Chemical & Processing
Oil & Gas
Pharma Biotech
Infrastructure & Design

No Surprises at the End of Process
Essar Energy has undertaken the second phase of expansion of Vadinar refinery to increase its current capacity to 400,000 bpd. Jasbir Singh, Vice President, Essar Projects India Ltd (EPIL) explains, "Scalability and expandability are the two most desired thought processes, while designing a system." He discusses the overall expectations from a users’s perspective from automation service providers and delves into details about integrating the overall operation of the refinery from centralised location.

What are the typical expectations of a process industry end-user from the automation solutions provider?
Management is always stretched with the pressure of volatile market. All we need to perform operation at maximum throughput, increased quality standard, and lowest cost of operation to improve profitability in the business.

It is important for us to understand the following:
• How advance technology is helping company to achieve business excellence
• How Vendor-customer relationship can allow us to rapidly innovate our business processes on a global scale
• How expansion projects can deliver value quickly and incrementally - a key benefit in today’s rapid payback business environment
• How the latest technology advancements can lower our downtime from “hours to minutes” [high Mean Time between Failures (MTBF) and low Mean Time to Repair (MTTR)
• How the process controllability can improves operation within excellent band of control limits

Technological advancement in process monitoring/control and intelligent automation over the past decade has contributed greatly to improve the productivity of almost all manufacturing industry throughout the world. Technology is a key enabler on the path of quality and machine management excellence. Adopting the new technology with good hardware and software that are flexible to meet the diverse needs of machine, easily customised to fit all key processes, and easy-to-adopt is the necessity of time. While undergoing the first phase of expansion of Vadinar refinery in 2007, what was the mission of automation? And what were the key challenges & lessons learnt in expediting the expansion plans during the 1st expansion phase? While most of existing industrial operation in base refinery is still controlled by analog instrumentation, with partial upgradation to advance digital system, but almost all the controls designed as a part of a new plant or plant expansion are Digitally Control Systems (DCS) interconnected by digital bus networks. Nowadays, in this era of digital buses, one can plug in a laptop or use a wireless hand held tool to instantly establish access to all the data, displays, configure or redefine algorithms with the intelligence that resides anywhere on the DCS network. This capability, in combination with the self-tuning, self-diagnosing and optimising features of modern process control, makes both start-up activity and operational routines much easier and more efficient.

Automation vendors are continuously enhancing the capability of electronic instrumentation (sensor and measurement), wireless technology, process measurement and control, Programmable Logic Controller (PLC), machine safety, motion control, operator interface, Industrial networking, virtual instrumentation systems, application software, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), data logging devices, and remote troubleshooting products. The new machines are fitted with touch screens having in build highly automated and intelligent functions. Our mission for automation was creating artificial intelligence in every operation while designing the control system.

Scalability and expandability are the two most desired thought processes, while designing a system. Any process we deliver should be properly designed, fully complete with less or no surprises at the end. We have used umbrella ordering technique for bulk and even for Tag items. All the variance should be covered to achieve its high success ratio. Any exceptions require additional effort for retendering, evaluation again for remaining items from multiple vendors and renegotiation. This kills great amount of time at the pressurised environment, which can be used for quality working on other processes.

As an end-user, what were the deciding factors in choosing the technology, automation service providers? Tell us about the various complexities of plant operations & integration of the process through automation? Which aspects were taken into consideration for future expansions?
Three Prime Factors were identified to assess the automation bidders:

A. Quality of technical responses from the bidders in order to ensure the responses/ confirmations is factual and absolutely supported in terms of bidders’ engineering manuals.

B. A practical approach of bidder on project implementation plan. Bidders were asked to provide a plan for
• Interacting multiple DECs simultaneously and an action plan for a uniform engineering pattern
• Putting up a manpower deployment plan meeting the schedule
• Supplement the plan with a similar project activity in India

C. Assessment of system availability, Reliability and lifecycle cost of the system in terms of past experience and market reports. On the side of selection of automation system provider, we considered the following aspects:
• The DCS partner should be a reputed global player with a strong Indian manufacturing and resource base.
• The product model offered by the supplier should have a valid currency of application and should neither be recent introduced nor in near completion of its lifecycle.
• The supplier should have defined migration path policy and migration history.
• The supplier capability on fieldbus foundation digital technology with reference to implementation of both monitoring and closed loops in International as well as Indian projects.
• The supplier capability in Integration of self as well as 3rd party safety PLC.
• Expandability of the system to accommodate future expansions in terms of Refinery Train II.
• Availability of defined migration path to next generation control system at the end of product lifecycle.

In Essar Engineering, we have considered every possible solution for future integration, easy expandability, and fast implementation. Our aim was to bring all the operation from single location, its integration with refinery fire station and other security network and easy/seamless communication between fields to Central Control Building (CCB).

The architecture is fully distributed and highly flexible. Central Control Building operation is connected with controller residing in satellite buildings at every unit connected with optic fiber cable running across the refinery. The 3,500-km long redundant optic fibre network connected with CCB on star topology. The biggest challenge in Essar was the operation of entire refinery from single location (Central Control Room), system integration for data exchange between existing base refinery with Train I and future expansion. The existing DCS/Energency Shut Down (ESD)/F&G system is from ABB, whereas Yokogawa was considered in the Train I expansion project. Our CCB is even improvised with Train II expansion requirement.

