This month’s Oil & Gas Measurement Podcast episode features Glenn Kelley discussing how measurement field operations can be improved through the use of the correct software tools. Glenn will discuss the value of accurate facility flow diagrams in diagnosing balancing issues, and how the right software can improve information flow, streamline reporting, and reduce windshield time.
In the episode, you will learn about how the use of proper software in your measurement and field operations can improve efficiency as well as communication within your company, what we can do to improve measurement and make measurement easier for us to accomplish accurately and repeatedly, and how you can improve operations overall when everyone is using the same software.
Streamlining Measurement Through Software: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Glenn Kelley is the CEO of Muddy Boots Online. Connect with Glenn on LinkedIn.
- Muddy Boots provides field operations software for pipeline operators to manage critical areas such as measurement, maintenance, work orders, site diagrams, shift logs, and well lists.
- BLM (Bureau of Land Management), part of the U.S Department of the Interior, is responsible for administering, maintaining, and preserving more than 247 million acres of public land across the U.S. This includes the administration of oil and gas production from all Federal and some Indian Tribal Lands.
- Site Facility Diagram, Flow Schematics, Balance Diagrams, and Measurement Flow Diagrams are terms used by various sectors of the oil and gas industry that refer to drawings that depict oil & gas meters, piping, valving, and related equipment within a facility or pipeline. These drawings are mandated on BLM leases in the U.S. and by Measurement Canada, to ensure measurement, accounting, and reporting compliance through the use of visual tools showing the current physical layout of the facility.
- HMI (Human Machine Interface) is the user interface that connects an operator to the controller in pipeline operations.
- SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a system of software and technology that allows pipeliners to control processes locally or at remote locations. SCADA breaks down into two key functions: supervisory control and data acquisition. Included is managing the field, communication, and control room technology components that send and receive valuable data, allowing users to respond to the data.
- AutoCAD is a commercial computer-aided design and drafting software application. Developed and marketed by Autodesk
- GC (Gas Chromatograph) is an analytical instrument that measures the content of various components in a sample. The analysis performed by a gas chromatograph is called gas chromatography.
- E&I technicians perform electrical and instrumentation maintenance activities and projects. Skilled in the fabrication, installation, inspection, testing, adjustment, and repair of electronic, electro-mechanical, and pneumatic control circuits and systems.
- PSV (Pressure Safety Valves) are automated safety devices designed to prevent the catastrophic failure of piping and pressure vessels due to overpressurization. PSVs are designed to quickly open and release gas from the pipe when the pressure reaches a preset limit, then close automatically when pressure is back in the safe operating range.
- EH&S stands for Environment, Health, and Safety. It’s a general term used to refer to laws, rules, regulations, professions, programs, and workplace efforts to protect the health and safety of employees and the public as well as the environment from hazards associated with the workplace.
- GLR (gas-liquid ratio) is the ratio of a volume of gas divided by a volume of liquid at the same temperature and pressure.
- DCS (Distributed Control Systems) are computer-based control systems that are located close to the process and/or facility they control. A DCS contains the logic to operate the process autonomy, based upon periodic instructions received by an operator or controller that may be local or at a remote location.
Streamlining Measurement: Full Episode Transcript
Weldon Wright: Hello and welcome to episode 10 of the Oil & Gas Measurement Podcast, hosted by GCI (Gas Certification Institute), providing measurement fundamentals training, measurement standard operating procedures, consulting, and field operations solutions to the oil and gas industry for over 22 years.
Announcer: Welcome to the Oil & Gas Measurement Podcast, where measurement professionals, Bubba geeks, and gurus share their knowledge, experience, and likely a tall tale or two on measurement topics for the oil and gas industry. Now your host, Weldon Wright.
Weldon: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Oil & Gas Measurement Podcast. I’m here with Glenn Kelley today, with Muddy Boots Online.
