The client is a dedicated oil and gas exploration company that strives to balance environmental preservation with operational excellence. With billions of barrels of oil in production, precise well measurements are paramount for fair royalty distributions.

Andrew Martin, a junior engineer at CSE ICON, undertook this project to achieve accurate well volume measurements by seamlessly integrating data from two applications using the low-code platform ‘Node-RED.’

Explore this case study and gain valuable insights from a junior engineer’s perspective. Witness firsthand the transformative power of leveraging the right technology effectively. This journey exemplifies the potential of a junior engineer and illustrates the impact achievable with the right tools and approach.

Understanding the Challenge

The exploration company gains access to natural resources by drilling into lands owned by royalty holders. The excavation that ensues culminates in what we refer to as a ‘well.’ To ensure fair compensation for the royalty holders, the company must conduct a well test.

A well test is a method employed to assess the potential volume of natural resources that can be extracted from a specific well. This procedure becomes imperative when individual well measurements are unavailable, resulting in an approximation of each well’s production volume.

The exploration company relied on two applications, FLOWCAL and TOW, for well-testing. However, these apps had different definitions for well test basics. Consequently, this complicated the precise volume measurements, leading the company to rely on estimates.

  • FLOWCAL stored the data necessary for a well test including production volumes and pressures. While it is good at managing cross-reference issues, it struggled to link individual meter cross-references to the broader well test. These cross-references are vital for accurate well tests.
  • TOW required specific data on minimum production volumes for water, oil, and gas meters. While it is good at linking meter cross references to the broader well test, it lacked the capability to easily manage cross-reference issues.

When Andrew first delved into this project, he brought a distinct perspective shaped by his experiences. He focused on three primary audience segments: end users, the developers crafting the solution, and a pivotal third category consisting of individuals in sales and management.

Within the project’s ecosystem, developers crafted solutions in one corner while sales and management facilitated communication between the developers and the end users. These audiences often talked in different “professional languages” and had different requirements which made aligning project objectives an added challenge.

Node-RED: The Game-Changing Solution

To solve the cross-reference challenge, Andrew needed data from the customer’s Ignition SCADA and FLOWCAL systems and troubleshooting reports. Meaning, it was necessary to integrate different and complex systems to solve the well-testing issue.

Plus, the exploration company decided that counting the number of updates made to a well test would be important and desirable. This added a new parameter to the challenge, the ‘updateCount’.

Andrew concluded that the company needed to put in place a solution that allowed rapid design changes (to accommodate different requests) and the flexibility to connect disparate systems. That’s why he chose Node-RED, a low-code programming platform that would allow data integration from different systems.

“I’ve worked with a lot of different platforms, and there are millions of different ways in which you can ‘massage’ data. Some are very easy to use, and some are very challenging. I needed the best single solution that helped me incorporate everybody’s requirements. And Node-RED not only made my job easy, but it achieved the results we’re all aiming for.”

Figure 1 - Example Node-RED Solution

Figure 1 – Example Node-RED Solution

With Node-RED, Andrew could use an ETL (Extract, Transform, and Load) process with various operational technologies (OTs) like FLOWCAL and Ignition. As a result, they could get the data to calculate the well volumes.

The Inner Workings of the Solution

Andrew came up with a custom process called Populate Well Test to facilitate well-testing operations at the exploration company. The logic behind this process was to furnish TOW with the latest well test records to maintain up-to-date assessments of each well’s performance.

The logic executes two primary functions:

  • Daily Assessment: Starting at 2 a.m. every day, the system undertakes a comprehensive review of each well’s metrics. This routine examination, akin to a meticulous health check, ensures that all pertinent data is accurately recorded. The process concludes within approximately one minute.
  • Ongoing Updates: As operational conditions evolve; the logic stays vigilant. Every eight hours throughout the day, it revisits the well-test records, meticulously updating them to reflect any changes. This ongoing vigilance guarantees that the records stay up to date. Each iteration of this process takes about seven minutes to complete.

These operations are orchestrated on a primary server and a backup server. The two of them collaborate on the well-test to ensure seamless functionality.

The Impact on the Exploration Company’s Operations

The implementation of Node-RED as a flexible solution to integrate complex systems helped the company:

  • Offloading non-critical processes from SCADA: Removing non-essential operations from Ignition reduced the load on the system. Node-RED’s flow-based interface identified and executed necessary operations, improving efficiency and reducing cybersecurity risks.
  • Performing operations beyond OT capabilities: Node-RED’s versatility allowed for cross-referencing, a function not supported by OT systems like FLOWCAL and TOW, which are primarily focused on production measurements and accounting.
  • Enabling rapid design changes: Node-RED’s intuitive, flow-based design simplified connections between processes, enhancing comprehension and adaptability for resources.

Besides all that, using Node-RED allowed the company to perform individual well tests and calculate the volume of each well accurately. This allowed the proper payment of royalties to landowners.

Lessons from a Junior Engineer’s Perspective

Real-world projects are like coordinating different puzzles with various stakeholders, all advocating for their ‘best’ pieces.

Effective communication, especially between developers, sales, management, and end users, is paramount for success. These groups often have different perspectives and needs, making alignment a vital challenge in any multidisciplinary project.

Moreover, Andrew’s experience highlights the power of choosing the right tools. Here, Node-RED proved to be a game-changer, offering flexibility, rapid adaptability, and seamless integration.

If you’re ready to leverage data from various OT systems and optimize your processes, reach out to CSE ICON at or through the form below. CSE ICON, a professional services company, is dedicated to integrating people and data, continuously enhancing customer profitability in the processing and manufacturing industries.

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