Skip to content

Energy Industry Digitization with IIoT and MQTT

28 min read White Paper

Energy Markets and The Push to Digitize

The global Energy Industry, encompassing Oil & Gas (O&G), solar energy, wind energy, etc. is going through a tectonic shift, confirms McKinsey.

According to a report from Deloitte, the O&G industry has rebounded strongly recently, with oil prices reaching their highest levels in six years. While the industry’s recovery is better than expected, uncertainty remains over market dynamics in the coming year.

All of this uncertainty, especially caused by COVID-19, has accelerated Digital Transformation in the O&G industry to increase safety, improve productivity, heighten efficiency, and enhance sustainability. The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is spearheading these digital transformations.

Although the O&G industry has begun to warm up to IIoT and its possibilities, Gartner says that 53% of businesses within the sector have not undertaken any implementation strategy. These businesses include O&G original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who produce the equipment the industry relies on.

According to McKinsey, the O&G industry can unlock approximately $11 trillion of value by properly deploying IIoT solutions to ease everyday operations.

Over recent years, according to a report from Deloitte, the renewables energy segment, consisting of solar and wind energy, has remained remarkably resilient. Rapid technology improvements and decreasing costs of renewable energy resources, focus on sustainability, along with the increased competitiveness of battery storage, have made renewables one of the most competitive energy sources in many areas. Despite suffering from supply chain constraints, increased shipping costs, and rising prices for key commodities, capacity installations remained at an all-time high. Many cities, states, and utilities set ambitious clean energy goals, increasing renewable portfolio standards and enacting energy storage procurement mandates.

How IIoT is Benefitting Energy Industries

IIoT technology is significantly making it possible to automate upstream oil drill operations, mid stream pipeline operations, downstream refining operations, solar and wind farm operations. With the help of smart sensors and advanced gateways, companies could easily monitor the performance of a system in real-time, automatically adjust the industrial efficiency, and ensure better productivity at all stages.

Some of the ways IIOT is benefitting the O&G industry are:

  1. Generating more throughput

    • O&G has a major impact on the global GDP: According to Oxford Economics, industry-wide adoption of IIoT could increase the global GDP by as much as 0.8 percent, or $816 billion in the next decade.

    • The proliferation of IIoT in O&G greatly increases production throughput and efficiency across upstream, midstream and downstream operations, while also enhancing safety and reducing overhead costs.

    • The use of sensors and monitoring systems, responsible for ingesting, managing, and processing data, lead to accelerated performance improvements.

    • Using real-time data, O&G companies are increasingly able to gain end-to-end visibility into their operational processes, get a better understanding of their asset performance, and make informed decisions to improve field operations.

  2. Equipment and Asset Management

    • IIoT implementation makes it easier for companies to determine the remaining life of their assets and reconfigure them to avoid performance downtimes.

    • Since sensors continually monitor each piece of functional equipment for anomalies and relay data to maintenance teams, organizations can respond faster to any imminent issues that might cause disruptions, ensuring continuous delivery without an impact to service.

  3. Remote Performance Monitoring

    • Given the extensive, multi-location footprint of O&G companies, IIoT meets the critical yet daunting need to evaluate asset performance remotely for efficiency, safety, and maintenance needs.

    • Contrary to isolated, unconnected factories of the past, modern IIoT-led enterprises transform upstream operations by consolidating industrial data using sensors and gateways

    • These technologies monitor remote assets in real-time, communicate performance data across a common information layer, and help service teams better understand on-ground operations.

    • Metrics, such as pressure and temperature, are tracked to monitor O&G equipment and are further compared to determine the maximum outputs and operational lags, if any.

    • For example, companies can adapt their drilling strategies after comparing real-time down-hole drilling data with data from the production of nearby wells. According to Bain & Company, this level of visibility can help O&G companies improve production by 6% to 8%.

  4. Preventive Maintenance

    • O&G companies use data insights to analyze the infrastructural health and predict problems and failures that might put operations under stress.

    • Preventive maintenance helps enterprises spot anomalies in asset and equipment usage beforehand and initiate pre-emptive action to control damage.

    • Organizations can develop bespoke counteractive strategies for every fault they detect and keep workflows stable resulting in improved efficiency, reliability and reduced operational costs.

  5. Decreased Safety Risk

    • Safety is perhaps the largest industry concern, both internally and externally.

    • IIoT can lessen the risk taken by identifying potential issues before they become actual problems or safety hazards.

    • Remote troubleshooting means more constant and efficient regulation of oil rigs.

    • Fully leveraged IIoT integration also means less travel and potentially dangerous work for personnel.

  6. Environmental Footprint

    • From increased efficiency to lessened safety risk and reduced travel, IIoT adoption can significantly reduce the environmental impact of the O&G industry.

    • Using less energy, avoiding oil spills and other accidents, and emitting less carbon is significant enough for O&G to pay attention to IIoT.

    • IIoT also allows for clearer monitoring of energy and resource usage.

    • The integration of connected devices in O&G will touch nearly every leg of the supply chain from operations to customer engagement. It’s an opportunity for rapid change in a legacy industry and a chance for O&G to compete in a commoditized world.