We’re going to talk a little bit about how the proper software and how the use of the proper software in your measurement operations and your field operations improves efficiency, improves communications in your company, and just generally helps get things done and get you home in time for dinner.
Glenn, welcome to the podcast. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Tell us about what you do there at Muddy Boots.
Glenn Kelley: Thank you, Weldon. I’m happy to be here. Folks, my name is Glenn Kelley. I’m the President of a company called Muddy Boots Online. We’ve been around for about 11 years now. Muddy Boots was started with the sole intent of making software for field operations technicians, anybody working out in the field, easier, simple to use, covers all the things they need to do.
The reason we started that was, in that period 10 to 15 years ago, people in the field were getting hit with just more and more different applications, different software, different-looking software, hard-to-use software. We said, “There’s a better way. That better way is Muddy Boots.”
The Muddy Boots application is geared towards anybody that goes out in the field and needs to record information, be that as simple as a tank reading or a hazard identification or a pigging run, and then more complex things, like a meter calibration or proving. We, at this point in time, have several hundred different activities that people do in the field and more and more every time.
As for a recent example, we just implemented a large 70 BCF gas storage facility. They had over 200 pieces of paper they used for the various field tasks that they did. That’s all now online with Muddy Boots.
Weldon: Wow. There’s a lot of power there, Glenn. I know from previous discussions with Glenn that they have a product that is useful throughout field operations. What we’re here to talk about today, of course, is measurement and what we can do to improve measurement and make measurement easier for us to accomplish accurately and repeatedly.
Glenn, there’s many things that, in measurement, we’d like to say we have a handle on. In actuality, doing the reports, creating the paperwork, it’s such a critical core function of what we do. Yet it’s not a productive function. What we want to do is we’re trying to do things as efficiently and effectively as we can.
I’ve worked with several companies on trying to streamline that, but I want to focus on one particular piece for a moment here. I know you all do something up in Canada that we don’t do here in the US.
Up in Canada, part of your federal regulations require that every measurement facility have good flow diagrams. There has to be documented paperwork that’s been reviewed and approved that says, “Hey, this is how our gas flows. We know it. We verified it.”
In the US, if you’re not under BLM regulations, those drawings, what BLM will call a site facility drawing, what the rest of us call are flow diagrams, those just aren’t required. Talk to us a little bit about how having those diagrams helps the center of operations.
Glenn: Thanks, Weldon. Actually, the flow diagrams are where we started with the software. It was convenient up here in Canada. Really, if you think about it, your flow diagram defines your operation, defines that facility, defines what’s going on out in the field.
For software, you need a good definition of the operation. Once you have that, you can start to add all of these other functions. The flow diagrams were great. When we started, it was basic flow, from wells to separators to tanks to meters to compressor stations, and so on and so forth, but the demand increased. We now have lots of flow diagrams that show pipeline layouts.
We have flow diagrams that show telecommunication networks in the field. The next part about flow diagrams, really it’s a window into our data. I actually don’t like to use the term diagram because it’s a view. If you think of an HMI on a SCADA system, we have flow diagrams that are HMI for all the functions of the technicians in the field.
Weldon: That’s a great way of wording it, Glenn.
Glenn: Thank you.
Weldon: I come from the midstream world, predominantly. Then I got dragged kicking and screaming into pipeline and liquid somewhere down the road. In the midstream gas world, that world revolves around balances, the intake and dispositions and the accuracy of those.
Of course, even on the pipeline, the tolerance is getting much smaller because we expect better accuracy. We have better quality gas on the transportation pipeline side. On the midstream side, it’s almost the worst case you can imagine for measurement, but monitoring balances, understanding those balances and intake and dispositions are such a critical part of the measurement world. Those balances literally are part of the work product from the measurement group. Historically, those drawings have existed in AutoCAD or maybe Visio, if you were lucky. Even just knowing where the current version of stuff is, it’s hard, right?
Glenn: Absolutely, yeah.
