The Barcelona-El Prat International Airport

Together with the port of Barcelona and the city’s Zona Franca area, serves as a vital hub for the region’s economy and is integral to tourism in the region. Recorded airport traffic is around 29,209,595 passengers, 277,832 operations and 104,280 tons of cargo.

The Barcelona-El Prat International Airport

Over 10 years of expansion, the Barcelona Airport standardized on AVEVA software, achieving an integrated, reliable and cost-efficient control architecture that enables safe operations plus scalability for future growth.


  • Develop an integrated and centralized control platform to accommodate expansion for the airport, which would triple in size.
  • Ensure that the new platform in Barcelona would be replicable across the other airports in the Spanish Airports and Air Navigation (AENA) system.
  • Find a way to integrate, manage, and optimise processes and systems coming from multiple vendors.


  • Airport control systems handle thousands of signals simultaneously and present this information simply and in context to enable operators to quickly and accurately interpret it.
  • The existing control platform required operators to learn up to 20 different technologies and tools, so training was difficult, operations were not smooth, stress was high and costs were rising.


  • The AVEVA solution controls the processes throughout the airport that manage the terminal building, cooling and heating power plant, as well as auxiliary buildings for luggage transport.
  • The system, which originally managed 35,000 signals, now handles 700,000 inputs through 80 servers that make up five control environments. In the final phase, signals are expected to increase to nearly one million.

In passenger count, AENA is the world’s leading airport operator with about 200 million passengers per year. To modernize the airport and prepare for future demands, major improvements to infrastructure and services have been made, including the construction of a new T1 terminal and a new runway.

Barcelona, Spain – Spanish Airports and Air Navigation (AENA) is a public company in charge of civil air navigation and airports in Spain. Its subsidiary, AENA Aeropuertos SA, manages 47 airports and two heliports in Spain and participates directly in the management of 28 other terminals throughout the world. 

To modernize the airport and prepare for future demands, major improvements to infrastructure and services have been made, including the construction of a new T1 terminal and a new runway. The aim is to turn Barcelona-El Prat into an essential European hub and a premier airport for southern Europe. To ensure this goal, plans also include a new satellite building, four additional boarding gates, an intermodal area, jetways, a luggage transportation management plant, service and evacuation galleries, as well as the refurbishment of the T2 terminal.

In 2000, 15 to 20 integrators were engaged in supporting the airport control systems.

Each vendor implemented a separate solution, resulting in a multiplicity of technologies. The airport’s operators had to learn all of these different tools, which made it practically impossible for the facility to function smoothly. Personnel were under high stress. Management and workers were concerned that they would not be able to respond appropriately to incidents.

The budget was under pressure too. Contracts with multiple suppliers meant that maintenance costs were increasing. Plus, additional training was required to teach the staff the unique signal logistics for the proprietary systems from the various manufacturers’ solutions. 

The previous control system structure also created lags in response time and in resolving incidents.

An integrator explains, “To control lighting the building, information would appear on a screen in the power control room and different data would be seen in the engineering room. This prevented handling the processes in a simple manner. It was also difficult to address other issues such as the environmental impact.”

Although appropriate attention was paid to all incidents, another integrator added, “We had to analyse each subsystem to understand where a malfunction was located, which inevitably slowed down response times.”

Barcelona-El Prat Airport had reached a critical point. Another integrator stated it clearly, “It was necessary to standardize communications and automation in order to create a control environment that was worthy of a large infrastructure like this.” 

Management searched the market for a solution. They wanted a control architecture that would provide:

  • A single platform to unite the control systems of the existing facilities and the future expansions
  • Reliability to support efficient and safe airport operations, as well as avoid downtime in airport services
  • Scalability to handle the addition of a second large terminal building and integrate the annex buildings and other systems into one infrastructure
  • Economy to meet the budget restrictions of a public project

When considering their goals and plans for expansion, the choice for AENA was AVEVA software. It met management’s criteria, plus it offered the only non-proprietary solution, providing a better alternative to disparate systems and the high costs, as well as address operator challenges the airport had experienced in the past.

