ABB played a major role in the front-end engineering design (FEED) process that helped find a solution for this world first. It helped to define the process control and emergency shutdown systems, as well as the electrical infrastructure that power the processing facilities and the telecoms links that enable communications to be maintained over the vast basin.
After the FEED stage was complete, ABB was appointed main automation contractor, and its flagship System 800xA integration platform was picked to run the entire upstream operation.
This allowed the principal processes of QCG’s upstream operations to be integrated and controlled by a single distributed control system. This was certainly convenient for the operators responsible for running them: just four people can manage all the industrial, electrical, telecoms and instrumentation systems from one 24-hour control room. What’s more, the systems automated and optimised the main processes, thereby minimising operating costs and ensuring the safety of the plant and its personnel. To understand the importance of this, it should be remembered that each of QCC’s 2,500 wells has between 50 and 70 data points that are scanned every 30 seconds, and more than 750,000 data points in total exist in the process.
System 800xA offered a number of general advantages in that it was simple to configure and based on robust and proven software. It was also easy to upgrade, and because it was an open system, could be readily integrated with third-party products.
More specifically, the upstream package included the latest power conversion and safety interlock systems, smart plant instrumentation, bi-directional interfaces, substation integration, alarm analysis and telecoms infrastructure. The telecom equipment was based on a fiber-optic communications network, complete with CCTV and perimeter intrusion detection, access control and public address functionality. Because the nature of coal seam gas extraction requires the continual drilling of new wells, System 800xA was designed to bring new wells on line in minutes.
Another important aspect of the system was its resilience: all critical hardware was fully redundant, so a failure could occur in any individual central processor, switch, server or communication module without bringing work to a halt.