In Complete Control

An upgraded SCADA system helps Northern Rockies Regional Municipality provide reliable and efficient services for residential and industrial water users.
In Complete Control
PcVue closely monitors chlorine readings and reservoir levels.

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The Northern Rockies region of northeastern British Columbia has a wealth and diversity of natural resources, heritage and culture. Over the last four decades, the region has experienced up and down cycles with the growth and decline of various resources and development activities.

Recently, there have been interesting proposals, such as the Horn River Shale Gas Development, a working partnership that would link the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality, Fort Nelson and First Nation communities with the oil and gas industry and provincial government agencies.

In support of this partnership, the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality water and wastewater treatment facilities, with a network of pump houses and other facilities, produces treated water to serve its 5,000 residents and to operate oil and gas, forestry and mining activities.

A sophisticated SCADA system monitors and controls the water system, helping to provide reliable and cost-effective service for all water users.

Diverse operations

The municipality has a bulk water station that furnishes water for those who are not on the municipal water system and to the trucks that transport water for remote oil and gas operations.

“Fort Nelson has a fully automated bulk water station that delivers an average 105,000 gpd of treated water for residential and industrial usage,” says Michael Ferguson, electrical and automation specialist for the municipality. “This station is fully integrated into the municipalities’ SCADA system, which facilitates monitoring of flow totalization, alarming of heat trace and boiler systems, trending of chlorine residual levels in the water being dispensed, and other functions.”

Software upgrade

The municipality recently replaced a legacy system with PcVue software for its SCADA system. The Fort Nelson SCADA system includes 22 Motorola ACE remote terminal units (RTUs) at various pump and lift stations that communicate over a 900 MHz IP Radio network.

“We have two Motorola IP gateways of the ACE3600 platform that are primary and redundantly configured,” Ferguson says. “The IP gateways are the interposing link between the network of field RTUs and the managing servers, also redundantly configured. Our servers are located at the municipality’s water treatment plant.” 

With the help of value-added reseller CTH Systems, the municipality chose a hardware-independent PcVue SCADA package that integrates seamlessly with CTH Systems’ IM-SCADA, an advanced multiprotocol measurement and communication software. “CTH Systems provided the IM-SCADA Driver Software, the key component that allowed for a quick transition to PcVue,” says Ferguson.

CTH Systems used the PcVue SCADA application builder tool, Smart Generator, to port Northern Rockies applications to a more secure and robust SCADA architecture. PcVue and CTH IM-SCADA software sit on these servers, along with the historical databases.

Controlling the process

The Fort Nelson facility also happens to be British Columbia’s first and only resource municipality to service industry, local residents and businesses. It covers more than 10 percent of the province and includes the majority of the vast Horn River Shale Gas Development. Ferguson manages the electrical systems, process control, automation and communication component of the municipality’s water and wastewater infrastructure.

At present, the Fort Nelson SCADA system manages about 8,000 tags. With ongoing capital projects such as a new UV disinfection station to treat wastewater effluent, the system is poised for growth.

The Fort Nelson water treatment process begins by drawing raw water from the Muskwa River, downstream of the Alaska Highway bridge crossing. Several critical processes are involved in filling the municipality’s raw water reservoirs. The initial drawing of raw water requires multi-stage pumping with PID control to overcome tremendous head pressure and control variable flow rates.

“Treating water is not a static process for us,” says Ferguson. “Process variables such as turbidity, color, and organics are influenced by weather events and other factors. For instance, we once experienced a mudslide that affected the river.”

CTH has provided engineering support to allow the municipality to export data in the form of .CSV files to a FlowWorks report and trend generation service. FlowWorks conditions incoming data with various algorithms, such as time-weighted averaging, allowing non-operations personnel to view trends and generate reports. CTH also provided real-time and historical trending as an inherent feature of the IM-SCADA driver: It presents the data needed to make decisions on how to optimize operations.

Getting the most

As Ferguson works to develop the potential of the Fort Nelson water and wastewater SCADA system, he plans to integrate PcVue with other management applications, such as the work order system. “The goal of our responsible management and preventive maintenance philosophy is to bundle systems like SCADA, PDAs, and work order application software together,” he says. “To operate responsibly and maintain a productive multi-million-dollar infrastructure such as ours, we need to combine the use of technologies, the efforts of personnel, and a forward-thinking approach.”

Ferguson is now working to have automatically generated work orders based on pump runtimes and pressure changes that indicate wearing seals and other conditions. He also wants to be able to view system data such as alarms, pressures and levels from a mobile device such as an iPhone, which is possible with the latest version of the IM-SCADA driver. “Having the freedom to access real-time system data from a mobile phone is a welcomed feature that will get a lot of use from operators,” he says.

PcVue is now configured to have one mimic per site along with configured pop-up windows so that if additional details are needed on a pump house or certain critical values, an operator can simply click on the icon to open a pop-up window containing the information needed. “We have multiple mimics built in PcVue that facilitate the various exchanges between the operator and host,” Ferguson says.

PcVue will contribute to Fort Nelson’s effort to reduce reactive repairs and unexpected equipment replacement. This can be achieved by tailoring alarm and reporting functionality to expose issues at the earliest stages. The use of a fully automated SCADA system is essential in downtime prevention in water and wastewater services provided by this growing municipality.


Harold DeJong is chief operator for the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality and is a certified Level 3 Water Distribution operator and Level 1 Wastewater Treatment and Collection operator.


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