Planning and Enforcing the Rules

Advance planning of the control system design and the specific features of the AVEVA software came together to help AENA meet their objectives. 

The design stage began with the goal of making the change in technology, and also to take advantage of the AVEVA software’s strengths by developing a new engineering routine. Each new device would be integrated into the AVEVA System Platform based on a set of common rules, and each supplier who was awarded a contract would be required to conform to these rules.

A data template was created for each element to be deployed in the terminal and each process that would connect to the airport’s SCADA system. AVEVA enabled these objects and templates to be easily replicated, and soon AENA had a library that helped them to connect all field devices in a standardised manner. 

According to the lead integrators and AENA, the project marks a change in how control systems are developed in Spain’s airport sector

The AVEVA-based system overcomes two key challenges including avoiding duplication of engineering and, since the objects in the design have been pre-validated, their proper functioning is assured, which adds up to new facilities that can operate successfully.

So despite having multiple companies working on multiple projects, uniformity, full connectivity and efficiency was achieved, as well as significant cost savings.


No matter the brand of the PLC or which supplier was installing it, it had a common interface to the system as defined in the overall plan.

While the control systems operated discreetly at lower levels, at the SCADA level, processes were categorised and standardised. Since each vendor followed the contract specifications, the system integrated successfully. 

Barcelona El Prat Airport

AENA created a Smart City solution at the Barcelona El Prat Airport that boasts a dynamic, high-functioning, reliable and secure infrastructure.


Five Stages to Optimised Management

The first project was to integrate the building control systems in the existing T2 terminal. The 35,000 signals in the lighting, climate control, passenger transport systems, and entrances were brought over to the AVEVA platform. Next, the control systems were integrated for services that would support the future T1 terminal. These included the fire brigade, civil guard, waste facilities, water control and pumping, and other systems. With the addition of these signals, the AVEVA software was now helping AENA manage 80,000 total signals.

At this point, the monitoring infrastructure of the airport’s power plants were also integrated, and now it was time for the third project groundbreaking: the deployment of the infrastructure for the newly constructed T1 terminal. This comprehensive, three-year project involved  special challenges for the AENA team. They had to direct the many public sector contractors to work together and implement the new engineering routines and rules established at the beginning of the initiative. “If we had not decided from the beginning to create routines for each of the developments in order to be coupled naturally to AVEVA, we would have found ourselves in precisely the situation that we had wanted to avoid,” said Jordi Asensi, Head of Systems and Database Management at AENA Barcelona Airport.

How did they do it?

Prior to the construction of the terminal, processes were validated in  the department responsible for defining user requirements, interface, and design. Models were also tested to verify proper operation. Once the building was constructed and the field systems and control environment were deployed, an independent company tested each system on site. At the end of the T1 project, 200,000 signals were added to the 80,000 existing ones.

The fourth project integrated the Automated Luggage Transport System (SATE), which included software to manage luggage movement, delivery, and incident warning. By connecting SATE to AVEVA, Asensi says the airport has one of the lowest lost-luggage rates in Europe.

The final project integrated the New Terminal Area Power Plant (CENAT). This plant powers the airport and is the first facility to use AENA’s “airport model.” The company has set this standard for specific situations and platforms based on the Model View functions of System Platform.

Finally, in late 2010, the structure of the Energy Control System (SCE) was redesigned to bring together all of the electrical control systems into a single control point. This unified the controls for four separate power plants, including associated environmental monitoring for each such as measuring groundwater levels or pumping systems using Archimedean screws to stabilise a portion of the runway built over a lagoon.

With the completion of these projects, the new system is managing 700,000 signals through 80 servers that make up five control environments. 

1,500,000 Signals and Counting

The control environment for the Barcelona-El Prat Airport includes extensive operations systems. Once the full expansion is complete, the system will handle approximately two million signals.