Weldon: To be able for measurement to talk to accounting to talk to somebody out in the field about whether they have the right drawings, that’s difficult if you can’t all see the same thing. I understand that y’all’s software helps address that, right?
Glenn: You bet, Weldon. Envision this. You’re a technician out in the field or a pumper operator out in the field, and you have an issue or a problem. You can see on your cell phone now how everything’s connected. You can see that flow diagram on your cell phone.
From an accounting point of view, it tracks like this. Yeah, historically, we had AutoCAD drawings. There’d be an annual process, if you were lucky, to keep them up to date.
If you have the operator, if you have the person in the field looking at this information, if something changes, you get that notification right away. In fact, they can go in and put in a note and say, “We added a piece here. We turned this off,” what have you. Whatever physical change in the field gets communicated quickly.
Operations, measurement, accounting all see the same information. They all see it online. They all see it right now. They can also see versions. If you make a number of physical changes in the field and you go, “OK, that’s a wrap,” we take a version of that.
If I’m a production accountant and I’m doing amendments six months ago or amendments for a year ago – I know that never happens – I can see exactly what that flow was, exactly what that measurement diagram shows me was going on at that point in time.
I’ve worked with clients in the US that have had horrific problems just trying to find out what’s going on in the field. You get that communication. It’s helpful. It’s real. It’s live for the operators and the technicians. It just helps all around.
Weldon: Great, Glenn. That’s something we never had when I was still in the midstream world, that concept of accounting being able to see what was changed in the field the same day that a tech or an engineer touched it out in the field. That was pretty unheard of.
As we look at that, that balancing part is really just one piece of all of that software and all of those pieces. I mentioned earlier, as we used to look at measurement software, the software being used for work orders, for maintenance and repair on the facility, that was one thing.
If it was software – it might have been paper forms – measurement techs were running around with dedicated software on their laptop and, many times, software dedicated to every individual piece of equipment. They’re creating data that gets loaded into another system. The analyst in the office sees little bitty pieces of that data. They don’t see the whole story.
People just didn’t have that cohesiveness. Tell me how we can improve our operations overall and how we can streamline all of that when we start getting people using the same software. That concept really intrigues me.
Glenn: I’ll tell you. The end result, if you’re a Muddy Boots user and you’re looking at a plant or property or what have you, everything that’s happened at that location for the last period of time, you have access to. That’s a bit tricky, so I’ll explain some of the facets of that.
Certainly, if I’m a tech going out and doing calibration, great. He does that in Muddy Boots. You can see those as tied to those meters. If I’m pulling in analysis from a lab or from a GC, you can see that information is tied to the sample point.
Anything your internal field people do, you can see right away, either through that diagram or by looking up that location or the piece of equipment in the software. The first extension to that is, what about all the service companies that do work for us? We don’t do our own calibrations. We bring in XYZ Electric to do calibrations for us.
We set up a connect feature in Muddy Boots, whereby you can assign a service company in the system and say, “This is the work you’re able to do. This is the location where you’re able to do it.” If you’re a big operator, you’ve got four different service companies in four largely different geographical regions doing the same job. You can set up that security.
That data comes into your system. That just expands. We’re pulling in drone film clips now. We’re pulling in a SCADA system from lots of places. Fundamentally, you get this repository of everything that’s gone on at that location, everything that’s gone on for that piece of equipment.
Then, because the maintenance system is also built in here, you’re seeing everything that’s scheduled, everything that’s come up. Over time, I, for example, could go look at a compressor. I can see the readings, the vibration analysis, the scheduled workovers that have been done and those that are coming up. It’s just all there.
We work every day to provide ways to pull more information in. All of that means you’ve got access to all this information. Downstream, there’s just going to be more and more analytics to help you use it.
Weldon: Glenn, listening to that and putting together a lot of pieces, there’s a lot of stuff in what you just said there. From the measurement side, I know having that information so the guy in the field and the analyst in the back office are both looking at it, that’s a key piece, Glenn.
