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.


LBarcelona, Spain – Together with the port of Barcelona and the city’s Zona Franca area, the airport 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.

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. 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, jet ways, a luggage transportation management plant, service and evacuation galleries and the
refurbishment of the T2 terminal.


  • 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 AENA system

  • Find a way to integrate, manage and optimize processes and systems coming from multiple vendors


  • Airport control systems handle thousands of signals simultaneously; this information needed to be presented 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 Select solution controls the processes throughout the airport that manage the terminal building and cooling and heating power plant as well as auxiliary buildings for luggage transport; additional systems are being deployed

  • 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

“The centralization of operations with AVEVA Select helps manage
around 1,500,000 signals and is essential for a critical infrastructure.
We can now quickly respond to incidents and also be proactive in
optimizing management”

Jordi Asensi, Head of Systems and Database Management / AENA Barcelona Airport

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.” And, although appropriate attention was paid to all incidents, another integrator added, “We had to analyze 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 and 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 Select 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 and 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 Select 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 Select software’s strengths by developing a new engineering routine. Each new device would be integrated into the AVEVA Select 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 Select 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 standardized manner.

According to the lead integrators and AENA, the project marks a change in how control systems are developed in Spain’s airport sector, because it overcomes two key challenges: It avoids 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. This also resulted in 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. And while the control systems operated discretely at lower levels, at the SCADA level, processes were categorized and standardized. Since each vendor followed the contract specifications, the system integrated successfully.