Building Management Systems at Terminal 1 and Terminal 2

  • Passenger transport including escalators, elevators, conveyor belts, and entrances
  • Lighting
  • Air conditioning
  • Fire safety
  • Low voltage

Flight Operations Support

  • Time register of planes at jet ways for subsequent billing

Control and Monitoring of Terminal Annex Services

  • Police station and fire brigade
  • Waste management
  • Water control (groundwater level management)

Power Plant Management

  • CELT: earth-side power plant
  • CELA: air-side power plant
  • CENAT: new terminal area power plant
  • CEREM: Plant located in protected El Remolar area
  • CEN: Cooling and heating power plant integrated into T1

Luggage Handling

  • Monitoring support of Automated Luggage Transport System (SATE)


A Benchmark for Automated Building Projects

The AVEVA technology in Terminal 1 processes a multitude of signals across the many processes in operation, including:

Climate: 33 technical climate rooms, 1,000 fan coil units, and 650 fans. The system handles aspects ranging from the generation of cooling and heating to subsequent distribution, controlling all elements including cooling towers, air conditioning rooms, valves, fan coil units, room controls, etc.

Mechanical Transport:  250 items such as escalators, ramps, elevators, moving walkways, etc.

Plumbing and Sanitation:  247 items corresponding to wells and pumps, as well as motorised infiltrations, deposits, pressure group, and valves.

Lighting:  10,000 regulators, sensors, lines and other items are supervised in all terminal areas. In addition, AVEVA technology helps to manage the facility’s lighting output.

Pneumatic Waste System: Waste room and distributed containers that enable automatic selective waste collection at the terminal. Waste is carried through pipes by a vacuum system to a discharge point where it is collected and transported by trucks for further treatment.

Low Voltage:  26 transformation centers which include 300 panels that can be fully modified within the system and have control priority. In addition, 1,300 secondary panels each containing one of the processes for the terminal’s power input, which includes uninterruptible power systems (UPS).

Fire Detection: With 30,000 controlled items (detectors, CCFs, etc.), this is a unique system because of its high specificity. It reports real-time information on fire-risk locations at the control centre, significantly reducing response times and directing operators to precise alarm locations.

“You can find out where there is a possible fire in two clicks,” notes Oscar Saco of Abantia Sistemas & Telecom.


The Benefits of a Single Control Environment

After 10 years of work, the control environment of the airport is almost completely integrated, and AENA’s commitment to AVEVA software as their standard for handling the 47 airports they operate in Spain is stronger than ever.

A Unified AVEVA Platform

According to the AENA team, the most outstanding benefit so far is that the solution enables them to manage a large number of processes in an integrated and simultaneous manner under a single platform – even with so many devices and signals with distinct technological languages.

Technical Highlights: AENA feels the architecture of the T1 monitoring systems is especially outstanding because of its structural logic, robustness and transparency. It consists of a development server and 19 other servers running System Platform. Of these, one acts as a repository running Historian software and containing the full configuration for all servers. The remaining servers are structured around four pairs of redundant object servers that contain the logic for each of the infrastructure management parts, three pairs of independent communications servers that communicate with field PLCs, and two pairs of terminal servers, which are redundant servers with InTouch HMI that allow clients to connect and use applications.

The airport has two data processing centers that are geographically separated. Redundant servers are located in each of these centers and connected through the fiber optic network. In the event of a power failure in one center, the other takes over. The only server that is not redundant, the repository, uses SAN technology to continuously replicate its disk arrays locally and remotely. So if this server fails, the disks have a hot back up or distance mirror.

The integrators used the AVEVA software to create a special object to address potential conflicts in this redundant system.

Called “control of communications,” it continuously assesses all elements in a particular process and makes decisions based on the data, communicating the optimal path for all objects that operate through it. In this way, it avoids loading the system by defining communications paths in a more organised manner.

An important safety aspect is the connection between the monitoring system and the closed circuit TV system. When there is an alarm, the AVEVA software enables operators in the control center to see images and locations of incidents, so they can quickly make accurate decisions to resolve the situation. Despite the independence of the two systems, they are integrated perfectly.

