Control rooms have long been mission-critical environments, especially within the oil and gas industries. These systems play an essential role in maximizing operational efficiency, reducing risk, minimizing costs, ensuring regulatory compliance and optimizing business outcomes.
Unfortunately, traditional control room solutions cannot provide the tools to operate effectively in this demanding environment. Operators need an integrated and holistic solution that creates a single information dashboard, visualizes data from disparate sources, improves situational awareness and supports collaborative decision making.
The modern control room is a smarter, unified system with video walls integrated into facility security, lighting, climate
and noise control, audio systems and ancillary rooms. With the right design strategy and full consideration of human factors, the entire facility becomes part of the control room system contributing to faster, better decisions. The result — operator productivity and satisfaction, fewer human errors, faster resolution of incidents and prevention of future asset downtime.
Let’s look at a few of the trends impacting the need for modernized spaces:
The Ongoing Digital Transformation
The energy industry is increasingly adopting digitalization and advanced technologies in its ongoing efforts to boost efficiency and cut costs, improve reliability and reduce downtime. Digital transformation helps energy companies reduce operational expenses, optimize production flows, maximize uptime, extend the life of assets and increase the safety of operations.
Digitalization is key to a sustainable energy industry. It can break down the barriers between remote operation and control by removing the factor of locality. Successful automation and integration of a huge range of tasks across many aspects of the exploration and production cycle are now possible through the ability to rapidly process vast quantities of data in very short periods of time.
Data Overload Creating New Complexities
Control room operators make sense of greater volumes of raw data in different formats from disparate sources. They’re receiving streams of real-time data and images from remote industrial sensors, mobile devices, drones and robots, video, network equipment, applications, Internet data, big data, broadcast television and social media. Operators need to balance the use of different assets, switching resources to meet changing demand and supply conditions while complying with growing regulatory and environmental requirements. That requires greater flexibility with more assets and complex interdependencies to monitor and manage.
In the oil and gas sector, operators monitoring exploration and production assets in remote, hostile locations have to make many critical decisions every day. They are responsible for monitoring labor- and capital-intensive operations in an industry that is extremely safety conscious, and where both physical and cultural steps are taken to mitigate any incidents. That makes control room decisions mission critical in an industry where the cost of developing large wells can be up to $10 per second, a major shutdown can cost up to $5 million per day and non-productive time costs can exceed $500 million a year.
Data representation must be flexible enough to suit the needs of each decision maker as they will inherently require different views. For example, a supervisor may require a single dashboard with a high-level overview, while specialists may need to review highly detailed, complex information relating to a single function.
Evolving Expectations and Pressures
Control room operators aren’t just focused on operational efficiency. They deal with increasing regulatory and business pressures.
For instance, at the distribution and retail level, utilities have to maintain reliable supplies at affordable rates while coping with flat demand and competition from newer entrants. Customers have higher expectations, looking for more information and transparency on their services. And, utilities have to meet increasing consumer and business demands for cleaner energy.
While regulations and environmental targets vary from country to country and from state to state in the US, there is general pressure to increase efficiency and make greater use of renewables in line with climate change targets. Control room performance plays an important role in meeting those business and regulatory challenges throughout the energy sector. Operators need the tools to manage resources efficiently and to ensure that they continue to meet customer expectations and maintain compliance. They also need the flexibility to respond to changing operational conditions.
Intensifying Need for Collaboration
To control and manage this increasingly complex operating environment, organizations are putting a greater emphasis on collaborative decision making and response - inside and outside the control room. In the oil and gas sector, inter- company operations and joint ventures to improve efficiency and reduce costs make collaboration even more important.
Control room operators must be able to work easily with local and remote colleagues, experts and field operational and response teams, as well as supervisors and executive decision makers. Successful collaboration must break down the barriers between centralized and remote operations by removing location as an object. As part of the process all participants and decision makers require real-time access to essential information in any format for their role, utilizing integrated permissions-based access.
Significance of Improved Data Visualization
Control room operators receive high volumes of real-time data in different formats from multiple sources However, data alone is not sufficient. It takes powerful data visualization tools to clarify information for faster collaborative decision making. The latest tools enable operators to visualize multiple data systems and content formats simultaneously to present a complete picture for review and overcome the limitations of siloed views.
Data visualization is key to improved decision making. The latest tools provide powerful functionality, but they must also be easy to use and perform with highest levels of reliability and availability.