How GIS helps with plant shutdown

Following our piece last month on the use of Tadpole Technology’s i-Plan in management of BP’s refinery shutdown, we received the following letter from Tapole’s Ross Coulman. Ross reviews i-Plan’s ancestry and explains how geographic information systems (GIS) are used in plant overhaul.

i-Plan is a descendent of ICI’s PICs (Planning Information and Control) tool developed in the late 80’s by the Teesside overhauls group. Upon ICI’s withdrawal from the chemical industry in the UK the ex ICI businesses and associated suppliers all took a copy of the application. Over the next 15 years PICs re-emerged in one guise or another with little additional development although Amec moved the application on the most.


I had worked for ICI, then Enron Europe and then SembCorp Utilities post Enron’s demise, mostly on the Wilton Petrochemical facility in the North East. During this time I noted the lack of knowledge retention, particularly with regards to the history of the physical assets, on these sites. I raised my concerns to the board, which led to me spending five years of my time at Wilton developing a GIS—initially as an internal support mechanism to enable the company to gain an understanding of exactly what it had on the 4,000 acre site (2,500 km of high hazard chemical pipelines, 100,000 km of HV Cables etc.).


This lead to the creation of an enterprise level system which brought me into the limelight of Enron in London and the US. Enron’s philosophy was that anything which was bringing efficiency gains internally should be packaged and sold externally. This led to me having my own business unit tasked with selling GIS to other large multinationals like BP and Exxon. Unfortunately, just as things were getting interesting, Enron disappeared overnight! We had already taken PICs and changed its operating platform and added some extra functionality. But it was when BP requested us to raise PICs’ game—making it the central mechanism for site-wide process plant overhaul, that i-Plan was born.


This year i-Plan will be managing the largest overhaul event in BP’s Saltend’s history. You asked what does GIS bring to plant shutdown? The original PICs tool listed every activity required to overhaul a piece of equipment and had the ability to attach a photograph to each item, i-Plan takes this one step further and enables the user to place the item on a map, or if in a more congested plant area, on a P&ID floor plan or GA drawing. Spatially representing every task that is carried out leads to more effective planning, right down to a more economic use of scaffolding etc.

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