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Technological integration: The next big thing for refineries
Remotely-located refineries benefit from automation
Better predictive analysis, reduced downtime and maximized production
“In the past, refineries would detect a problem and then react to it,” says Doug White, director of global refining solutions at Emerson Process Management in Houston. “Now they try to predict early and respond before it happens.”
This is the time for companies in the oil and gas industry to look at their systems, processes, technology, and equipment that need to be upgraded and integrated, to boost efficiency in the field and at the refinery.
The evolution of smart instrumentation transformed the concept of automation in the process industries decades ago. With continuously increasing competition, refineries are finding it vital to make automation smarter and take it to the next level. Smart refineries are no longer a vision of the future, but the need of the hour. This can be viewed by engineers as a market opportunity to tap on.
Engineering firms have a vital role to play in refinery implementation. It is important for engineers to be on top of such trends to provide the latest offerings to their clients.
Engineers help in the following phases of smart refinery implementation
2. Managing the entire procurement lifecycle of smart automation systems comprising requisitioning, evaluating technical bids and drawing vendor reviews.
3. Generating deliverables which is the foundation for implementing smart automation systems throughout the project.
4. Conducting studies and workshops for alarm rationalization and then setting the alarm priorities to implement the automation systems.
Electronics and electrical engineers can help with wireless instrumentations, vibration monitoring, monitoring process parameters like temperature, pressure, flow on lines within the battery limits of the process units.
With Engineer Loans or Business Loans, engineers and companies can easily setup a smart refinery and cash on the prevailing wave of smart automation. Engineers can provide solutions and consultation to businesses and implement automation systems in their refineries. Additional Read:
Regardless of location, most oil and gas companies face issues that make it difficult for them to achieve sustained production efficiency and profitability. They pertain to:
-Challenging operating environment
The increasing volume and complexity in hostile and remote locations (such as arctic, deepwater, and offshore) require reliable remote automated or semi-automated operations, and logistics optimised for efficiency. Mature assets with declining production need effective maintenance schedules to keep production profitable.
Ensuring zero tolerance for health and safety incidents is a non-negotiable imperative. In the current highly regulated environment, such incidents not only threaten profitability but also the very existence of an operator. Automated production control, monitoring equipment condition, and predictive shut-down systems are now the basic essentials to preventing and mitigating catastrophic incidents.
The industry is in its most dramatic demographic shift, commonly referred to as “the big crew change”. Thousands of petrotechnical professionals will be retiring, resulting in a knowledge and an experience crisis. With retention and recruitment unlikely to bridge this gap fully, it is only important to codify many routine analyses and decision-support processes, and where possible, automate them. This reduces employee dependency and errors.
Today, the need for automation systems is not limited to control, monitoring and safety of the plant. Smart automation systems are an amalgamation of smart engineering, smart operations and smart maintenance that make refineries more efficient and safe. This is where electrical engineers play a part.
Some of the smart applications in automation systems for refineries include:
In alarm flooding, more alarms than a human operator can effectively respond to, go off. In such situations, alarm rationalisation and alarm priorities become crucial. Alarm management, an application of human factor engineering in automation systems, enables operators to handle abnormalities efficiently and reduce plant shutdowns and equipment damage.
Advance process control applications enable multiple features like multi-variable predictive control, optimised tuning of proportional integral derivative (PID) controllers and dynamic feed forward control. These improve efficiency and thus, the levels of production and operational excellence.
Open platform communication entails real-time communication of plant data between different systems. It helps in integrating discrete automation systems with a centralised system, including alarms and events from systems of different machines.
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Implementing a state-of-the-art smart instrumentation and automation system is critical in making the refining industry safe, reliable, profitable, predictable and environmentally friendly. It adds features like increased diagnostic data, better predictive maintenance capabilities, reduced commissioning time and more. The operational advantages are:
Maximising throughput is the ultimate goal of all refineries. And smart automation helps in bringing down wastes in the processes, predicting production profiles, and stabilising production. The systems aid operators in making advanced calculations easily, enabling the fine tuning and early stabilisation of processes.
The failure of rotating equipment like pumps, motors, and compressors can severely affect production in any plant. This calls for resorting to predictive maintenance instead of reactive maintenance. Advanced smart sensors and health monitoring systems for heavy duty machines are key to carrying out predictive maintenance, and thereby, reducing the probability of an unexpected shutdown.
Energy efficiency is directly proportional to high profitability. One of the highest expenses in a refinery, energy constitutes up to 40 percent of the running costs. Smart process designs compounded with smart automation systems aid in conserving energy, reusing energy or utilising waste to generate energy.
The Petropiar refinery (Chevron/PDVSA joint venture) in Mejorador Jose, Barcelona, Venezuela, installed predictive management software which resulted in a documented financial benefit at the refinery of USD 70 million, during a 2-year period. It reduced Petropiar’s pre-commissioning and commissioning time by 40%, lost profit opportunities caused by instrument faults by 60%, and eliminated 95% of problem-causing components.
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