Historically, even though we said the analyst in the office, regardless of what back office measurement tool they’re using – there’s a half a dozen great tools out there – regardless of what tool they’re using out there, the information the analyst really has about what’s going on in the field is a fraction of what that tech had, right?
Glenn: That’s right.
Weldon: What that tech had, it’s not exposed to what the maintenance guys do, environmental. I know in today’s world where we’re all doing more with less people out there, that technician is doing a lot more with most companies than just going out there and testing a meter. They’re also responsible for basic site safety inspections, the “Yes, I drove up, and it’s all still here” check box.
They’re probably doing some safety valve inspections and testing as part of their normal work flow because they have the same equipment that’s needed to do that as they do to test their meters. They may be doing some reporting on the environmental side.
A software package that wraps all that up so it puts all of those scheduled items in the same place and all the documentation, that sounds pretty powerful, regardless of where it comes from.
Glenn: Yes, Weldon. We know all these things. We think about all these things that need to be done, safety, environmental, volumetric, maintenance, etc. If you look at this from the viewpoint of the guy in the field – what’s their day, what things do they have to do – then it becomes one system.
We’ve always had the orientation of the field person. What does their day look like? Whether they’re noticing a hazard or they have to record some volumes or they have to do a work order, all part of the same job for them. We have a lot of empathy for these folks, I’ll say, especially those working in harsher climates. I’m sure we could trade stories on that.
Weldon: We just get hot down here. I guess you can die of heat stroke if you stay out there long enough. Up there in your part of your world, it takes on a whole different connotation a lot of the year, Glenn.
Glenn: You betcha.
Weldon: I’ll take the heat over snow and blizzards most days there, Glenn.
Glenn: We were also talking about volumetric problems. I just wanted to mention one thing. We have a client that’s put together a process. This is a large company.
If the measurement people are getting an issue brought to them from production accounting, typically, or wherever, they’re going right back to the schematic with a certain procedural flow and tagging it and saying, “OK, let me look at not the schematic, the flow diagram.”
And say, “What’s upstream of that? How is that going to be impacted? Here’s the steps we’re now going to go through to check on that problem. Is my analysis current? Did something change with that meter? Do I have a new orifice plate somewhere?”
It’s really, I will say, preventative for volume problems, just because everybody’s on the same page in terms of the flow diagram, but also helpful in diagnosing issues when they come up.
Weldon: Absolutely. Not just in diagnosing, Glenn, but diagnosing and troubleshooting clearly, having access to what’s upstream can be beneficial. Even from a regular operational standpoint, if you have a set of diagrams that shows your overall pipeline and you have a set of diagrams that’s for each individual facility, every well pad, every custody transfer meter station on your pipeline, whatever those facilities may be.
If you have all those and they’re linked together, literally, if you have to do maintenance on, let’s say, a compressor at location 123, if you have the capability of, at the click of a button, saying, “I need to know every well delivering upstream of this compressor so I can notify them of a shut-in.”
That all of a sudden pulls to the other functionality that was previously somebody back at the office that had to start querying and saying, “OK, let me try to find a list of all the producers we need to notify.” That helps there.
I’d like to loop back to something you mentioned earlier when you mentioned how you had expanded the type of diagrams, schematics, and drawings that customers are using in Muddy Boots, the site facility diagram, as we would call them here in the US for BLM properties, or flow schematics, as you call them, I guess, up in Canada.
You mentioned also that companies were starting to look at field communication diagrams. That, to me, all of a sudden makes a couple lights go on. It sounds like a pretty valuable diagnostic tool right then. Tell me how companies are setting that up. Are they literally putting their field communication networks in the drawings in Muddy Boots?
Glenn: Yeah, exactly. Software-wise, it’s just another network with different types of equipment and different types of connections. In the same vein as the compressor, what’s downstream or upstream? If I have a hub or a router goes out, what’s the impact? It’s the exact same issue.
