational levels to open and
In some respects, virtually all automatic control equip- close dump valves, to start and stop pumps, etc., or (4)
ment is also safety-control equipment: automatic control to maintain the interface of two liquids at a given level.
AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-5

There arc many types of liquid level controls. Some of Liquid Measurement
the more common types of level control devices used in There are three types of quantitative (volume) devices
production equipment are float operated, pressure commonly used for automatic liquid measurement on the
operated, ground-level tank gauges, electric and/or elec- lease: positive-volume meters, positive-displacement
tronic, sonic, and vibration. A float-operated level meters, and inferential meters. Positive-volume meters
switch generally consists of a spherical or cylindrical are essentially extensions of tank measurement with
float attached to one end of a mechanical lever with automatic “filling” and “running” functions. Positive-
either an electrical switch or a pneumatic relay on the displacement meters “trap” a fixed volume of liquid
other end. The switch or relay is located in a separate within moving elements of the meter. Inferential meters
portion of the device housing and is isolated from the measure liquid by detecting some property of the movin
float area with a pressure seal. The float is displaced by stream that is a basis for determining volume indirectly. Q
the rise and/or fall of the liquid level being controlled
and the motion is transmitted through the pressure seal to
activate the switch/relay. A pressure level control switch Positive-Volume Meters. Positive-volume meters
may control liquid level on the basis of either differential operate on a “fill” and “dump” cycle rather than being
or static pressure. The differential type devices common- a continuous operation. This type meter is essentially the
ly are used as a form of “pilot operated” dump valves on automatic gauging of a tank by using level controls to
pressure vessels. The static pressure devices frequently move a fixed volume through the tank on each complete
are used for well shut-down service and level control in cycle. The volume that is “dumped” or measured is
tankS. related to the displacement volume in the meter between
Ground level tank gauges consist of tape, tape drum, the high “fill” point and the low “dump” point in the
and a tank gauge float that are linked to cause the tape to meter. Various types of level controls are used to control
be spooled on and off the tape drum as the liquid level the fluid levels in the meter. Each complete “fill” and
rises and falls within the tank. By extending the tape “dump” cycle is registered on a counter as a basis for
drum shaft and using appropriate cams, gears, etc., elec- total volume determination. Since the positive-volume
trical or pneumatic control systems may be activated to meter is cyclic with a separate “fill” and “dump”
control liquid levels in the tank. One type of sonic level period, allowance for handling produced volumes while
control consists of a sound transmitter and receiver that the meter is in the “dump” cycle must be made. Con-
are suitably arranged for separation by the liquid being tinuous operation is possible by having a pair of meters
controlled. The transmitter and receiver are driven with that are sequenced to have alternating cycles. This essen-
an electronic circuit that can measure the intensity of the tially requires duplication of facilities and some in-
sound reaching the receiver. The change in the received creased complexity in the controls. A more common ar-
sound intensity between airigas and the liquid as the rangement is to provide surge volume capacity upstream
separation material can be used to sense and control a of a single meter.
liquid level. Ultrasonic level devices sense the reflection Volume-type dump tanks or meters have been built in
of a sound wave from the gas/liquid interface and use the a variety of shapes and volumes. Capacities per dump
delay time between transmitting and receiving to deter- have ranged from less than V bbl to several hundred bar-
mine distance from sensor to liquid level. rels. The metering chamber may be in a stand-alone
Some liquid level devices induce vibration into a vessel or it may be an integral portion of a vessel such as
detecting element. The degree of vibration dampening a separator or heater treater. The positive-volume meter
caused by the medium surrounding the element can be is not as compatible with qualitative measurement as the
sensed to differentiate between gas and liquid materials. positive-displacement and inferential meters since the
Electric and/or electronic level controls depend on the volume measurement cannot be separated easily into
different electrical properties (capacitance, conductance, smaller increments to drive sampling and other
etc.) of the liquid to be controlled and that of the related qualitative measurement devices.
medium (air, gas, and/or other liquid). An electronic cir-
cuit is used to sense the change in electrical property as Positive-Displacement Meters. A positive-
the liquid level changes and thus controls the level as displacement meter, regardless of specific type, consists
required. of two primary elements: a stationary case and a mobile
Other types of level controls are available for specific element, which acts to isolate within the case fixed
installation needs. Level controllers should be selected to volume of fluid each cycle of operation. The mobile ele-
provide the required function in the least complex and ment may be a rotor with sliding vanes, rotatable vanes,
most reliable form. It is advantageous to select equip- or rotatable buckets. It may be two rotors that mesh
ment that has demonstrated satisfactory application ex- somewhat similarly to two helical or cycloidal gears as
perience within the operating environment that is to be they rotate. The mobile element may be a disk that
controlled. nutates about a camlike follower in three-dimensional
motion or a cylinder that oscillates about a cam follower
Automatic Quantitative Measurement in two-dimensional motion. Or, finally, the mobile ele-
Gross volumes frequently must be adjusted by quan- ment could be a conventional piston such as that found in
titative measurements such as water content, a power pump. Most positive-displacement meters are,
temperature, pressure, and density before net volumes at in fact, closely akin to positive-displacement pumps.
standard conditions can be determined. Several of these Positive-displacement meters rapidly became the stan-
quantitative pammeters are necessary for automation of dard for ACT use. The positive-displacement meter pro-
lease operations. vided a less costly and less complex facility than the
16-6 PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

positive-volume meter. In addition, the positive- testing generated a need for gas measurement over a
displacement meter provides a means to drive samplers wide flow range with direct readout capability. The
and/or net oil computers with signals on a small incre- “rotary” positive-displacement gas meter is similar to
ment of volume that is more compatible with automatic the liquid “lobed-impeller” or gear-type meter. The
qualitative measurement requirements. rotary gas meter has the capability to measure gas ac-
Care must be exercised in the installation design for a curately over a range of about 15 to 1 compared with
positive-displacement meter. All free gas must be about 4 to 1 for an orifice meter with a fixed orifice plate
removed upstream to avoid spinning the meter, which size. The rotary meter can be equipped with mechanical
would cause erroneous readings and, possibly, damage compensation on indicated volume for static pressure
to the meter. For greatest accuracy, a constant flow rate and flowing temperature corrections. The rotary meter
should be maintained through the meter and at a rate at needs to be protected from over-range and liquid ac-
least 15% or greater of the rated capacity of the meter. cumulation within the measuring elements. These meters
Standards for calibration frequency, methods, etc., are are usually applied to low-pressure gas measurement
set forth in API Std. 1101. ’ service.