How do you compare the challenges in case of Brownfield expansions vis-à-vis Greenfield projects?
Both brownfield and Greenfield have their own merits. Working safe and efficiently is difficult and challenging in brownfield, whereas benefits in terms of availability of skilled engineers for pre-commissioning, commissioning, operation and easy training to common maintenance team by experts available during startup of the equipments. The other major advantage was getting resourcesexpansion project. Our CCB is even improvised with Train II expansion requirement.

How do you compare the challenges in case of Brownfield expansions vis-à-vis Greenfield projects?
Both brownfield and Greenfield have their own merits. Working safe and efficiently is difficult and challenging in brownfield, whereas benefits in terms of availability of skilled engineers for pre-commissioning, commissioning, operation and easy training to common maintenance team by experts available during startup of the equipments. The other major advantage was getting resourcessuch as surplus material and workshops facility from existing setup makes us more comfortable. We have added auxiliary room, engineering room and operators panels for Train I in the same Central Control Building during the current refinery in operation. All cables routed through existing base refinery, interconnection/ hookup of piping done for process and utility sharing in running unit and partly during plant shutdown.

May we have your comment on maximum realisation from asset management through automation?
All companies need to look into cost reduction through long-term lens of value added automation and advance control system for stable process performance. Automation provides effectiveness and sustainable growth in cost reduction approach by asset management. Essar has taken lot of initiatives for asset management in operation not only for process optimisation by automatic loop tuning software, modern alarm management technique, applying Advance Process Control (APC), but also largely by adopting latest automation technique generating system alert for devices and equipment failure much before actually it happens by understanding its deterioration pattern (signature analysis).

What were the unresolved points during the first phase at various stages of the project and how did you address those issues; do you see such issues cropping up even during the 2nd phase of expansion?
Global recession has virtually affected every industry worldwide. Being a severe recession no one was immune to this. The Train II refinery expansion project, which was earlier, planned commissioning back to back by combined engineering and equipments ordered together have now planned to restart by the end of current calendar year. In the process of optimisation for first phase the ordered control system was mostly limited to the requirement of Train I. During Train II expansion the system the footprint will increase and at some places we may need additional hardware and software configuration in operating system of Train I expansion. However, Essar’s risk management analysis by experts has reduced the severity level to very low.

May we have your comment on the challenges that you foresee during the second phase of expansion of Vadinar Refinery to increase its capacity to 400,000 bpd?
With every augmentation in production capacity, the complexity ratio is increasing. Our greater challenges will still remain to retain the skilled manpower, which were actively involved in Train I expansion project during every stage from engineering, project management, procurement, installation, and commissioning phase.

How have you been benefited in terms of improvement in profit margins, curbing the production losses, improving safety of human lives, and reliability in operations?

On spec or better product quality, consistency in operation, maximising throughput, customer satisfaction are the key quality indicators for increase profit margin to meet the business challenges. Latest technological advancement of remote diagnosis has given an added advantage.

Industrial Ethernet now makes remote support a snap, so that we can receive timely assistance if production is interrupted or troubleshooting is required from Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM). Maintaining a high level of process and plant safety is an investment that pays off. We can reduce costs by minimising damage to equipment and incidents that impact on people and the environment. At the same time, Essar maintain our positive image as a company that is aware of its corporate responsibility and acts accordingly. In the risk control environment the use of effective automation solutions without compromising the regulatory requirement is part of modernisation standard in our refinery.

With the growing demand of survival of fittest, counter the volume production (high capacity equipments) the process control applications needs to be highly automated to avoid human intervention and continuous production [Outdoor Power Equipment (OPE) is more than 99 per cent]. Our state-of-the-art equipments, hardware redundancy at its optimum level and using advance alert software for operator and guided help windows in DCS system has phenomenally increased the reliability in operation.

What are your future plans in regard with maximising productivity, full scalability to support future technology upgrades?
Essar management has always been forward looking, early adopter of new technology to reap its benefits. We have already upgraded the existing refinery process control system to the newer version of software and replaced the emergency shutdown system similar to the Train I. Central Control Building operator panels are replaced to the same as new one for better flexibility in operation and improvement in agronomic look.

Essar is always exploring every opportunity for advance automation in all processes for high-performance applications, new algorithms for specific solutions based requirement. Open architecture, field-tested functionality, optimised facility utilisation, and higher quality product by production management software with complete integration into company’s IT environment and corresponding operational processes for top management accessibility for regular review are the essential part of advance automation.

What are your views on future automation trends that would drive the growth of process industry?
The recent trend of emerging control systems technology associated with factory, machine and process automation demands knowledge of diverse fields. Automation applications span, plant automation in discrete and batch process control, microprocessor-based Taylor made machine control, manufacturing production line and process control in refineries. Industrial automation applications include automation of time critical operation that demands precise real-time monitoring and control. The evolution of higher quality standards and growing concern for safety and the environment have led to the adoption of state-of-the-art automation techniques.

The role of automation technologies is thus crucial in facilitating processes that ensure optimum efficiency, improve productivity, maintaining quality consistency and conforming to safety and environmental regulatory standards. Fieldbus find its place in various processes and machine control application. fieldbus foundation, profibus, canbus and various other open protocol growth in industry have changed the automation arena.