Operational Performance Through Digital Transformation and Collaboration: A Real-World Case Study

Modern process plants are highly automated. A variety of technologies including distributed control systems (DCS), advanced process control (APC), safety instrumented systems (SIS), and emergency shutdown systems (ESD) help ensure reliable, safe and economic process operations. Indeed, the typical plant invests millions of dollars in acquiring such systems and maintaining them over a lifespan that can run into two or three decades.

However, plant owners cannot take a fit-and-forget approach to their process automation systems. Rather, these need to be managed astutely and supplemented appropriately to ensure that stable, safe, and economic process operations are not compromised, either when operation staffs are located on site or monitoring and managing a site from a remote location.

PETRONAS, the national oil & gas company of Malaysia, has embarked on a strategic initiative for Operational Excellence, Digitalization, and Remote Operations – codenamed PRIME (Predictive Revitalization of Instrument to Maximize Efficiency) Solutions. This initiative leverages the implementation of PAS PlantSuite Integrity across multiple sites in upstream oil and gas production operations. Responsibility for the development and realization of the PRIME program sits with the Operational Excellence (OE) department within the Upstream Center of Excellence (CoE) located at PETRONAS headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. The CoE provides the necessary expertise, strategic, operational and technical support by remotely monitoring and engaging with onsite/offsite staff at the various Upstream production sites.

PETRONAS completed a technological and commercial assessment to rank suppliers that could satisfy the PRIME objectives of improving the safety, reliability, and cost effectiveness of Upstream plant operations, including the provision of remote monitoring with comprehensive dashboards. With an eye toward expediting the implementation timeline by eliminating the need to deploy multiple point solutions and avoid potential data integration issues, a single-suite approach offered by PAS was a major plus point in the eventual selection of PlantState Integrity.

While the PRIME project and implementation of PlantSuite Integrity is still ongoing, PETRONAS is already seeing positive results. For example, at one plant, the new alarm management capability has led to an almost 90 percent reduction in alarm rates, with average alarms per hour per operator falling from 44.5 to 5.6. As well as a clear operator efficiency gain, PETRONAS executives appreciate that an effective alarm management system translates to a real reduction in process safety risk, as critical situations are far more likely to get priority for any necessary remedial action.

Also contributing to improved process safety is the marked reduction of unnecessary safety instrumented function (SIF) bypasses, which fell from 101 to just 7 at one offshore platform after the implementation. PRIME also facilitates the Bypass Governance Model, which PETRONAS Upstream has introduced to provide a procedural rather than the previously somewhat ad hoc approach to activating, monitoring, and deactivating safety bypasses.

Meanwhile, with control loop performance management, PETRONAS Up-stream is getting highly useful dashboard visibility into control loop elements such as the status of control valves out in the field. For example, the PRIME solution identifies valves that are cycling too frequently, sticking, and/or oversized for the process. All this information was previously unavailable without running time-consuming control valve tests.

Remote operations visualization is a powerful and, indeed, striking aspect of PRIME. On large display dashboards at the Center of Excellence office PDCC (Petronas Digital Collaboration Center) area at PETRONAS HQ, hundreds of miles away from the terminals and platforms, staff gain insight into what is happening (across the four PRIME Solutions) at all those facilities in real time. While each facility also has a PRIME dashboard for insights on its own performance, data analysts at PDCC/HQ prepare weekly reports. These are made available to the facilities for discussion and improvement actions.

Initially, and perhaps not surprisingly, there was concern from individual plants on exposing their operations in this way. In one instance, a plant manager was surprised to be informed by the Operational Excellence team at HQ of an inordinately large number of safety bypasses activated at his facility. But he took it positively and worked together with the HQ team to bring down that to help reduce safety risk at the facility. Having all round visibility on the activities and performance at multiple and often very remote sites allows PETRONAS Upstream to work towards its goal of instilling common best practices and improving collaboration.

Read more in the detailed case study produced by ARC Advisory Group here >

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