Inferential Meters. The turbine meter and the orifice Gas-Flow Computers
meter are commonly used inferential meters for liquid Gas-flow computers were developed to use existing
measurement. These meters indirectly determine volume orifice-meter runs and to provide a direct readout of gas
by sensing some property of the moving stream that can volume that was compatible with SCADA. These
be related to volume. For example, the rotation of the devices use static and differential pressure electrical
turbine blades in the turbine meter and the differential transducers on a standard orifice meter as a basis for gas
pressure developed across the orifice plate in an orifice measurement. The computer integrates the signals from
meter can be used as basis of volume determination. the transducers and combines with fixed data on meter
Turbine meters became important in volume measure- run size, plate size, etc. to develop a gas volume. The
ment when electronics were accepted as an element of a volume readout will be in the form of a switch closure
measuring device. The rotation of the turbine blades can that will register on an internal counter and provide input
be sensed electronically without need for any mechanical to electronic counter in an RTU.
connection to the turbine rotor. This provides a simple Some gas-flow computers can accept a temperature
arrangement that is inherently reliable and particularly transducer input to measure temperature of flowing gas
suitable for high-pressure service. Thus, turbine meters stream for improved accuracy of volume measurement.
initially were applied to measure injection water Computers also may have capability to use two differen-
volumes. However, high-viscosity fluids drastically tial pressure transducers (e.g., 0 to 20 and 0 to 200 in.)
reduce the range of turbine meters. and to select input from the unit providing most accurate
Turbine meters are being used for well testing and wet- instantaneous reading for integration. Early gas-flow
oil lease production measurements when combined with computers were analog devices. Many current designs
net-oil computers. These meters tend to be more tolerant are digital units based on a microcomputer. The flow
of short over-range periods and sandy fluid than are computer integration function also is being done by the
positive volume meters. Turbine meters also arc being microcomputer-based RTU. All designs have integration
used for ACT, particularly for high-volume and/or high- accuracy compatible with the basic measurement
pressure service. capability of the orifice meter,
Orifice meters are used more commonly for gas
measurement but they have some applications in liquid Gas Turbine Meters
measurement. Compressible liquids that require pressure
Gas turbine meters also are used to obtain direct readout
correction for volume determination frequently are
on gas volume measurement that is compatible with
measured with orifice meters.
SCADA. Turbine meters can measure gas volumes ac-
Gas Measurement curately over a range of about 20 to 1 at medium
pressures. Rangeability tends to increase with increasing
The primary device for lease gas volume measurement
has been and continues to be the orifice meter, which in- static pressure. These meters are usually somewhat less
itially measured gas volume by using a mercury subject to over-range damage than the positive-
manometer before development of the bellows-type chart displacement meter if over-range period is of short dura-
tion. Meter proving and checking may require installa-
recorder. Orifice meters have these advantages: (1) no
tion of prover loop for a master meter. Gas turbine
moving parts in the gas stream, (2) the ability to handle
meters can be equipped with temperature and static
wide range of flow rates (long term) by means of plate
size changes, (3) reliable and nonexternal powered pressure volume compensation capability. Many gas (or
recorder, and (4) a reliable sensor (bellows). The chart liquid) turbine meters are destroyed when they are over-
recorder is not compatible with automatic data acquisi- ranged while pressuring up the system.
tion; other types of gas measurement devices are used
with SCADA. These gas measurement devices include Vortex Meter
positive-displacement meters, gas-flow computers, tur- Vortex meters have a “bluff body” that spans the flow
bine meters, and vortex meters. ’ area through the meter and causes vortices to form in the
flowing medium. There vortices are shed off the bluff
Positive-Displacement Meters body at a frequency that is proportional to the volumetric
The installation of SCADA systems with automatic well flow rate through the meter. The vortices can be
AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-7

