The purpose of a pipeline Operator Training System (OTS) is to train operators in an offline environment, while giving the look and feel of real-world operations. The problem with many OTS’s is that, while some aspects of pipeline operation are covered, it can be very challenging to simulate other parts in an effective manner. Real-world pipeline operations encompass many “moving parts” that are often ignored or highly simplified in an OTS, but the inclusion of these parts can vastly improve the training experience. The integration of these many parts poses unique challenges in the design of the pipeline simulation as well as the operation of the simulator. This paper will discuss the challenges and solutions found during the development of an OTS that integrates liquid and gas pipeline operation, pump station power plant startup, PLC control, and power distribution management models. These models were integrated in such a way as to give an operator fully comprehensive training on every aspect of the real-world system included in their operating responsibility.

Introduction and Background

An Operator Training System (OTS), also called an Operator Training Simulator, is an offline system that dynamically simulates real world processes. The most realistic platform of an OTS is one in which the simulation of real world processes is integrated with a stand-alone copy of the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system or Distributed Control System (DCS) that is used in the pipeline control room. This OTS platform allows for training of new operators, retraining existing operators, testing out new operating procedures, validating control logic or PLC logic prior to commissioning, etc. It can also be used for offline engineering analysis and calculations that allow for efficiency improvements or in-depth studies into how equipment modifications may affect the system. OTSs are commonly found in industrial processes such as plant or pipeline operations.

Often the scope of an OTS is limited or simplified due to the complexity in modeling real world systems and the extra time and effort required to implement a full-scope simulation outweighs the added benefit derived by those using the system. On the other hand, with advances in computing and OTS conception, very complex systems can be modeled that give the look and feel of a real-world system such that operators training on them may find them difficult to distinguish from the online system, providing a seamless transition from OTS to real world operation. As with all engineering considerations, there are tradeoffs that must be balanced and compared with the end goal of the training system in mind.

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