Automating Blowout Preventer Testing With CompactRIO and LabVIEW

John Amstadt, Erdos Miller

"Using NI’s hardware and software components, we could include both the reliability of an industrial-grade operating system and a familiar Windows functionality. As we know, not all clients are the same, and for similar projects written in C, our experience tells us that development time would be 2–4 times as long as development with LabVIEW."

- John Amstadt, Erdos Miller

The Challenge:

Engenuity Inc. needed to design an accurate, repeatable way to test blowout preventers (BOPs) for leaks, which required the development of a real-time control and DAQ application for a fully automated, high-pressure, linear piston pumping and testing unit called the BOPX EZ Test System.

The Solution:

Engenuity chose Erdos Miller to develop automated software that consisted of two core components: a program running on a real-time CompactRIO Controller, which ran the LabVIEW pressure control algorithm developed and coded by Engenuity, and a LabVIEW application running on a Windows PC communicating with the CompactRIO to record pressure and generate custom reports.


Erdos Miller is a team of electrical, software, and mechanical engineers. The team also includes Certified LabVIEW Developers and Certified LabVIEW Architects. We specialize in turnkey electronic device development, process control, and automation for oil and gas, agriculture, and medical industries. We have been an NI Silver Alliance Partner and an embedded specialty partner since 2012. Our experience in developing oil and gas applications for OEMs, specifically down-hole drilling technologies, provide customers like Engenuity Inc. the confidence to select our company to develop testing automation applications.


Automating the BOP Testing Process

Engenuity challenged us to develop an automated control and data application to test blowout preventers (BOPs). Prior to engaging our services, Engenuity was in the process of internally developing the future BOPX EZ Test System. Their goal was to produce a BOP test system that was fully automated, and therefore would provide consistent, repeatable performance devoid of human error. Achieving fully automated BOP testing would be a significant improvement over the typical manual testing utilized within the industry. Manual testing relies on the integrity and ability of the test technicians, which makes the tests subjective and difficult to verify. The automated BOPX EZ Test System removes the influence of the technician, resulting in a consistent and verifiable BOP test.



Engenuity’s development team engaged Erdos Miller to automate the entire BOP test system, leaving Engenuity free to focus on developing the control algorithm. Users would be able to select the test that matched their specific application setup from a screen, and then direct the test to complete and provide reports. This would significantly reduce the time and money required to perform a BOP test.


We developed an automated system that combined two pieces of software for the BOPX EZ Test system. The first program uses a CompactRIO Controller, which runs the control algorithm created by Engenuity, records pressure, and uses the test parameters to test a BOP. The second program runs on Windows, takes the recorded pressure, and generates reports. Two related components of the solution were BOPX EZ Build and EZ Chart. EZ Build was created by DaqIO, an affiliate of Erdos Miller. Users can create a visual piping and instrumentation diagram and generate test parameters as well as valve configurations, which they can then import into EZ Test. EZ Chart is a subset of the EZ Test solution, which lets a customer utilize the report generation and data logging capability of the EZ Test software with third-party pump systems.


The setup would ultimately make for a leading solution that saves time and money while making drilling easier and safer. Engenuity’s automated control removes the human factor that can produce inaccurate tests, which leads to more accurate and valid BOP tests.


How It Works

Upon arrival at a typical onshore drilling rig, the BOPX EZ Test System connects to the choke manifold or the BOP. The EZ Test software is then configured to determine which valves on the manifold and BOP need to be opened and closed. The automated system uses the real-time functionality of the CompactRIO Controller to initiate the test, precisely control the pressure throughout the test, and collect the pertinent BOP test variables. Operators also receive instant data to identify both immediate and gradual leaks.



Competitive Advantage of Using NI Hardware and Software

We used the LabVIEW Real-Time Module, the LabVIEW FPGA Module, and the CompactRIO Controller. The CompactRIO’s flexibility and modularity is unrivaled, and LabVIEW helped us achieve an extremely short development timeline.



We took advantage of the CompactRIO Controller to quickly and efficiently develop the new build of BOPX EZ Test. Using the off-the-shelf industrial grade CompactRIO Controller helped the client to maintain their investment in existing hardware and integrate the new system. The NI ecosystem helped us shorten our time to market by providing ready-made and battle-tested drivers and libraries. As a result, we could later add Object Linking and Embedding for Process Control (OPC) support to extend the existing functionality and remotely monitor the software.


Using NI’s hardware and software components, we could also include both the reliability of an industrial-grade operating system and a familiar Windows functionality. As we know, not all clients are the same, and for similar projects written in C, our experience tells us that development time would be 2–4 times as long as development with LabVIEW.


Solution Benefits

Other measurable benefits of using NI hardware and software to build the automated software for Engenuity’s BOP test solution included:

  • Ability to precisely measure the pressure and volume changes (the system now records volume changes within the BOP as small as 1 cc)
  • Ability to use the gathered data for predictive maintenance
  • Provision of code ownership to the client
  • Ability to develop source code in LabVIEW to create the EZ Press algorithm used with the BOPX hardware in the EZ Test software



Our ability to precisely measure pressure is a result of both Engenuity’s BOPX hardware and the NI-9219. The NI-9219 provides noise reduction and the A/D converter resolution necessary to make precise pressure rate-of-change (ROC) measurements. By having those precise measurements along with more repeatable test procedures, we can trust our data more. Predictive maintenance therefore has a much higher level of efficacy as we can use the data to develop a trend by charting ROC across multiple tests. That information helps to identify potential failures before they become significant, which reduces downtime and costly online repairs.



Additional Benefits

By adding automation capabilities to an existing hardware device, the customer could also comply with the Well Control Rule of 2016. The rule determines the minimum baseline requirements for the design, manufacture, repair, and maintenance of BOPs. The new solution helped Engenuity’s customers fulfill the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s BOP failure data reporting requirements.




Extending the Solution

To extend the application, an Engenuity client and a major international oil company wanted to add functionality for remote operation of their BOPX EZ Test System. We worked with the client to add OPC support to enable remote operation. Once the system was integrated into OPC, the client’s OPC server would communicate with our software and translate that information into custom software based on Wellsite Information Transfer Standard Markup Language (WITSML). From there engineers could view the results of BOP tests from anywhere in the world, requiring less human resources on the rig and aiding in rig remote operations.


Engenuity plans to have Erdos Miller further develop this system and offer an out-of-the-box remote control system available to all customers.


Author Information:

John Amstadt
Erdos Miller

Figure 1. 3D Model of the Tri-Cylinder Pumps
Figure 2. EZ Chart System
Figure 3. BOPX Truck Unit Utilizes the BOPX EZ Test Interface and Control Software