“counted” with suitable pressure or other flow pattern line of sample probe; and (5) samples should be col
sensors, which are connected to an electronic component lected and stored at pressures exceeding the vapor
for flow accumulation. Vortex meters have rangeability pressure of the sample liquid to prevent evaporation and
characteristics similar to positive displacement and tur- deterioration during storage.
bine meters without the moving parts of these devices. Samplers also are used with positive-volume and
positive-displacement meters in well testing and wet-oil
Temperature Measurement (not pipeline quality) lease volume measurements.
Types of temperature-sensing devices commonly used in Representative sampling becomes more difficult with in-
oil and gas production include filled-thermal, resistance creasing water content in the oil stream. For improved
thermal detection, thermocouple, thermister, and solid- accuracy, fluid mixtures that may have both free water
state. The filled-thermal device operates on the basis of and oil emulsion (oil-external phase) components should
the principle that a fluid expands or contracts with be processed through a three-phase separator before the
changes in temperature. The device consists of a remaining oil emulsion stream is sampled.
temperature-sensitive bulb connected by capillary tubing The capacitance probe and net-oil computer have not
to an expansible element that is sensitive to pressure replaced the automatic sampler on most LACT installa-
change. The bulb may be filled with a liquid, a liquid tions because (1) crude oil value frequently is based on
and its vapors, or a gas. The expansible element may be gravity (determined on sample volume), (2) the gross-oil
a diaphragm, a bellows, or a bourdon tube. volume available directly from LACT counters is
The$lled-thermal device has sufficient output force to satisfactory for daily operating needs, and (3) the poten-
be used directly for temperature compensation on tial operating cost reduction by eliminating sampler use
positive-displacement meters used for LACT. The is not significant. Most major purchasers will have a
bellows assembly is connected to an infinitely variable recommended (or required) design for automatic sampler
transmission, which corrects the meter’s volume output installation.
to a base temperature of 60°F.
A resistance thermal detector (RTD) works on the BS&W Monitor
principle that a change in resistance of a wine is related Pipelines specify the maximum BS&W content that a
directly to a change in temperature of the wire. The crude oil may contain to be acceptable for transfer. The
device consists of a resistance element (sensing element) development of LACT equipment required a means to
and a related electrical circuit, which uses the changing monitor the quality of crude oil as it was being measured
resistance of the element to control an output signal. The and transferred automatically to a pipeline. The com-
output signal can drive recorders and controllers. monly accepted device for this function is a capacitance
A thermocouple works on the principle that heat ap- probe BS&W monitor. The dielectric constants of crude
plied to one end of two strips of metal of different com- oil and water are about 2 and 80, respectively. The
position, which are bonded at either end, develops an BS&W monitor uses a concentric probe, which senses
electromotive force (EMF) that is proportional to the the apparent dielectric constant of a fluid stream by
temperature. Thermocouples may be of the wire type, in measuring its capacitance between the probe electrodes.
which both elements are in wire form, or of the Pyod The capacitance probe generally is installed in a ver-
type, in which one element is a closed tube and the other tical riser on the premise that a more uniform mixing of
a wire welded to the inside bottom of the tube. The ther- stream components will result and thus, that a more ac-
mocouple is connected to an electrical circuit, which curate sensing of water content is ensured. Temperature
senses the generated EMF and develops an output signal compensation is required since dielectric constants of oil
that can drive recorders and controllers. Thermocouple and water vary with temperature. The BS&W monitors
devices are used in applications where temperatures may used with LACT generally have a 0 to 3 % BS&W range.
exceed 1,OflO”F. The monitors have a variable set-point that is used to
nermister and solid-state devices exhibit a resistance divert the oil stream back through the treating facilities
change with temperature change. Both these devices re- when the selected BS&W content is reached and/or ex-
spond rapidly to a temperature change because of the ceeded. In this application, a BS&W monitor controls
small mass of the sensing element. Electrical circuits are the crude oil stream being transferred to the pipeline, but
required to convert the “sensed” resistance change into it does not determine the BS&W content as basis for
an output signal that is proportional to temperature. gross volume adjustment.

Automatic Sampler Net-Oil Computer


An automatic sampler is a device that removes a The application of SCADA systems to production opera-
representative volume of fluid from a moving stream and tions increased the need to read directly the net-oil con-
retains it in a container for later processing and analysis. tent of an emulsion stream for well testing and lease oil
Factors that improve probability of obtaining a represen- production measurements. The basic principle of the
tative sample include the following: (1) sampling probe capacitance probe used in BS&W monitors was extended
should be located in a vertical downrun of pipe at the to oil emulsions of higher water content by probe
center of the pipe and with probe opening facing redesign.
upstream; (2) the total flowstream should be in turbulent The capacitance probe, with modification to give a
flow; (3) sample size and sampling interval should be linear output, provides a technique to obtain instan-
such that the sample is proportional to the total stream taneous value of water content in an oil emulsion stream.
flow; (4) sample metering chamber should be closely By combining the probe output with volume output from
coupled to sampler probe and located below the center a positive-displacement or turbine meter, the net-oil and
16-8 PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

water volumes in an emulsion stream can be determined. quently can handle multimessage protocols to allow
The device that combines the capacitance probe and mote flexibility in attached devices.
meter volume information to obtain net-oil and water RTU’s are electronic devices that connect the SCADA
volumes is designated as a net-oil computer. system directly to the oil and gas production facilities
The net-oil computer can determine the oil/water con- that are being automated. An RTU has the capability to
tent of an emulsion stream with reasonable accuracy (I store information from several input points and to
to 2% in oil measurement to about 35% water). The transmit this information in a serial mode over a single
capacitance probe will continue to indicate water content communication circuit to a digital computer on demand.
above this value (if in an emulsion form), but the The RTU also may receive control information from the
decreasing oil percentage of the total stream causes in- computer that it routes to a selected control point. The
creased error in the measured oil fraction. A limitation of RTU generally is located within a few thousand feet of
the capacitance probe is that any “free” water moving its connected instrumentation and control equipment but
across a probe with oil emulsion will distort the indicated may be up to several hundred miles from the computer
water content and cause substantial errors. Applications location.
with water cuts above 35% can be measured by using RTU’s commonly sense input information related to
three-phase separators (for well testing and/or lease oil status/alarm (on-off, etc.), volume accumulation (oil and
production). Treating chemicals can be used with three- gas meter counts), and instantaneous analog values
phase separators, if necessary, to keep water content in (temperature, pressure, flow rate, etc.). The RTU can
the emulsion to 35% or less. With these procedures, well provide control output in the form of relay activate (on-
testing and lease oil production can be processed with off, start-stop) and a set-point value. The set-point is
total water production of more than 99 % commonly a 4 to 20 mA or 10 to 50 mA signal that is
compatible with control devices. Although these basic
Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition RTU capabilities may appear limited, most data input
(SCADA) Systems and control output functions related to oil and gas pro-
SCADA systems applied to oil and gas producing opera- duction can be implemented directly. Some specific
tions vary in function and overall capability. Some functions may require supplemental logic in local control
systems am oriented primarily to local operating person- panels for implementation.
nel needs and may only monitor/control a few wells in a The basic RTU functions described previously are
single field. Other systems are applied to multiple fields common to units designed with “hard-wired” logic.
that have several thousand total wells. Even with the Many of the current and most future RTU designs will be
wide variations, SCADA systems consist of the follow- microcomputer-based. The microcomputer allows
ing basic elements: (1) supervisory control/data acquisi- substantial increases in RTU functions with relatively
tion equipment, (2) field instrumentation and cabling small incremental hardware expansion and cost. For ex-
systems, (3) communication facilities, and (4) digital ample, RTU’s are being used to replace stand-alone gas-
computer systems. flow computers simply by adding to the microcomputer
program logic that integrates static pressure, differential
SCADA Equipment pressure, and temperature transducer data from an orifice
This equipment functions to interconnect digital com- meter. The microcomputer in the RTU can handle all
puter systems and instrumentation and control devices basic RTU functions and process gas-volume accumula-
that are related to the oil and gas producing process. The tion for 30 to 50 m runs without timing constraints. With
equipment consists of a communication adapter and continuing developments in electronic technology and
RTU’s. A communication adapter is attached directly to improving program support, the outlook is for significant
the digital computer by a high-speed data link and at- expansion in RTU Capability.
tached indirectly to RTU’s by communication circuits. Initial RTU designs that incorporated microcomputers
The communication adapter serves as a data concentrator tended simply to implement “hard-wired” logic in the
for the digital computer, which can drive several com- microcomputer. In addition, microcomputers used with
munication circuits simultaneously. A number of RTU’s RTU’s generally did not have any internal error checking
generally share a common communication circuit. such as parity on memory, data bus, and address bus
The communication adapter and the RTU’s are de- transfers. These conditions resulted in microcomputer-
signed to use a specific message protocol or structure for based RTU’s that were difficult to trouble-shoot when
the transmission of information. This message structure malfunctions were experienced. Self-diagnostic
generally will contain the RTU address, function being capabilities should be the first functional extension of
requested, function modifiers, and supplemental infor- microcomputer-based RTU’s. Good diagnostic features
mation used for checking validity of message transfer. A usually will require a combination of extended hardware
primary feature shared by the communication adapter and software. Diagnostic checks should be run at startup
and the RTU’s is the checking for valid message and at frequent intervals during the regular operation of
transmission between the devices. Manufacturers use the RTU. RTU’s should have a “watch-dog” timer that
different techniques to ensure receipt of valid messages will attempt to restart the microcomputer if it stalls as a
and most of these have a high probability of detecting in- result of hardware and/or software malfunction. The
valid transmissions. Earlier communication adapters restart feature also should provide a means to document
were designed with “hard-wire” logic and were separate its use.
devices. Many of the current designs are microcomputer- The RTU as an electronic device has two primary en-
based units that may be an integral part of the digital vironmental factors that adversely affect operational
computer rather than a separate unit. These units fre- reliability. These factors are heat and electrical tran-
AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-9