I was talking to a very large company yesterday that the light bulb went on just the way it did for you. I could make a diagnosis today if we have a problem somewhere? Yeah, absolutely. Again, you can click on the hubs and routers and see the maintenance and see what’s been done and see relevant activity.
What we find here too – I’m sure it’s the same for you – there’s so much electronics. The E&I guys out there are doing so much. These aren’t standalone networks. The telecommunications from the physical flow, they’re totally connected too. It’s just nice to know what’s happening with one and what’s happening with the other and how they relate.
Weldon: Interesting. Really interesting, Glenn. As I’ve talked to you a number of times, I’m starting to see the power of getting all of this information in one place. I think that’s really the benefit and the crux of this whole digital oil field and digital pipeline that we’ve been moving to.
For years, 10 years now probably at least, we’ve been on this mission for more information coming back from the field. Let’s get it back faster, better, for more places. In reality, what we’re really doing there, while we’re getting more information, we’re getting more valuable information, that information hasn’t always been available to all of the right people. Correct?
Weldon: As we just talked about, there’s companies out there that have software, Visio or more elaborate inventory software systems that can give you some drawings on equipment. We have systems that we’re doing measurement calibration work in. We have work order systems. We have management change systems.
We have the systems that environmental, health, and safety is using to track safety inspections. When all of those pieces are separate and siloed, that used to be the worry we had in the corporate office, is that we had too many silos of information.
That’s very much been addressed at most companies. We have the massive data lake concept, where everything is piled into one place. You just go get it, on the corporate level now, for their business systems, their accounting systems, their HR systems.
We haven’t had that on that field information. All of that field information has been in those individual field silos, in many cases sitting there on an individual employee’s laptop. They’re generating a report from their laptop being shipped somewhere else, right?
Glenn: That’s right.
Weldon: It seems that the benefits of as much information you talk about being in one place and then reducing the integration needs of how many different softwares do I need to touch to get the combination of all that field data back into my data lake or whatever I have on the corporate side.
Glenn: It’s all good stuff. I’ll give you another integration example. This is a demo we’re going to be doing shortly. Interestingly enough, you mentioned MOCs, management of change.
Every company out there has got a process for that. Ironically, you still have some of these larger companies where it’s entirely a paper process or something on SharePoint or something totally disconnected with every other piece of software out there.
We’ve added that in. You want to take and move a separator out of storage to replace one that just broke down. Here’s the MOC. The equipment’s tied. You can see it on the flow diagrams. You can see all the history of it. You have the information there to do that.
Wait a minute. I need the work orders in place to have the people do the work. Great. You know what? I’ve got to schedule a PSV inspection to make sure that the pressure valves that we’re putting on this thing are current and up to snuff for safety and regulatory reasons. All the scheduled work orders, the PMs, the MOCs, the equipment flow schematic are all integrated. They’re all there.
Weldon: That’s fascinating, Glenn. That’s pulling a lot of pieces together in one place. Every time I talk to you, I learn a little bit more about what that looks like in an ideal world.
I can tell you that back – now I’m going to date myself – 20 years ago, when I was in charge of field measurement operations, those measurement guys didn’t have access to any of that other information. The maintenance, the EH&S people, they didn’t have access to the information from the other areas.
Everybody went out there and did their own thing. That’s where so much of the revelation that people think is behind the digital oil field is expected to come from. We expect to make decisions more intelligently. We expect to route people better. You can’t do that unless people are working together, right?
Glenn: That’s right.
Weldon: I know, from previous conversations with you, if we can get a map up that says, “Hey, I’m going to be at these three locations today. I see already there’s an outstanding safety inspection that just means checking the fire extinguisher on the site.”
