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Midstream

Close Process of the Future

Brian Sowell, Product Director, Quorum Measurement

In my 20 year career with Quorum, I have been solely focused on designing, implementing, and supporting measurement systems across North America. Every project I have been involved with always has had challenges centered on the ability of two departments to effectively share important information. These two departments, measurement and accounting, both have critical roles in the process of turning measured volumes into correctly accounted for contract settlements. At Quorum Software, with the acquisition of FLOWCAL, we have solved these challenges by tearing down the data and departmental silos through integrated market-leading software. Through the “Close Process of the Future,” we have given our customers the tools to increase confidence and improve efficiency from the moment a meter is added through validating the volumes all the way through the allocations in TIPS.

FLOWCAL by Quorum Software was built over 25 years ago and focuses on solving key challenges around growing and disparate data sources consisting of incomplete and inaccurate measurement. The core functionality addressing these challenges consists of consolidation, validation, industry-standard calculations, and reporting. FLOWCAL has become the most supported measurement system by the industry with vast integration from SCADA, polling systems, flow computers, and laboratories. With additional functionality centering on liquids and growing the customer base to well over 300 customers, FLOWCAL is the leading oil and gas measurement software.

Stacey Hensley, Senior Product Manager, Quorum Midstream

Throughout my 18 year career in the gas processing industry – I had the opportunity to work for and with some of the largest Midstream operators in North America in a variety of roles. I have closed plants, supervised accountants, trained users, worked with counterparties, and worked on Midstream implementations and upgrades. I was excited to join Quorum five years ago and lead the future of an application that I’ve seen drive continuous innovation and increased efficiency throughout this industry for over two decades. In my roles at Quorum, I have led new implementations, upgrade projects, and I am now the product manager for TIPS. The relationship between TIPS and a measurement system is vital to accurate accounting. TIPS has been the trusted, gold-standard Midstream solution for companies big and small for more than a decade. That’s why when Quorum acquired FLOWCAL last year, we started thinking about how to integrate TIPS with FLOWCAL to fully remove any data silos.

Understanding the Measurement and Accounting Processes and Roles

The primary goal of FLOWCAL is to take physically measured transactional data and provide it to the accounting system after it is complete and correct. Determination of what is missing or suspect requires extensive validation and balancing tools. The next step is correcting the anomalies, which requires industry-supported calculations. These are the key components of FLOWCAL and what the measurement analyst and the technician require in monthly processing.

Typically a measurement department will have an end-of-month closing activity where all the transactional measurement and meters required by the commercial system are re-validated then marked as measurement ready/closed. During the days of closing activities, measurement analysts and technicians are performing the following tasks:

  • Investigating root cause of exceptions identified by validations
  • Editing measurement data where required
  • Finding and fixing missing information
  • Validating that new meters are configured and receiving data appropriately
  • Ensuring that the physical balance is within tolerance

While the typical measurement closing group is performed by asset or analyst, I have seen many other variations on this, which is why FLOWCAL allows this to be configurable. In many cases, it takes multiple groups to close before all meters under the plant are ready for the next step.

The primary goal of myQuorum TIPS is to allow the user a seamless experience, whether you are an operator, external shipper, or plant accountant. The myQuorum TIPS dashboard puts the monthly close process at the user’s fingertips. The starting point for any activities in TIPS is the measurement information. The future of myQuorum is to fully integrate measurement and plant accounting into a single user experience.

Challenges around Non-Integrated Systems

We have been involved with many customers that had to overcome the challenges that exist in a legacy approach to data sharing. These challenges often show up during the worst times for either the measurement group or the accounting group and cause unnecessary stress, realignment of resources, and coordination of vendors to find the root cause of an issue and correct the problem in time for the close to complete. Many times these issues are resolved after the closing processes, which introduces the costly prior period adjustment process.

The most common challenges we have encountered center around incomplete measurement data for the plant accountant. Incomplete measurement often falls into these areas:

  • Measurement has segmented the plant into multiple closing groups, and the plant accountant has no insight into the progress being made by the measurement group and also does not know when the final closing group for the plant has been finalized by measurement.
  • Measurement and operations have connected a new meter that has been flowing during the month. Accounting was not made aware of this new connect due to a failed business process, letting them know that the new meter needed to be configured in the accounting system.
  • The fragile file-based transfer of information fails, resulting in the measurement team believing they have completed their work while accounting processes with incomplete information.

As a plant accountant, doing a plant measurement balance is a manual process today. Typically the file is received from measurement, and reports are run in TIPS. The data has to be merged manually to do a true plant balance to ensure accounting and measurement match.

There is Hope – The Close Process of the Future

Removing departmental and data silos around the measurement closing process is key to alleviating a vast majority of the challenges inflicted by antiquated data sharing methods. The primary method to solving this problem is to implement tighter integration that only a single vendor can provide. Event-driven API-supported integration allows for critical information to immediately be made available in the downstream system as soon as it is complete, correct and closed by measurement.

But it isn’t all about just improving the process of interfacing data. It is also about providing visibility from one department into the other department’s progress. With myQuorum TIPS and FLOWCAL by Quorum Software, we give greater insight to each department at the most critical times of the month. The plant accountant can leverage widgets designed to give them a real-time view as to the progress of the measurement close for their plant. Additional widgets provide notifications and information for newly connected meters. And finally, they can view the physical measurement balance from the system designed to perform this, FLOWCAL. Our vision is to provide our customers a widget that would show this information that was being handled manually outside the two systems.

Final Thoughts

Without core integration and the removal of data silos, other vendors have to rely on cumbersome and fragile business processes and restrictions to have even a chance at success. With FLOWCAL by Quorum Software and myQuorum TIPS, gone are the days of hoping both departments have what they need and follow the right steps to avoid costly rework.