sients. All solid-state electronic components suffer operational parameters are sensed by the RTU as an
decreased life with increasing operating temperatures. analog input value from electrical transducers. Nominal
Many users of RTU’s routinely have placed these units electrical transducer output ranges of 1 to 5,4 to 20, and
in air-conditioned buildings to decrease the mean time 10 to 50 mA usually can be processed by the RTU. A
between failures. More recent introduction of low-power current output transducer is preferred since the signal is
electronic components such as complementary metal- less susceptible to electrical transient distortion than a
oxide silicon (CMOS) may minimize the need to provide voltage output.
cooling below normal ambient temperatures. Multiconductor cables are used to connect the RTU to
Solid-state electronic components are subject to the instrumentation and control devices associated with
damage by extremely short-duration (microseconds) the production process. The signal cables consist of in-
higher voltage electrical transients (e.g., noise, spikes). dividually insulated copper wires genemlly of 19 or 22
These transients may enter an RTU by means of primary gauge that commonly are used for commercial telephone
power or by the many signal loops connecting the RTU service. The cables usually are buried to minimize prob-
to the instruments and control devices associated with ability of mechanical damage and electrical noise intm-
the production process. RTU’s frequently are provided sion. Cables can be damaged when buried and repairs
battery backup power to allow for continued operation should be made immediately to prevent further deteriora-
with primary power outages. Common procedure is to tion. Cable lengths are controlled by cost relationships
operate the RTU continuously on battery power with between installing more RTU’s at separate locations and
primary power driving a battery charger. This arrange- the amount of cable required for interconnection. Most
ment provides relatively good isolation for the RTU cable systems will be limited by economics to a few
from power line transients. thousand feet.
All RTU input/output connections to the field cable Radio communication links between RTU’s and a cen-
system also must be protected from voltage transients. tral location within a field can reduce overall cabling
Status/alarm and accumulator input points frequently use costs substantially. This technique can use a master radio
optical isolation between field cables and internal cir- station in a “polling” mode to communicate with the in-
cuitry. Each field signal loop also should use a gas tube dividual RTU’s. Separate transmit and receive frequen-
(or similar device) to route induced voltage transients to cies enhance the radio communication procedure. In this
earth ground. Lightning can induce sufficient energy to arrangement, the master radio transmits an outbound
literally evaporate protective components in extreme message to all RTU’s and the RTU’s will decode the ad-
cases but many of the otherwise damaging transients can dress portion of the message. The addressed RTU then
be suppressed with proper protection equipment. Elec- will decode the function portion of the message and reply
trical noise also may be caused by inductive devices such to the master radio by bringing up its transmit radio link
as relay and solenoid valve coils. Inductive components for the period required by the return message. The
should have suppression diodes placed across the input master radio is linked to a regular four-wire communica-
terminals to minimize electrical transient generation. tion circuit for communication outside the field area.
The low-energy signals used in the cable system re-
Field Instrumentation and Cabling Systems quire careful connection of wiring to instrumentation.
Field instrumentation and control devices are selected Any damage to wiring insulation or collection of
primarily to meet needs of the oil and gas producing moisture at connection points may result in sufficient
facilities. If these devices are also to interface with the signal leakage to cause invalid sensing of operational in-
RTU of a SCADA system, some additional features may formation. Some installations are made with the signal
be required. RTU status/alarm and accumulator inputs loop power supply “floating” or not connected to earth
require an electrical switch closure to convey informa- ground. Maintenance checks then can be made to deter-
tion to the RTU. For example, a separator high-level mine current leakage to the positive and negative ter-
float control may have a pneumatic switch for control minals of the power supply from earth ground as a
valve activation. An electrical pressure switch may be measure of signal leakage. With selective isolation of the
added to the pneumatic control line to allow the RTU to signal loops, leakage problems usually can be identified.
sense the position of the high-level control. In general, Common practice is to design alarm-signal loops to be in
reliability of interface increases when the primary in- normal condition when the sensing device has a closed
strumentation has a direct electrical connection com- electrical switch. This feature makes the alarm signal
pared to the example that required a pneumatic to elec- more fail-safe in that any failure of the signal path will
trical conversion. cause indication of an alarm condition also. Less critical
Meters for liquid and gas measurement also need to “status” loops frequently are open in the normal state to
have an electrical switch activation to indicate some in- minimize total power needs.
crement of volume accumulation. Liquid meters, for ex-
ample, frequently will have an electrical switch closure Communication Facilities
at nominal 1-bbl volume increments. The switch closure SCADA systems require capable and reliable com-
must be maintained for some minimum time increment munication facilities to connect the communication
(about 50 milliseconds) to ensure that electrical tmn- adapters on the digital computer system with the RTU’s
sients will not cause invalid volume counts. The RTU that are located in fields being automated. Most SCADA
will have a separate signal loop (wire pair) and internal systems use dedicated or nonswitched communication
electronic counter associated with each meter being circuits that have a four-wire configuration. The four-
monitored. wire designation provides two independent communica-
Pressure, temperature, flow rate, position, and similar tion paths that will support simultaneous data transfer in
16-10 PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