Some of the ways IIoT applications in renewable energy are empowering the creation of a sustainable future are:

  1. Remote Monitoring to Improve Overall Production

    • The assimilation of IIoT in solar and wind energy systems along with sensor applications can increase their reliability even further.

    • For solar, IIoT systems can be used to remotely regulate and control tracking functions that calibrate the angle of solar panels and help receive maximum solar radiation throughout the day to ensure maximum energy production efficiency.

    • Using the data, analytics solutions can be developed to track the movement of the sun and are used to automatically adjust the angle of solar panels.

    • IIoT in wind energy is also used to monitor several parameters that can affect power generation.

  2. Smart Grids for Elevated Renewable Implementation

    • IIoT has enabled the creation of smart grids that support manual switching between renewables and long-established power plants.

    • This switching helps smart grids support the varying nature of renewable energy and facilitate non-stop energy supply to consumers.

How MQTT Addresses Connectivity Challenges in the Energy Industry

The first step towards successfully implementing IIoT in the energy sector is to establish remote asset connectivity and make the data available to the enterprise data center in a secure, scalable and reliable manner. In the case of O&G, unreliable connections and hostile environments in remote locations like oil wells need to be addressed. Upstream O&G has legacy infrastructure and protocols like Modbus that are slow and expensive to fetch data through. In the case of renewables, ensuring that IIoT connects with existing complex infrastructure is key.

Energy companies need a solution that can consistently overcome these challenges. MQTT is a lightweight publish and subscribe protocol that was specifically created to overcome the challenges of hostile environments in the remote oil fields, connecting remote assets to the enterprise despite poor and spotty connectivity. MQTT also offers a way to connect to existing infrastructure, create a standard data layer, and push data to make it available to any cloud or enterprise system.

Here are some of the advances of using using MQTT in the Energy Industry:

  1. With MQTT, all messages are published to a central MQTT broker and all MQTT clients connect to the broker, subscribe to specific topics and receive updates. This broker serves as the ‘single source of truth’.

  2. The decoupling of data through the broker that MQTT offers provide a significant advantage when it comes to creating and managing new assets

  3. The publish subscribe technology that MQTT is based on works much better than poll response that OPC UA is based on especially when it comes to reducing network latency and cellular costs.

  4. The smaller and efficient message sizes of MQTT packets help reduce network bandwidth usage and costs

HiveMQ: An Enterprise MQTT Platform for Remote Asset Monitoring

HiveMQ is an MQTT based messaging platform designed for fast, efficient, and reliable movement of data to and from remote oil fields systems, wind farms and remote solar panels to enterprise locations on premises or the cloud enabling remote asset management and monitoring of common use cases in the Energy industry.

HiveMQ solves the key technical challenges of remote asset monitoring in the Energy Industry.

Reliability: HiveMQ supports MQTT’s three quality of service (QoS) levels to control whether a message is sent at most once, at least once, or exactly once. This makes it possible to establish reliability rules for specific messages.

Security: HiveMQ ensures secure transfer of IIoT asset data with industry standards such as TLS, secure WebSockets, and state-of-the-art cipher suites. Support for authentication and authorization includes X.509 certs, username/password, IP-based authentication, and an API that allows for custom authentication, authorization, and permission logic such as OAuth 2.0 integration.

The HiveMQ Enterprise Security Extension (ESE) makes it easy to integrate third-party enterprise security systems into HiveMQ, including support for authentication and authorization using SQL databases, OAuth 2.0 and LDAP. ESE also supports:

  • Preprocessing of authentication and authorization data from MQTT clients and x509 client certificates

  • Structured access log for tracking security-related device information

  • Fine-grained authorization rules to specify permissions for specific clients or a group of clients

  • Access control for the HiveMQ Control Center

Scalability: HiveMQ scales with underlying hardware. The non-blocking multi-threaded approach allows more than 10,000,000 concurrent device connections while maintaining extremely fast throughput and adding minimal latency. This is especially useful to ensure data is transferred quickly when legacy equipment has inefficient data bandwidths.

High-Availability Clustering: HiveMQ is architected with a truly distributed and masterless cluster architecture, which means there is no single point of failure and the cluster can grow and shrink at runtime without losing data or availability. Support for Kubernetes, OpenShift, and cloud platforms like Azure and AWS, makes it possible to automatically scale HiveMQ to meet the requirements of most Energy Industry IIoT use cases.

Extension Framework: HiveMQ has an open API and flexible extension framework that makes it possible to integrate Energy Industry IIoT asset data into existing enterprise systems. The extension framework allows developers to quickly create extensions for custom data processing, device authentication, and device authorization mechanisms. HiveMQ also provides a marketplace of pre-built extensions for Kafka, MongoDB, and other systems.

The HiveMQ Enterprise Extension for Kafka is of particular interest for asset management use cases. Apache Kafka is a popular open-source streaming platform that is widely used to share data between back-end systems and applications. The HiveMQ extension solves the difficulty of using Kafka for IIoT by seamlessly integrating MQTT messages into the Kafka messaging flow.

