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Process Control

Kevin Stewart is a third-year engineering student at the University of Guelph

(, Ontario, Canada. Graham Nasby is the water SCADA and
security specialist at the city of Guelph Water Services (

Improve Power Monitoring at

Remote Water Facilities
For any water utility, a reliable electricity supply is essential to keeping
the water on and ensuring regulatory compliance. One utility is using
advanced communication protocols to help it respond better to power
interruptions at remote sites. BY KEVIN STEWART AND GRAHAM NASBY

ONTRARY TO common belief, lines, it’s imperative that operators know UPSs keep the PLCs online during power
electricity and water do mix! which sites have power and which outages, so the SCADA system can con-
For water systems, power is don’t. Furthermore, remote monitoring tinue logging process data and providing
a critical input to operations. is needed to check the status of gener- monitoring and control connectivity to
Pumps require electricity to operate, and ators, automatic transfer switches, and the centralized SCADA system. The
supervisory control and data acquisition uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs). UPS units are sized to provide at least
(SCADA) systems need electricity to mon- The operations team can use such power 30 minutes of runtime for each PLC,
itor and control process equipment and status information to effectively deter- which is enough time to cover more than
log critical compliance data. But effec- mine when, and in what order, to check 95 percent of power outages. As part of
tively monitoring the electricity supply to on facilities—or make process adjust- this setup, the PLCs also look after shut-
water facilities is challenging. For example, ments—during power outages. ting off process equipment at the start of
Guelph Water Services (Ontario, Canada) At Guelph Water Services, each of 35 a power outage and restarting facilities
has 30 remote facilities, all unmanned, SCADA programmable logic controllers once stable power returns.
each of which has its own power feeds. (PLCs) distributed throughout the city’s
Thus, when a storm occurs or there water facilities is equipped with a UPS, MONITORING POWER STATUS
are problems in the water utility’s power as shown in the photo on page 30. The To ensure power-supply security, Guelph
Water Services embarked on a proj-
ect in 2017 to enhance the monitoring
Status Screen of electrical power at all its sites. This
A single status screen was added to the SCADA system so operators could check the included adding power status relays to
power status of all the city’s remote water facilities at a glance. PLC panels, improving generator sta-
tus monitoring, monitoring automatic
transfer switches, and adding communi-
cation cards to monitor UPS units. The
project also included monitoring small

PLC-panel UPSs and large-facility UPSs.

In 2013, Guelph Water Services had
already started on a project to standard-
ize the typical UPS units it uses. For
PLC panels, a standardized 1,500-VA
UPS from a reputable manufacturer was
selected, so only one set of spare units
and spare batteries had to be stocked.
For larger UPS units, the utility selected

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2018 © American Water Works Association
Using a new power status screen, Guelph Water Services’ staff can quickly
see the power status of any of the utility’s 30 remote facilities at any time.

units that closely matched individual site large-facility UPS units, the city installed Ethernet-to-Ethernet protocol converter
requirements while ensuring appropriate the corresponding Ethernet network module, as shown in the photo on page
vendor-support agreements were in place. cards. The city avoided using serial pro- 30. The city selected a device for this
tocols and relay-based UPS interfaces to role from among several modules avail-
UPS COMMUNICATIONS ensure each UPS would have a built-in able on the market and used the device
Part of the UPS selection process was diagnostic webpage accessible for trou- to convert the SNMP protocol’s object
to go with enterprise-grade UPS units. bleshooting via the SCADA network. identifiers into Modbus holding registers
This meant ensuring each UPS would Connecting the UPSs to the SCADA that could be read by the SCADA system.
have certain core technical features, system posed some challenges. The origi- The device also provided a web-based
including the ability to add a network nal plan was to connect using the Modbus setup utility that used XML configura-
communications card. The city went with TCP protocol, as the city already had a tion files that can be readily uploaded or
an Ethernet UPS network card that lever- Modbus driver installed in its SCADA soft- downloaded via its web interface.
ages the existing SCADA network, uses ware. However, the UPS network cards’
standardized Ethernet-based protocols, Modbus interface didn’t include all the sta- USING THE UPS DATA
and allows access to a diagnostic web- tus monitoring points desired. Instead, the Once the city could read the UPS status
page for each UPS. city elected to use simple network man- data into the SCADA system, the next
For the PLC-panel UPSs, the city agement protocol (SNMP), a widely used step was to put the data into a format
selected units with advanced network communications protocol from the IT sec- that could be used by the operations
management capabilities based on tor. All the city’s UPS units, including the team. This was accomplished by design-
the number of existing UPS units and PLC-panel UPSs and the large-facility UPSs, ing a power status screen that provided
available technical features. A compari- also supported the SNMP protocol. power feed, generator, automatic transfer
son of UPS vendors will show product Because SCADA systems don’t readily switch, and UPS status for all sites on one
lines offering similar configurations. For speak SNMP, the city used a centralized human-machine interface (HMI) screen. April 2018 Opflow 29

2018 © American Water Works Association
Process Control

Uninterruptible power supplies (foreground) are used to A protocol converter module is used to
keep programmable logic controllers online during short interface the SCADA system to the UPS
power interruptions and when on-site generators start. network cards via Ethernet.

The intent was to have a single HMI runtime for the PLC panel UPS units, in unnecessary site visits have been elim-
screen that operators could use to get an particular, has proved to be an extremely inated. The UPS unit in the PLC panel
overview of the power status across the useful tool for Guelph Water Services. always keeps each water tower’s level
entire water utility at a glance. Part of this Since most of the utility’s remote water measurement online. Additionally, for
screen is shown in the figure on page 28. facilities use live water tower level read- sites with large pumps that the PLC has
The screen features a standardized ings to automatically start and stop automatically shut down because of a
status row for each site. Each status row pumps, maintaining power to the PLC power outage, the operators can see if
shows the site’s overall power status; if panel and communications at the water there’s enough UPS runtime left for the
there’s an automatic or manual trans- towers is vital. Hence, it’s important for PLC to seamlessly restart the station once
fer switch (ATS or MTS) fitted; the type the operations team to know the power power is restored.
and status of on-site generator, if one status for these facilities. Using the SCADA system’s new power
is present; the status of power feeding Now that operators have real-time status screen, operators can quickly see
the PLC panel; the status of any UPSs data about the power status and num- the power status of any of Guelph Water
on-site; the percent of battery left; and ber of minutes of UPS battery runtime Services’ 30 remote facilities at any time.
remaining UPS runtime. An on-screen left for each water tower, they no lon- The screen is available at all SCADA ter-
legend is provided for reading the com- ger have to immediately visit each water minals and is now used extensively
pactly arranged UPS status indicators. tower after a power disruption. Armed whenever storms or other problems affect
Also, if legacy equipment is used (e.g., with detailed information about how the power feeds to the utility’s facilities.
older stand-alone ATS units) that isn’t yet much UPS runtime is left at a site, oper- Equipped with this knowledge, the oper-
monitored by SCADA, this information is ators can now decide if (and when) a site ations team can make better decisions
also provided to operators. needs to be visited or not. based on real-time data as to which sites
The ability to remotely read the Moreover, because many power out- to visit, including when and in what
real-time battery status and remaining ages are often 5 minutes or less, many order, during a power interruption.

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2018 © American Water Works Association