devices are located at each link interconnection, the cir-


-I I- cuit can be tested and problems isolated to the responsi-
ble maintenance group.
a EXCESS FLOW
SHUT-IN Digital Computer Systems
CONTROL VALVE SCADA became possible with the development of
process-control-type computer systems in the late
1950’s. The process control computer was a special
c-- I hardware implementation that provided for direct con-
I nection to plant instrumentation and control equipment.
This same hardware also provided a means to intercon-
-1 -c%+ b---f
nect with the communication adapter of a SCADA
b HI-LOW PRESSURE system. The SCADA equipment then allowed the proc-
SHUT-IN ess control computer to be connected indirectly to oil and
CONTROL VALVE gas facility instrumentation at remote locations.
Process control computers had software operating
systems with program execution control that was com-
CHRISTMAS
patible with SCADA needs. The operating systems were
TREE
designed to recover automatically from minor program
malfunctions to minimize computer operator needs in the
-,z,E
continuously operating SCADA applications. Early
c AUTOMATIC CONTROL process control computers had limited memory size that
VALVE WITH tended to require assembler language routines for some
PRESSURE SWITCH functions. Frequently, bulk storage (disk or drum)
devices also were limited in capacity. Most earlier
Fig. 16.1-Automatic wellhead safety controls. SCADA systems were based on a central computer
system concept.
Currently, SCADA systems have extremely capable
computer systems available for system implementation.
two directions (full duplex). Data transmission in
Process-control-type computers are available with few
SCADA generally is operated in one direction at a time
practical limitations on memory size, speed of execu-
(half duplex) with transmit over one path and receive
tion, and random access storage capacity. In addition,
over the other path but at different time periods. Data are
many of the general-purpose-type computers (business
transmitted over the communication circuits with the aid
and scientific applications) now have extensive com-
of modems. Modems are electronic devices that convert
munication capabilities and operating system features
voltage or current level from the communication adapter
that are compatible with most SCADA requirements.
into analog signals that can be transmitted over the com-
Distributed computing, which uses multiple computers
munication circuit. A similar modem at the RTU
at remote sites, became practical in the mid- to late
receives the analog signals and converts them into
1970’s as manufacturers developed capable network
voltage or current levels that are compatible with the
software. The network software provided capability to
electronic circuitry in the RTU. A data transmission
develop application programs at central locations and
from an RTU to the communication adapter operates in
download through communication links into computer
the reverse cycle.
systems at field locations. Increased use of distributed
SCADA can use commercially available voice-grade
computers in SCADA is anticipated.
(telephone) communication circuits. Communication
Basic application software is generally available from
speeds of 1,200 bits/see can be used with long term
manufacturers of the SCADA systems. The rapidly
reliability over these circuits by using conventional
changing technology, however, has made it difficult for
modem equipment. Higher communication rates can be
suppliers to develop general purpose application soft-
obtained by using more complex modems and higher
ware that is transportable to new computer systems.
quality communication circuits if the application being
Most larger SCADA systems have tended to be
monitored requires more critical timing responses. In-
specialized software applications that have continuing
creased communication rates tend to require more
maintenance time or tine tuning of communication program development to meet the changing operational
needs. Application software for both small and large
equipment to achieve a constant reliability of
SCADA systems should have flexibility to allow
performance.
changes/additions to the implemented functions.
SCADA communication circuits may require multiple
ownership and maintenance responsibility links to reach
particular locations. Circuits with divided maintenance Typical Automatic-Control Installations
responsibility tend to have more reliability problems. In
these cases, adequate test facilities at the computer site Automatic Well Control
can aid in defining the particular link causing problems. Automatic Wellhead Controls. Wells may be con-
The four-wire circuit is compatible with testing since it trolled at the wellhead or at the well manifold. Frequent-
can be turned around to receive a transmitted test signal ly, it is necessary or desirable to control them at both
from the computer site. If remotely operated turn-around places. Fig. 16.1 depicts three different types of
AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-11

TUBING PRESSURE GAUGE TIME CYCLE


CASING PRESSURE GAUGE CONTROLLER
i t-GAS METER 7

Fig. 16.2-Automatic controls for rod-pumped wells. Fig. 16.3-Typical automatic control of gas-lift well.

places. Fig. 16.1 depicts three different types of POWER OIL TANK m
automatic control valves that could be installed at the CONTROL
wellhead immediately adjacent to the tubing wing valve. PANEL

Although Fig. 16.1 pictures a naturally flowing well, the


same types of automatic controls would be applicable for
artificially lifted wells of all types, if required. The
OW PRESSURE
excess-flow valve shown in Fig. 16. la generally is used T-DOWN SWITCH
only to protect against flowline breaks when the wells
ate choked and controlled at the well manifold. The
high/low pressure shut-in valve in Fig. 16.lb may be
used whether the well is choked at the wellhead or at the
well manifold. It is protection against both flowline
breaks and chokes cutting out or plugging. The control
valve and separate pressure-sensing element shown in
Fig. 16.1~ perform exactly the same functions as the
high/low pressure shut-in valve. MANIFOLD TO SUMP

