Digital technology in refining

France’s Evolen trade body hears from Total on its early detection center for rotating equipment monitoring. Valourec announced Digital Pipes. Alpha Maintenance: shutdown and turnaround the poor relation of digital operations.

Speaking at a meeting hosted by France’s Evolen organization, Total’s Jean-Christophe Courcol presented the first results from an early detection remote center that monitors rotating machinery at Total’s refining and chemical plants. Total deploys an eclectic assembly of software components. The digital road map leverages software including B&K Vibro Setpoint, GE System 1, Prognost, Aveva TrendMiner, Aveva and Avantis Prism to predict failures a few months ahead. These apps run atop a platform built on Yokogawa and ProdFlowServ technology.

Some 1.5 million data points/day from nine plants flow into Avantis Prism and the early detection remote center. Since the early detection program began in 2018, the system has caught some 100 problems. For instance, the system spotted vibration ramping up on a steam turbine when a governor coupling sheared, causing the imbalance. Early detection saved maintenance and avoided downtime. Currently the system catches around 10 issues every month. The system is now being extended to new plants and also, as an advisory, to Total’s joint venture partners. Total is now looking at monitoring static equipment for corrosion. The ‘hardest and most expensive’ application involves adding AI to the system. This is not currently in the budget.

Comment: Total’s ED system appears to fall squarely in the camp of situational awareness as we argued back in 2016. Total’s demonstration is that if you monitor effectively, potential issues stick out. The AI story of computer intelligence spotting low level signals undetectable by the human eye is as-yet undemonstrated.

Clara Boisserand presented Vallourec’s ‘Digital Pipes’ program which consists of a suite of digital solutions for tubular asset management. These are marketed under the new Vallourec Smart marque. Guillaume Wolf presented the system as providing digital traceability from the tube mill to the well. Initial specs are provided in a tube databook. Tubulars then undergo inspection to detect and quantify defects with 2D/3D asset mapping, non-destructive and mechanical tests. After inspection data is captured to an ‘digital twin’ and an update to the databook. On site, a mobile ‘FieldApp’ provides tag management, pipe end identification and data export.

Frédéric Di Marcantoni and Jean-Marie Marcinkiewicz (Alpha Maintenance) described shutdown and turnaround as the ‘poor relation’ of digital operations. Refinery shutdown and turnaround currently involves paperwork, bar coded work orders and quality control sheets. Alpha Maintenance replaces these with a suite of digital solutions that extract data from Primavera into an asset management database. This feeds apps that provide progress reports, geo localization and lockout/tagout control. AM is now working on a business intelligence tool to exploit the data captured in turnarounds. Alpha Maintenance has Ineos as flagship client.

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