Ras Tanura ISO flop

Dow presentation on Saudi Aramco ‘giga-scale’ project finds few ‘best of breed’ solutions, constraints on interoperability, immature engineering standards and a hegemonic Excel!

A presentation at the Fiatech conference, held in Austin, Texas earlier this year, underscored the gap between emerging data standards for process plant information management (IM) and the reality of today’s ‘giga-scale’ projects. Bob Donaho from Dow Chemical offered some IM lessons learned building the huge Ras Tanura Integrated Project (RTIP), a grassroots petrochemical joint venture between Dow and Saudi Aramco.

Ras Tanura, currently in the front end engineering design (FEED) phase, comprises some 25 process plants, each a major project in itself with multiple project management and contractors located on two continents. IM is considered a strategic facet of RTIP as the project’s critical capabilities are addressed in the context of ‘marketplace constraints.’ The joint venture has selected various engineering ‘staples’ including Intergraph’s SmartPlant, Primavera, Kbase, ETAP and Microstation. Other ‘giga-project’ enabling tools include Active Risk Manager, Skire cost and project management, Adobe LiveCycle, RTIPSupplier (contracts) and HP Quality Center (requirements).

Donaho described how the project set out to find ‘best of breed’ owner or project manager tools but found that there weren’t any! RTIP set out to built one—with idea of sending out standardized specs to contractors and receive consistent data back. But the reality was that such an approach proved unsustainable in view of the number of contractors and tools involved.

The initial vision also called for ISO 15926-based data for ingestion by an as-yet unspecified joint venture system. Again this proved unrealistic as it proved impossible to locate a data delivery requirements document that was a) understandable by all and b) biddable by engineering contractors.

RTIP’s vision of engineering systems with rich/robust functionality was also thwarted by the fact that the industry ‘standard’ is Excel. Engineers think in lists—the simpler the better! Contractors will commit to using Excel but ‘freeze up’ when talking databases, where there are ‘too many unknowns and too much impact on internal processes.’ Donaho thinks that the industry could use a Portal type entry point for information regarding ISO 15926 along with a biddable delivery requirements document specifying ISO 15926 or a derivative. ‘Non-invasive’ data validation tools could ensure compliance with owners’ data delivery requirements. A common 3D review platform would be nice too.

Another Fiatech presentation from Emerson’s Duane Toaves echoed the Dow findings, noting that the key common terminology section of ISO 15926 was only 15% complete. More from Fiatech in our report on page 7, on industry standards in Neil McNaughton’s editorial on page 3 and on Fiatech from www.fiatech.org.

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