Rod-Pumped-Well Control. The typical automatic-


Fig. 16.4-Typical hydraulic-pumping-system control.
control system for a rod-pumped well is shown in Fig.
16.2. The high-low pressure safety shut-in valve is
necessary only when the well has a tendency to flow system. A high/low pressure switch protects the triplex
natumlly when the pumping unit is shut down. The pump and its prime mover against overloading from ab-
excess-flow valve, again, is protection against flow-line normally low suction pressures and/or high discharge
breaks. Some operators use them; others do not. They pressures. In either case, the pressure switch would shut
am not always effective unless line pressures are high down the prime mover. Automatic Control Valve V-l in
enough, and the size of the break large enough, to create the manifold bypass is generally a diaphragm-type
a substantial pressure drop. The pressure switch is the regulator valve which is normally closed. It would open
most common automatic safety control used with rod- at a pressure slightly under the setting of the high/low
pumped wells, particularly where the wells are remotely pressure shutdown switch and divert sufficient power oil
controlled. Regardless of which of these three types of back to the power-oil tank to maintain system pressure at
controls are used, when the control pressure is reached, a safe level. Automatic Control Valves V-2 and V-3 are
that automatic control must furnish a signal to shut down in the power-oil lines to individual wells. They would be
the pumping unit. This is accomplished by grounding the closed automatically in the event the pressure switch shut
magneto of a gas engine or shutting off an electric motor. down the triplex and prime mover. With an appropriate
A pump-off control, if used, would be installed in the programmer, they could also be used to produce in-
flow line immediately adjacent to the pumping tee. dividual wells selectively on an intermittent schedule.

Gas-Lift-Well Control. Fig. 16.3 shows a typical ar- Automatic Well Manifolds. In Figs. 16.5 and 16.6 are
rangement of controls on the gas-supply line to a well shown two typical automatic well manifolds designed for
that is produced by an intermitter-type gas-lift installa- controlling the wells at the well manifold rather than at
tion. The “time-cycle controller” shown on the right is the wellhead. The single-wing well manifold shown in
an automatic production programmer. It automatically Fig. 16.5 has a maximum of flexibility to meet any
opens and closes the diaphragm control valve, to which system of stage separation and/or treating that might
it is connected by instrument lines, according to the arise. It has another advantage in that it could be in-
schedule manually created in the programmer. The stalled initially on new leases as they are developed
“flow-control valve” is a manually actuated valve used without the automatic-control valve and still add the
to control the mte at which gas is admitted to a well. valve later with a minimum of expense. The dual-wing
Automatic-control valves on the flow line, if required, well manifold shown in Fig. 16.6 is limited to situations
would be one of the types shown in Fig. 16.1. where all production in a well manifold is processed
through a single vessel or a common sequence of
Hydraulic-Pumped-Well Control. Fig. 16.4 depicts vessels. Both these manifold designs would require flow
the typical automatic controls for a hydraulic pumping lines capable of withstanding full wellhead pressure and
16-12 PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

PRESSURETE (fti~~~,

F;;;a TESd d i
PRODUCTION’ I’
ONE REQ’D FOR EACH
SEPARATION AND/OR
TREATING VESSEL

Fig. 16.5-Typical single-wing automatic well manifold. Fig. 16.7-Typical automatic well-testing system

3-WAY 3-POSITION The test-gas volume can be determined with a


PRESSURE GAUGE CONTROLVALVE positive-displacement meter, turbine meter, or gas-flow
computer. The three-way control valves should be
equipped with position switches that can be used to con-
firm that only the selected well is in the test vessel. The
test vessel normally will have a high-level float switch
that will automatically divert the on-test well back to
production status when a high liquid level is detected.
The same switch can be used to notify the SCADA
PRODUCTION
system of the test vessel malfunction.
Some operators have extended the use of measurement
equipment, as described for well testing, to total lease
Fig. 16.6-Typical dual-wing automatic well manifold. production. For example, with more logic in the control
panel and manifolding of dump lines from test and pro-
duction vessels, the oil-measurement equipment can be
time-shared to measure both test and production oil
would choke and control the wells at the manifold. All volumes. The control panel determines (one at a time)
manifold designs should provide for monitoring valve which vessel dumps through the oil-measurement equip-
leakage. ment and mutes the volume counts to the related counter.
Some operators prefer to use three-way, two-position Separate gas-measurement facilities are required for test
control valves in the well manifold and to control the and production volume determination.
wells at the wellhead. Automatic-control valves of the The time-sharing concept has been extended further in
types shown in Fig. 16.1 then would be installed at the cettain instances. For example, a number of separate
wellhead in addition to the control valves in the well leases, each having only a few wells, were arranged to
manifold. Other operators would prefer to use a two-way have all production separators located at a common site.
control valve in each riser to each pressure vessel served The oil production from each separate lease production
by the well manifold. separator was determined by time-sharing a single oil-
measurement facility. In addition, a single test separator
Automatic Well Testing was used to test all wells at the site. The site control
A typical automatic well-testing system is illustrated in panel muted test volume counts to the test counters and
Fig. 16.7. The sequence control logic for conducting the to the appropriate lease counters related to the well on
test and for calculating test results may be self-contained test.
in the control panel or it may originate in a SCADA
system that is remote fmm the site. In either case, a LACT
three-way control valve in the test/production manifold The first efforts to design an acceptable LACT installa-
is activated to divert the selected well to the test vessel tion tried to incorporate the existing equipment on the
when the related signals are received from the control lease and familiar operating principles insofar as possi-
panel. The test vessel may be either a separator or a ble. Thus, understandably, the first officially accepted
heater treater. The liquid-metering elements commonly LACT system was a weir-tank system installed by Gulf
will be either positive-displacement or turbine meters. Oil Corp. on its Ames Lease in the Bloomer field, KS, in
The oil meter will be combined with a capacitance probe 1955. Shell Oil Co. also pioneered in the development of
and net-oil computer to provide measurement of net-oil the weir-tank-type LACT system on its leases in the
and emulsion-water volumes. The free water volume Antelope and Wasson fields in Texas, beginning unof-
will be measured by a separate water meter. Well-test ficial experiments as early as 1948. The next significant
control logic will combine the emulsion-water and free development in LACT system design was the meter-
water measurements to obtain total test water volume. tank-type system.
AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-13

Fig. l&8-Typical weir-tank-type automatic-custody-transfer Fig. 16.9-Typical automatic-custody-transfer system using


system. metering dump tanks.

