Ensuring Maximised Production and Safety with Remote Gas Well Monitoring

Moxa Partners with Microsoft and Com-Forth

Case Study together with Com-Forth

Industry: Oil & Gas & Process
Application: Wellhead Monitoring, Sensor-to-Cloud (IIoT Gateway), Remote Asset Management
Region: Europe
Country: Hungary
Connected Sensor/Device: Modbus
Cloud/IT Platform: Microsoft Azure


The Com-Forth Oil and Gas project was set up to simplify and increase the reliability of operating remote Gas Well installations. The monitoring of wellheads is vital as oil and gas companies face increasing pressure to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Wellheads provide the structural and pressure-containing interface for drilling and production equipment and need to operate at optimal levels to ensure production is maximized.

Wellhead performance data can also help predict maintenance requirements, that allows for planning of downtime and avoiding unnecessary revenue losses, helps to prevent accidents and environmental damage in the form of water and air contamination.

Reporting accurately on performance metrics is crucial for the oil & gas industry to be alerted to critical situations as they arise, as is employee safety and efficiency of operations. In one of the first Azure cloud-based solutions, Moxa is working closely with Microsoft to enable Com-Forth to implement new state-of-the-art IoT equipment to replace a major European Oil and Gas company’s legacy radio-based data acquisition system. The Com-Forth solution is a cloud-based data collection system that allows the customer to increase data communication speeds at lower Capex and Opex costs. Several data parameters are being measured at their gas wells, which are collected, stored and sent to the cloud. Thanks to Plug And Play installation and remote administration, the customer’s personnel can access accurate data, more frequently and spend less time onsite. Issues can be discovered and fixed faster and equipment can be fine tuned to increase production and lower costs.  

The Challenge

Oil and gas operators utilizing SCADA are challenged with reservoir locations that are often remote, and a cellular connection can be unreliable, which leads to costly infrastructure needed for connectivity and engineers having to physically visit sites to assess conditions and performance. This is not only inefficient, but it also requires long travel times and unnecessary risk.

In this project, the Gas Well suffered from an old and slow radio communications system. There was also a requirement for staff to be available onsite to gather data and initiate changes to control equipment.

The requirement of the project was to simplify the Gas Well Monitoring and to make the data available in the cloud to enable Plug & Play, to make remote changes to the operation of the site control equipment. This would remove the need for staff to attend the site and thereby reduce both capital and operating costs.

The required communications can involve a mix of wired connections, radio networks, cellular, and satellite and various equipment from multiple manufacturers with differing communication protocols. Legacy devices are often encountered, requiring extensive experience of integration into the SCADA hosting system.

Data collection from Hungary’s Zala County gas well site to the central data collection unit was proving expensive and radio permits created an administration overhead and low sampling frequency. In addition, slow data updates prevented a fast response time in the event of failure. The customer needed a highly reliable and flexible solution connecting to a legacy SCADAPack RTU, with minimal investment and operational costs, that provides high sampling frequency (up to less than a second) and near real-time data access.

The Solution

Easy, fast, and scalable remote monitoring of industrial assets.

Installation of a Moxa UC-8100 IoT Gateway using ThingsPro Edge software connected to the SCADA controller onsite provided a high-speed data link to the cloud.

Real-time analysis queries could then be accomplished using Microsoft dashboard browsers within a simple Azure IoT Edge module based on Microsoft Azure infrastructure.

With this new configuration real-time data can be analyzed remotely by engineers and changes passed to the remote SCADA controller to improve equipment performance without the need for site attendance.

An Azure IoT Edge certified device is deployed at the site that communicates with the on-site SCADA system using standard industrial protocols, Modbus, and that runs a simple process on the data collected before sending it to the cloud. As the customer is an existing Microsoft Azure cloud service user, Moxa’s UC-8220 with a ThingsPro Edge SW package is the idea choice for cloud connectivity.

The certification guarantees that the device supports central management from the Azure portal and that the firewall does not need to be opened for any new communications. The solution offers maximum security access and an interface to centrally manage thousands of Edge devices in just a few clicks.

The Serial port of the Moxa device is used to connect to the SCADA network. The integrated LTE module connects to the cloud using the MQTT protocol.

Edge device logic is implemented using Node-Red. As opposed to applications written in Python or for NodeJS, Node-Red has the advantage of providing the opportunity to extend data processing without programming. This enables the client to add new signals, or to manage the operation of SCADA automatically.

In the cloud, data is received by an Azure IoT Hub service (MQTT broker) with an Azure Data Explorer service signed up for the data. Azure Data Explorer is a high-speed data processing service with a multiple gigabytes cache. The capacity of the cache is sufficient for storing several years of data. Visualization is implemented as an automatically refreshed Power BI report. This meets the client’s requirements to be consistent with the layout and availability of other reports. Currently, data collection and storage frequency is set to one second, with a one-minute report refresh rate. This solution enables data transfer from the gas well, to desktop computers, or to the customer’s maintenance personnel’s smartphones in a fraction of a second.

Why Com-Forth?

Founded in 1988, Com-Forth Kft. is a Hungarian, family-owned company that helps hundreds of multinational large enterprises and SME’s in the energy, pharmaceutical, chemical, food, and the oil and gas industry increase their production efficiency and enhance communication between machines and appliances, using their innovative industrial future-proof architecture based on open source technologies such as Node-RED and Docker.

Industrial solutions require hardware elements that can provide maximum reliability under extreme conditions. Com-Forth supply industrial grade hardware that meets these requirements perfectly and provides a solid base for IoT and industry 4.0 systems. The hardware has a low cost of ownership and is specifically developed for OT engineers and does not require a high level of IT expertise.

Why Moxa?

Moxa has been a developer and manufacturer of industrial communication devices since 1987. The products are designed to meet the standards and requirements of the energy industry, transportation, the oil and gas industry as well as those of water and wastewater management. Besides the key components of industrial Ethernet networks, MOXA provides ICS/OT security firewalls and IPS/IDS firewalls and IPS/IDS systems, robust wireless solutions, I/Os andRTUs and programmable computers for harsh industrial conditions.

Moxa products are competitively priced and come with a five-year warranty.