Full support of MQTT 5: HiveMQ provides full support for MQTT 5, the most recent version of the MQTT protocol. MQTT 5 includes new features that make it easier to develop reliable systems and integrate the MQTT data into other systems and is the preferred choice for Energy Industry remote asset management applications. HiveMQ is 100% compliant with all versions of the MQTT specification. MQTT 3 and MQTT 5 clients can communicate with HiveMQ simultaneously and all features such as topic wildcards, persistent sessions with offline queuing, retained messages, and quality of service levels are available at scale.

Sparkplug technology adds additional data context to energy assets

MQTT technology is designed to push data to and from thousands of remote devices across numerous sites to the enterprise. Sparkplug is a technology that sits on top to add context to the data extending use cases. It is an open-source software specification that provides MQTT clients with a framework to integrate data and provide context to it by defining data models. HiveMQ is fully Sparkplug compliant.

In Sparkplug architecture, devices, EoN(Edge of Network) nodes, and the SCADA/IIoT hosts connect to a central MQTT broker to publish and subscribe to data. In addition to the MQTT broker, an infrastructure that uses Sparkplug consists of the following components:

  1. The SCADA/IIoT host is the central application that system operators use to manage and monitor the overall state of the energy systems. This application interacts directly with the MQTT broker as a specific MQTT client. In contrast to a traditional SCADA system architecture, with Sparkplug the SCADA/IoT host is not responsible for directly establishing or maintaining connections to devices.

  2. EoN nodes play a key role in every Sparkplug infrastructure. Typically, EoN nodes are used to connect legacy infrastructures in energy operations to Sparkplug. Legacy infrastructure elements can communicate with the EoN nodes via other protocols such as OPC UA, Modbus, or proprietary PLC manufacturer protocols. The EoN node is responsible for managing both its state and the state of the devices as well as receiving and sending data from the devices to the Sparkplug infrastructure.

  3. Devices and sensors are the backbones of industrial automation in Energy systems. In the context of Sparkplug, devices connect to the Sparkplug infrastructure via EoN nodes. Although the majority of devices and sensors use protocols such as Modbus, OPC UA, and various other standardized or proprietary protocols, many vendors now offer native MQTT capabilities with their devices and sensors. If the MQTT-enabled device is already equipped with Sparkplug, it can participate directly in the infrastructure. In this case, the device identifies itself as an EoN node for the Sparkplug infrastructure. If the device supports standard MQTT without Sparkplug detection, a connection to the EoN node must still be established.

  4. MQTT applications, or secondary applications, are components that participate in Sparkplug communication and can generate and process MQTT messages, but are not the SCADA / IIoT host.

Energy IIoT use case reference architectures

Here are common architectures for remote asset management use cases seen in the Energy Industry:

Use Case 1: O&G Remote Asset Management

O&G control engineers want to trigger workflows as needed from a centralized location based on asset monitoring data collected from remote upstream oil wells, midstream pipelines or upstream refineries. Asset performance data flows through the HiveMQ Broker to the cloud provider’s infrastructure where it is ingested and then analyzed or monitored.

Use Case 1: Oil & Gas Remote Asset Management

There are two major advantages to using a HiveMQ broker in this scenario. The first is that it provides a very scalable solution that balances the load of the control data from different assets that may be in remote locations, worldwide. Secondly, it offers tools to provide a high level of factory IoT data observability and transparency to overcome any data bottlenecks going to the cloud or coming back to remote locations.

Use Case 2: MQTT-Powered Windfarm Remote Control Station

Windfarms are typically in the middle of nowhere making it hard to have on premise control stations or consolidate asset monitoring across different locations. It makes sense to implement a cloud-based remote control station to help operators monitor all the windfarm locations so the asset data parameters like wind turbine speed, torque, power, wind speed, wind direction, etc. flows through the HiveMQ Broker to the cloud provider’s infrastructure where it can be ingested, stored and analyzed or monitored.

Use Case 2: Windfarm Remote Control Station

In this use case, the HiveMQ broker is highly scalable and balances the load of the control data being received from assets in different remote wind farm locations. In addition, it provides highly secure communication between HiveMQ and the remote assets or cloud with features like TLS/SSL support, OAuth 2.0, X.509 certificates, etc.

Conclusion

Many Energy Industry organizations are digitizing their operations and IIoT is at the forefront of that. This push to digitize and IIoT comes with challenges including unreliable networks, hostile environments, legacy infrastructure, costly bandwidth, inefficient protocols, and complex systems. MQTT protocol addresses all of these challenges and provides a simple and reliable way to connect to remote assets. The MQTT protocol uses a publish and subscribe architecture that efficiently moves data between remote assets and enterprise IT cloud services, while also providing high quality of service data transfer. The HiveMQ Enterprise MQTT broker is the platform best suited to operate the Energy Industry’s remote asset management messaging system due to its performance scaling capabilities, implementation of all MQTT 5 features, and professional support services. In addition to MQTT, Sparkplug provides additional benefits to energy companies by enabling mission-critical, real-time OT operations.

Related content:

HiveMQ logo
Review HiveMQ on G2