The meter-tank-type system is closely akin t6 the weir- Positive-Displacement-Meter LACT System. Fig.
tank system in many respects, but perhaps it deserves 16.10 shows a positive-displacement-meter LACT in-
consideration as a separate category because these stallation. Option B indicates a two-meter arrangement
vessels were designed solely as measuring vessels. The that was recommended strongly in earlier installations
great similarity between measurement with the larger- for improved measurement reliability. Operational ex-
sized positive-volume dump meters and conventional perience found the single meter arrangement (Option A)
lease tanks assured their early acceptance. Officially ac- to have satisfactory reliability and most LACT’s were in-
cepted LACT installations of this type of the Phillips stalled with the single meter. Some LACT’s have two
Petroleum Co. and Amoco in Oklahoma and Texas meters but most of these operate the second meter in a
followed closely on the heels of the Gulf weir-tank-type stand-by mode rather than simultaneous measurement
system in Kansas. The third type of LACT design which through both meters. Most major purchasers have
has gained wide acceptance to date is the positive- recommended (or required) certain designs for LACT
displacement-meter-type system. Exxon Co. U.S.A. installations.
was perhaps the strongest early proponent of this type of The routine operation of crude-oil transfer is con-
system, and they performed much development work on trolled by the normal operating high-level float switch
their leases in south Texas. with an override to shut down on emergency with the
The positive-displacement-meter-type equipment low-level float switch. The BS&W monitor will divert
rapidly became the LACT standard primarily because of fluid stream to the treating facility on detection of high
substantial cost and operating reliability advantages over BS&W content. The strainer is used to protect the meter
the other two units. The positive-displacement-meter from particles that could damage the meter. The meter is
LACT assembly was skid-mounted for relatively simple temperature-compensated to indicate oil volume at 60°F
installation within existing production facilities. Figs. standard condition. Daily and monthly volume limit
16.8 and 16.9 are included for reference to the historical switches prevent overrun of lease on either daily or
development of LACT as an important element of lease monthly allowable volumes. A calibration loop is
automation. located downstream of the meters to allow convenient

EMERGENCY
HIGH LEVEL
FLOAT SW ITCH
OPTION “A’
SINGLE PD METER SYSTEM

CALIBRATION
SAMPLER

,TICKET PRINTER 8 COUNTER


MlLY VOLUME LIMIT SWITCH
MONTHLY VOLUME LIMIT SWITCH

t TRANSFER PUMP&-
L-^. r-

GAS ELIMINAT”R”’

RETURN
LINE
DIVERTING VALVE’

OPTION ‘8”
TWO P 0 METERS IN SERIES

Fig. l&10-Typical automatic-custody-transfer systems using positive-displacement meters.


PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

Fig. l&13-Automatic control of water-supply wells.

P-3, F-l, F-3, F-4, and A-l are closed; Valve A-2 is
opened; and the backwash pump is started. After a slight
delay, Valves F-l and B-l are opened and Filter 1 is
backwashed into the backwash-settling tank for a
Fig. 16.11-Automatic backwash of rapid sand nlters in water- predetermined, but adjustable, time. At the end of this
treatment plant. time, Valves B-l and A-2 are closed and Valves P-3 and
F-5 arc opened. Normal flow is permitted through Filter
1 into the backwash-settling tank for a short interval to
settle the filter bed. At the end of this interval, Valves
P-3 and F-5 are closed, Valves A-2 and F-4 are opened,
and the backwash pump is started. After a slight delay,
Valve F-3 opens and the same cycle is completed for
Filter 2.
Four float switches are required in the accumulator.
Float Switch FS-1 is an emergency low-level float
switch, which maintains a flooded pump suction and
prevents gas from locking the pump since the ac-
cumulator normally will be gas-blanketed. The volume
between Float Switches FS-1 and FS-2 is large enough to
backwash the filters. Normally the fluid level is not per-
mitted to fall below FS-2. If it should, the injection
pump is shut down if it has an electric prime mover, or
Valve A-6 is opened and the injection-pump output is
Fig. 16.12-Typical method of controlling injection-pumping
rate. bypassed back into the accumulator if the injection pump
has a gas-engine prime mover. When the fluid level
reaches Float Switch FS-3, the normal injection process
is resumed. Float Switch FS-4 is an emergency high-
meter-proving or calibration with a master meter. A level control that would cause Valve S-l to close to pre-
sampler is used to collect sample volumes for basis of vent running over the accumulator.
BS&W correction and oil gravity determination. The Valve A-3 is shown as a backpressure valve that is in-
back-pressure valve is used to minimize gas break-out or tended to keep a constant head on the backwash pump.
“flashing” in the crude stream prior to being metered. A The backwash pump probably will be a centrifugal pump
check valve (not shown) should be located downstream because of the high rate normally recommended for
from the back-pressure valve (or combined with it). API proper backwashing. If the injection process ceases for
Standards 1101, 2502,253 1,2542,2544, and 2546, and the backwash cycle, then gas pressure applied to the top
supplements thereto provide recognized industry codes of the accumulator can be used in place of the backwash
for liquid petroleum measurement. 2 pump.
After all the filters have been backwashed and settled
Automatic Lease Process Control into the backwash-settling tank, the solids in the water
There are many normal lease-operating processes that are permitted to settle out in the bottom of the tank. Then
may be automated or that already are automated com- Valve B-2 is opened automatically to permit the solids to
pletely and not recognized as such by the average in- be washed out to the pit. Then Valve B-2 closes, Valve
dividual. Space limitations will permit only a brief look B-3 opens, and the transfer pump returns the clear water
at a few of these control systems to show what can be back through the system. Float switch FS-5 is for the
and is being done. purpose of maintaining a flooded suction on the transfer
pump, and Float Switch FS-6 is to prevent running over
Automatic Water-Treating Plant. Fig. 16.11 depicts a the vessel.
rather elaborate automatic backwash system for rapid The system just described represents a composite
sand filters in water-treating plants. Normal flow is from situation. All automatic water-treating plants would not
the precipitator and oil remover through the sand filters have to be this elaborate. For example, a backwash-
into the accumulator. When the differential pressure settling tank would be desirable only where it was
across the bank of filters reaches a predetermined value, necessary to keep the water going into the pit at a
the backwash cycle is initiated automatically. Valves minimum. On the other hand, by a few small changes,
AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-15

