OPAF scales-up

ExxonMobil’s cloud-based process control architecture ‘running independently of any classic control system’.

ExxonMobil recently provided an update on its Open Process Automation ecosystem developments where Ryan Smeltzer traced the background and objectives of the OPA, originally conceived as the OPA Forum, under the auspices of The Open Group. The aim is to deliver an open, interoperable process architecture to ‘promote innovation’ and provide ‘optionality’ i.e. opening up system to ‘best in class’ product deployment, as opposed to single vendor solutions and proprietary lock-in. Work began on a prototype in 2016 with Lockheed Martin. A testbed/demonstrator was delivered in 2019 to test third party products with Yokogawa as systems integrator. Exxon is now funding field trials of the system with a go-live in 2023. The system will include 2,000 I/O points and 100 control loops running on OPA 2.1. The aim is to demonstrate the OPA ROI and encourage others to invest in OPA.

A memorandum of understanding has been signed with OPA partners Intel, Schneider Electric and Yokogawa to embed the OPA developments into Exxon’s ‘advanced compute platform’. The ACP will leverage software from Intel, Schneider’s IEC 61499 standards-based IoT ‘EcoStruxure’, Dell’s hyperconverged infrastructure and VM Ware’s Cloud Foundation virtualization. Yokogawa is to provide system integration and support. For Exxon, this will be a ‘best of breed architecture, running independently of a classic control system’. All will run in a low latency cloud environment and will enable more sophisticated control apps ‘at the edge’, without legacy ties to particular hardware. Non confidential outcomes of the trial will be shared with industry through OPA.

In the Q&A, Oil IT Journal asked, ‘What sort of market share does oil and gas have in the process control business. Will OPA have application in other process verticals? How far and wide do you expect this to reach? Will it touch discrete manufacturing?’

Exxon’s Mohan Kalyanaraman replied, ‘We do expect this to go beyond oil and gas into the power segment, food and beverage. OPA is applicable in a hybrid batch environment but maybe not in discrete manufacturing. Smeltzer added, ‘Our approach with our partners is not to develop an oil and gas solution. We need to appeal to more than oil and gas to be successful. We are also thinking of the scale of implementation, from a skid-based deployment to the scale of a plant’.

The Dell rep concurred, ‘Yes, this is why we are on board. OPA has standardized a fragmented marketplace. Intel agreed too, ‘We are active in the discrete space with automotive. Many of these problems are shared with discrete manufacturing like containerization and so forth. It is a shame that discrete does not have the OPAF umbrella. And Yokogawa, ‘We are developing a software defined infrastructure. We want to bring this as a packaged solution for any kind of client’.

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