"It would be impossible to have the management model we have today with other solutions,” says Asensi. “The centralization offered by AVEVA technology is essential. It allows us to respond to incidents rapidly and be proactive in making process improvements, because now we have real-time unified information available to us for analysis.”

In the same vein, integrators EMTE Sistemas and Abantia Sistemas & Telecom agree that – despite the complexity of managing the facilities – there is a fluid control dynamic.

“Now, all terminals are handled within a common environment. Each system below still works with the logic of its systems, but AVEVA has created an extraction and intercommunication layer that makes it possible to handle a great number of signals in a unified manner,” they state.

Open Architecture

From the business management perspective, Asensi reiterates the AVEVA solution’s open architecture – “We are free to contract maintenance services for the control platform to any company specializing in AVEVA solutions.”

Since AVEVA has a network of 170 system integrators in Spain, many of whom specialise in serving large facilities, AENA can set out competitive criteria for potential vendors.

Reliable, Real-Time Data Prompts Continuous Improvement

Rafael Cortés of EMTE Sistemas, the integrator responsible for maintaining the control platform, cites a positive effect of the solution between the airport departments. He says, “After T2, when additional application integration began, there was significant demand for capabilities that had not originally been planned, such as environmental management. Graphs and historical reports, for example, were highly valued tools. AVEVA prompted an internal process of continuous improvement that still remains alive today.”

Another significant benefit is that department heads now have access to overall process information. “The data was separated before and it was difficult to understand and respond to an incident. We were more reactive and it was a more unstable infrastructure. Now, the system provides the reliability that is required of an airport in the class of Barcelona, which is considered to be among the best in the world.”

Central Alarm Management

The software also provides real-time distributed alarm management through an alarm filter in each facility. “For an airport, it is impossible to think of central alarm management, although this is the most common way to handle alarms by the majority of commercially available technologies. If a serious event occurs, there is a flood of alarm information. AVEVA provides an alarm absorption, management, and distribution system that helps us to manage a huge number of events, even thousands of alarms in seconds,” explains Rafael Cortés of EMTE Sistemas.

Ease of Use, Flexibility for Changes, Reduced Development Costs

The solution’s templates and objects have significantly streamlined engineering efforts throughout the project, according to Oscar Saco of integrator Abantia Sistemas & Telecom. “In the design stage, templates were defined above each group of objects, covering up to four levels and allowing for changes without modifying each element. Template scripts defined behavior for all objects, so system modifications can be made safely and easily. Navigation is hierarchical by area, plant, and facilities, even covering highly detailed facilities within each zone. In addition, all communications with PLCs and servers are performed in real time, as is the creation of graphics requested by users. A search tool facilitates the location of objects.”

Carlos Rivas of EMTE Sistemas agrees. “Without AVEVA, it definitely would have been more difficult to obtain the level of integration that we have today. It ensures a process, for whichever airport, is handled in the same way and avoids duplication of work.”

Jordi Oliva of integrator Abantia Sistemas & Telecom adds that the models, templates and objects have “significantly reduced development costs and subsequent maintenance, while at the same time fully ensuring the integration of all operations.” 

Scalability and Compatibility

Beginning in 2000 with InTouch HMI, and over the course of the expansion project, AENA has migrated from Application Server and now to System Platform. Each new technology release supported the advancement of the airport project.

Continuing High Efficiency and Progress

Today, AENA is achieving operations excellence and the Barcelona-El Prat airport boasts a dynamic, high-functioning infrastructure. Approximately 15 systems integrators work simultaneously within a completely standardised process. The airport has 30 licenses for concurrent  operators, although they explain that the infrastructure can be managed “with only eight operators in non-peak hours.”

About 30 live projects are currently underway, including the integration of the Beacon Presentation Command System (SMPB) which will manage the runway lights, a platform control tower, and the construction of a new satellite terminal. All told, when the projects are finalised, nearly one million signals will be controlled under the unified platform. With AVEVA technology and the vision and teamwork of numerous executives and integrators, the Barcelona-El Prat airport is one of the most modern projects for AENA to date.

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