Industry 4.0: The brain in Fortin de Piedra

From field work to gas distribution, every step of the power generation process is carefully monitored. Here’s a closer look at the Vaca Muerta Control Room.

In 2017, Tecpetrol embarked upon its ambitious project to develop the Fortin de Piedra field, and, in just five years, had built a leading example of exploration and development for the industry. With innovative technology and transformational Industry 4.0 processes, it has implemented a range of different digitization projects such as the Control Room, also known by its technical name, the Production Operations Center (COP).

"Right from the start, we were interested in setting up a model control room which would be the first of its kind in South America. The objective was the 100% remote operation of the Fortin de Piedra field with a view to extending this model to the rest of our operations," explains Matías Javier Martínez, Head of Systems for the Argentine Region and one of the IT referents working in communications infrastructure in the COP. 

After being based for several years at the Central Processing Facility at Fortin de Piedra, the Control Room was transferred to the Neuquen Corporate building. Here, it monitors the activities at the oil wells and fields in the Neuquen basin in real time. Essentially, it’s a nerve center which enables data-driven decision-making, taking into account a broad array of issues associated with field facilities and fiscal delivery points for gas, oil and production.

Julio Sandoval, the coordinator of the Control Room, agrees that one of the benefits of moving to the corporate building was to be part of a centralized operation, “providing support to all fields in production. It’s also a symbol of this phase of the company's development in the Neuquen Basin and Vaca Muerta as a whole.”

Inside the control room

Using SCADA (Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition) software, the system oversees different variables in real time to ensure the normal course of operations of all equipment in use in the field. As Sandoval points out, this is key, because, "different systems can be operated remotely, such as the emergency closure of wells or adjustments to the flow of gas and oil sales, which go to the carriers at the fiscal measurement points."

There are two video walls featuring twelve screens each in the Operations Center, which show and monitor different variables, and four operations posts, two of which are active, while the others are about to expand the scope of their activities to operations outside Fortin de Piedra. Each position is ergonomically adapted for the operators, with controls for five monitors integrated into an arm that be arranged in different positions. There are also smart tables and specific armchairs for monitoring functions.

Thanks to Fortin de Piedra's sophisticated radio system, the field operators can communicate at any time with the Control Room to coordinate tasks at the wells or reservoir batteries in the most efficient way. In addition, scheduled maintenance tasks at the facilities or production units can be optimized.

Based on all these indicators, the COP produces reports detailing daily events in the field, highlighting any deviations in order to drive a process of continuous improvement.

Julio Sandoval, Control Room coordinator explains the hardware and software set up in the brain at Fortin de Piedra, and recounts the benefits of digitizing the operation.

Experience at Fortín de Piedra

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