If that measurement guy can walk over there and look at that fire extinguisher and check the box that says it’s there and the pressure is still OK, then all of a sudden we may have saved routing a safety guy or a field ops guy over there to do the same thing to meet the timelines.
There’s a lot of power in what you’re talking about there. It’s something I think we need to talk about some more and probably unpack some more of these possibilities down the road.
Glenn: Weldon, you’ve touched on the optimization side. The next vision for Muddy Boots is how do we take all this information and ensure the person in the field is doing the highest value things and saving the company money by not putting on miles that aren’t necessary.
There’s a ton of opportunity to save windshield time. There’s a ton of opportunity to streamline the work you do. I’ll give you a simple example. In Canada, if you’re doing GLR tests and there’s consistency within a certain tolerance across multiple tests, then you can reduce your frequency.
Same with meter calibrations. If you got the data, you do a little bit of analysis and you say, “OK. This can be scheduled every one year instead of every six months, or every two years instead of one year.” Those kinds of things start to help.
There’s a whole other conversation that maybe we can do another podcast about, in terms of integrating this with SCADA. We are by no means done. In my pursuit of the all-in-one platform for operations, what is on the horizon is heavy integration with SCADA.
I summed this up this way for my compatriots the other day because we were asked the question, “What do you build in SCADA? What do you build in a work management tool like Muddy Boots?”
Conceptually, to me it just became clear. SCADA is all about managing the equipment, Muddy Boots work management, it’s all about managing what the people do. Yes, the two are intricately linked because every condition that a SCADA system or DCS system detects can cause a human to go do some work.
Weldon: That’s where you go out to the site, right?
Glenn: Yeah. Similarly, everything a person does out in the field, can impact what the SCADA environment is seeing. It’s direct. It’s back and forth. It’s the ying yang of SCADA and work management.
Weldon: The entire concept of better information across the company, Glenn, from the measurement back into the field office, to the back office measurement folks, the accounting folks. What you’re talking about here is to get the real-time data into real people’s hands quicker. Those are all really powerful tools.
You did say something that hit a little bit of a nerve though. We want to reduce windshield time. That means money. Let’s not cut it out completely though, because a lot of the podcast listeners, both the oil and gas management podcast as well as “The Pipeliners Podcast”, they’re listening while they drive. We don’t want to cut it out completely, Glenn.
Thanks for sharing what you all are doing over there at Muddy Boots.
Glenn: Thank you.
Weldon: Thanks for sharing the concepts and having an open discussion about what we can do when we get away from siloing, and start having everyone sharing the same information. Certainly appreciate that, Glenn. I appreciate having you on the Oil & Gas Measurement Podcast.
Glenn: Weldon, thank you. Thank you so much. Congratulations for getting this podcast rolling. I think the measurement people just love it.
Weldon: Thank you, Glenn. I had the Oil & Gas Measurement Podcast on my mind, because that of course is the channel we operate off of. It’s helped a lot having that big background of listeners, that firm listener base from the Pipeliners Podcast, as well as the Oil & Gas Technology Podcast.
Having those out there already on the same platform we have oil and gas measurement on has been really great. It’s been a pleasure doing this. Lots of topics. In fact, the idea fairy is running wild with topics in my mind, but where do I get time to do them all?
Thanks again, Glenn. Appreciate you having you on the podcast. We’ll be talking to you again.
Weldon: Thank you, sir.
Glenn: Have a great day.
Weldon: Thanks again for listening. I hope you enjoyed our podcast. If you did, please take a moment to leave us a review on iTunes, Google, or wherever you get your podcast fixes from. We’ll have a full transcript of this episode, which will include any geeky terms and definitions, and a bio from Glenn on the pipelinepodcastnetwork.com website.
You can leave me comments and suggestions for new episodes. As well as topics, or maybe even volunteer yourself up to the podcast microphone by sending me a message on LinkedIn, or go to the contacts page on pipelinepodcastnetwork.com. Thanks again for listening.
Transcription by CastingWords