D/P CELL B
- REGENERATION FLOW

Fig. 16.14-Automatic cycling of desiccant beds in dry-desiccant-type gas dehydrators

the systems shown in Fig. 16.11 could also be altered to process that has been fully automatic since its inception,
provide for continuous through-put and injection while but one which is rarely thought of in terms of automa-
one of the filters was being backwashed. tion: the automatic cycling of desiccant beds in dry-
desiccant-type gas dehydrators. Fig. 16.14 is a
Automatic Control of Injection-Pumping Rate. Fig. schematic of a typical dry-desiccant-type dehydrator.
16.12 shows a typical method of controlling the The wet gas stream enters the horizontal separator and is
injection-pumping rate of a gas-engine-driven injection divided, with a part of the gas going to the regeneration
pump. A float switch and pilot valve, acting through a stream and the remainder continuing in the main gas
snap-active pneumatic relay, controls the position of (1) stream through the dehydrating tower. The proportioning
a low-level bypass regulator, and (2) a bellows-operated of the flow between the two streams is controlled by the
pneumatic motor that adjusts the engine throttle linkage regeneration-rate controller. The rate of flow in the
relative to the position of the float switch in the clean- regeneration gas line is measured by a differential-
water tank. In the event the fluid level drops too low in pressure cell and transmitted to the regeneration-rate
the clean-water tank, the pilot valve sends a signal to a controller. The regeneration-rate controller, in turn, acts
low-level shutdown switch, which grounds the magneto to position Automatic-Control Valve V-10 to maintain
on the engine and shuts it down. the predetermined rate of flow of gas through the
Automatic Control of Water-Supply Wells. Fig. regeneration system.
Automatic-Control Valve V-l 1 in the regeneration gas
16.13 shows a method of using float switches to control
line is controlled by Controller B. Each time the con-
the operation of several water-supply wells to maintain
troller rotates until the pin on the next trip clamp unlatch-
an adequate supply of water in the raw-water tank. As
es the pilot arm, Valve V-l 1 reverses its position. In the
always, high- and low-level emergency float switches
one position, it diverts gas through the heater to provide
are provided. Additional float switches are included to
hot gas for expelling moisture from the desiccant bed of
program the addition and subtraction of supply wells
the tower being regenerated. In the other position, it
feeding the system to assure an adequate volume of
bypasses the heater and provides unheated gas to cool the
water is always in the raw-water tank. The well-on float
desiccant bed in the same tower before placing it back in-
switches would be actuated by a dropping fluid level,
to service. By the time the controller rotates one more
and the well-off float switches by a rising fluid level.
position, the regeneration valves on the towers will have
At the water-supply wells, there are several ways to
switched so that the hot gas goes to the other tower.
control the pumping equipment. If the pump is driven
Automatic-Control Valves V-l, V-2, V-3, and V-4
electrically, it might be necessary to start up and shut
control the flow of regeneration gas to dehydrating
down the pump motor only as called for. If the water-
towers, and Valves V-5, V-6, V-7, and V-g control the
supply well were artesian or had a tendency to flow
flow of the main gas stream. Valves V-l, V-3, V-6 and
naturally, it would be necessary, of course, to furnish a
V-S are always in the opposite position from Valves V-2,
shut-in valve. If the pump is driven by a gas engine, it
V-4, V-5, and V-7. The main-stream valves and the
would be necessary either to provide the engine with an
regeneration-stream valves are manifolded in such a
electric ignition system (battery or electric motor) and a
manner that only one tower at a time receives the main-
startup sequence programmer or to install a diverting
stream gas and that tower is blocked off from the
valve and leave the engine running while diverting pro-
regeneration gas. The other tower receives the regenera-
duction back into a casing annulus.
tion gas and is blocked off fmm the main-stream gas.
Automatic Control of Dry-Desiccant-Type Gas The position of all these valves is controlled by Con-
Dehydrators. As a final example, let us consider a lease troller A acting through relay Valve V-9 and the pilot-
16-16 PETROLEUM ENGINEERING HANDBOOK

gas-control manifolds. Each time the controller rotates Hebard, G.G.: “Automatic Lease Custody Transfer,” Oil and Gas J.
until the pin on the next trip clamp unlatches the pilot (Nov. 5, 1956) 86.
arm, instrument gas will flow through the bleed orifice
Hill, R.W.: “Factory-built LACT Unit Is Gas Operated,” Oiland Gas
instead of flowing to the Relay Valve V-9. Relay Valve J. (May 6, 1957) 98.
V-9 then will reposition itself and allow instrument gas
to flow to the other pilot-gas-control manifold and vent Hubby, L.M.: “Automatic Production Controls,” Paper API 926-l-C
the gas from the pilot-gas-control manifold supplied in presented at the 1956 Southern District Spring Meeting, Division of
Production, San Antonio, Mar. 9.
its original position. This, in turn, will cause each of
these control valves to reverse their positions, and thus “LACT: A Youngster Now, Soon a Giant,” Oil nnd Gas J. (Sept. 22,
the flows of main and regeneration gas streams will also 1958) 74.
reverse. The length of each cycle is controlled by the
spacing of the trip clamps on the controller. “LACT Is for Stripper Leases, Too,” Oil and Gas J. (Dec. 15, 1958)
70.

“Lease Automatic Custody Transfer,” Bull. 2509A, API, Dallas


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AUTOMATION OF LEASE EQUIPMENT 16-17

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